Buying Birthday Presents: How Much Is Too Much?

If you search the internet on gifting etiquette, most advice columns and opinion pieces will tell you that an ‘appropriate’ amount to spend on a birthday gift, is on average is between $15-$30 for a birthday gift. It’s a dilemma that most of us face – how much should I spend on a birthday gift? Spending too little or too much could make you, the other guests or the birthday person feel a little uncomfortable. So here’s a few factors you might consider next time you are buying a gift:

1. Your personal relationship

How much you would spend on a co-worker could be much less than how much you would spend on your spouse or best friend. Similarly, how much you may spend on your child’s new classmate might be less than how much you would spend on your niece or nephew. Your personal relationship or your child’s relationship with the person will heavily influence how much you are willing to spend on a gift.

2. Age

The age of the birthday person can be an influencing factor. Is it a significant birthday like a first birthday or an 18th, 30th birthday? People are usually prone to spending more when it comes to a significant birthday or life event (e.g. christening, engagement or wedding). On the other hand, it can be really hard to buy a gift for friends and family as they get older – they might tell you they don’t want anything or that they already have everything they need and want.

3. Type of Celebration

If you are invited to a party or celebration, is it a casual get-together or a big shindig with catering and entertainment? It seems like a faux pas to discuss, but how much is being spent on the birthday person’s event can also influence how much you are prepared to spend on a gift. A low-key lunch at the pub for a 30th where everyone pays for themselves might have you spending less on the gift compared to a formal sit-down-all-expenses paid dinner.

4. The person’s interests

If you know your mate is into bungee jumping and would appreciate a gift voucher for extreme sports, you might try to organise a group gift towards the voucher? Or maybe your child really loves wildlife and a National Geographic Annual subscription would be the perfect group gift for them? For friends and family who are really tricky to buy for because they don’t want anything, a donation to a cause that is near and dear to them (like to a local animal shelter charity because they love dogs more than people!) could be a really cherished gift. This is where a One Gift Wonder campaign could be a great option – part of the funds collected goes towards a gift for the recipient and part of it goes to their nominated charity.

5. Reciprocating

It’s slightly controversial – but are you one of those people who keeps track of what others have gifted you and how much they’ve spent? Or is the birthday person one of those people? Because is there an expectation that you would reciprocate or need to be reciprocated, or do you just do you? This could very well influence you into spending $100 rather than $30 on your friend because last year they bought you a $100 massage voucher.

6. Is it a group gift?

If you know other friends are chipping in for a present, you might be inclined to spend a little bit more so that a really good gift can be purchased or you might not need to chip in as much in order to buy the gift the birthday person wants. Whereas if you were buying a gift by yourself, you could be limited by your budget.


At the end of the day, you have to be comfortable with the amount you are willing to spend. It would be unwise to spend beyond your means just so the birthday person isn’t disappointed or because of what other people might think (who cares!). As the saying goes “it’s the thought that counts”, but that is also why group gifting is now widely accepted and preferred. You get more bang for your buck, the birthday person gets something they will genuinely cherish, there is less waste and ultimately the gift is more meaningful.

Let us know if there are any other major factors which can influence your decision on how much to spend on a gift. We’d love to hear from you.


Share This Post


Presence not Presents

How do you politely tell your friends and family “No gifts, please”


For updates & newsletters

One Gift at a Time

What We Do

Change The World

We connect people and charities through socially conscious gift giving. A new way to gift and give at the same time.

Feel good factor

Your loved one can receive something they will genuinely cherish and you can help them to support their nominated charity at the same time.

Less stress

No need to run around looking for gifts or risk doubling up on presents. Just contribute towards one gift.

The lesson of giving

Celebrations (birthdays in particular) are a great opportunity to talk to kids about the importance and value of giving to charity.

Reduce wastage

Less wrapping paper and fewer plastic toys. The environment will thank you.

Creating a campaign is free and easy

Setup a campaign in a matter of minutes and share the URL with friends and family for them to start contributing towards one gift.


Contributions are made through a highly secure online payment system. We will never sell your personal information.