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How Much You Should be Spending on Gifts

Gift-giving can be a wonderful experience. You dedicate time and energy to finding the perfect gifts in the shops or online for the important people in your life. Then, you get to experience the excitement of watching them open and enjoy your presents in person. Likewise, most people love the feeling of being given a gift from someone they love, knowing this person has made the effort to make them feel special.

But sometimes gift-giving can be a bit tricky. Maybe you’re not sure what to give, the relationship is new, or your traditional customs and cultures are different. In many cases, gift-giving can feel a little like a minefield. If you’re feeling the pressure, don’t stress; we’ve come up with a few helpful tips and tricks to make sure buying gifts for Australians is as feel-good as it should be.

To give or not to give

In Australia, gift-giving is a common custom for several social occasions. However, it’s not considered an obligation, so who you buy gifts for might vary depending on the situation.

A good way to judge whether a gift is appropriate is to think about how well you know the person. If you’ve known them for a while, it’s thoughtful to exchange gifts for major events and holidays like birthdays and Christmas.

If the person is a new friend or a casual acquaintance, you could consider giving them a thoughtful card fit for the occasion but maybe skip the gift. If you’d really like to give a gift even though you don’t know the person well, consider giving common crowd-pleaser gifts. Flowers, food you know they like, a pack of beer or a nice bottle of wine are some great Australian gifts.

It’s the thought that counts

When buying gifts for Australians, you don’t have to blow your budget to show them you care. After all, Aussies tend to focus on the thought behind the gift rather than the price tag. Oftentimes, homemade, thoughtful or funny gifts are the perfect way to share special occasions with your friends and family.

It’s also common for friends to share gift-giving responsibilities. A good example is the tradition of Secret Santa. This is where a group of friends all put their names in a hat and draw names at random. A gift price is set (say $25) and then each person in the group receives a gift anonymously on Christmas Day. It’s a lovely way to share the tradition of gift-giving at Christmas without breaking the bank.

Another way to celebrate significant occasions, like a 21st birthday or an exciting engagement, is for friends to all chip in for a more expensive present from the whole group. Again, this is a lovely way to show friends you care by giving them something they will really love without spending lots of money.

Price guides

Expensive gifts are generally reserved for close loved ones, including your parents, siblings and significant other. Because you know them so well, you’ll understand how much to spend based on your own traditions and shared customs. You may also want to extend this to your best friend or close members of your extended family. Just remember that a thoughtful present, handmade gift or quality time spent with someone can be just as meaningful and appreciated.

Talk to your friends about gift-giving, especially at occasions where you feel bringing a present is expected. You could set a gift price limit together or decide to pool your money for a fun shared experience instead. Try to be mindful that they might have different ideas and different budgets, and do your best to accommodate them. Having mutual respect and understanding for one another can make your friendship stronger in the long run.

If you’re not sure if a gift is expected or what to bring, chat to people who are also attending the event and find out what they’re bringing. It could be as simple as writing out a card or bringing a bunch of flowers or perhaps gifts are not expected at all. You can also reach out to the host to double check; odds are they will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Gift ideas

It’s a good idea to look at your budget and only buy gifts you know you can afford. No one wants to receive a gift that is causing the giver to go bankrupt, so focus on buying something thoughtful rather than expensive.

Birthdays – Think about the person, how well you know them, and what they might like. If they’re a good friend, you could spend a little more. If not, buy them a drink, bake them some biscuits, or simply give them a card and wish them happy birthday in person.

Christmas – Chat to your friend group about gift-giving at Christmas. Suggest Secret Santa or a gift-giving limit of roughly $25 to fit everyone’s budget. Reserve the expensive gifts for the people you’re closest to, such as your family, closest friends and loved ones. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and give creative handmade gifts if you’re on a tight budget. To find out more about the best gifts to give this Christmas read our guide to the most popular gifts of 2021.

Lunar New Year – While gift-giving isn’t common for the Gregorian calendar New Year’s Eve on 31 December, it is an important part of Lunar New Year celebrations. Tea, food hampers or red envelopes with money are all thoughtful and appropriate gifts for this holiday. However, you should avoid bunches of cut flowers, as these symbolise a break-up. Check out our Lunar New Year gift guide for more tips.

Easter – Chocolate! If your friends celebrate Easter, buying them chocolate is your best bet. The great thing is that you can spend as little or as much as you like. Grab them a baby Lindt bunny just for fun or splash out on a Ferrero Roche pyramid if you’re feeling generous.

Mother’s/Father’s Day – The dates of these celebrations change from country to country. In Australia, Mother’s Day falls on the second Sunday in May, and Father’s Day is on the first Sunday in September. Gifts given on these days are usually small and thoughtful or involve a meal out, such as lunch with the family. If your parents are overseas, it can be easier (and more affordable) to organise an in-country gift delivery, for example, flowers from a local florist or cakes from a nearby bakery. If you’re sending gifts from Australia, make sure you post them well in advance to give them time to reach the recipient.

Engagement party – Giving a gift isn’t essential at an engagement party. However, it would be lovely to bring a celebratory drink like champagne and a handwritten congratulations card.

Weddings – It’s usually polite to give something to the bride and groom if you attend a wedding. Have a look at their gift registry and pick a gift that you can afford. If they haven’t provided a registry, ask them what they might like or pop some cash into your congratulatory card. Lots of couples are now asking for cash to spend on their honeymoon or donations to a charity that’s important to them. Some couples request no gifts at all. Whatever their preference, it’s best to honour their wishes.

Baby showers – In general, if you’re invited to a baby shower, the idea is to take a gift for the baby. This could be something small like a toy or a piece of cute clothing. If you’d like to, you could also suggest to the other people attending that you all chip in for a larger gift you know they need, such as a jungle gym or baby sling.

Should you give your teachers a gift?

You’re not expected to give your professors, teachers or tutors gifts at any point during the year. However, if you have a closer relationship with any of these people – for example, if you are a postgraduate student and work closely with your supervisor or mentor – it can be nice to give them a ‘thank you’ gift at the end of the year. You don’t need to spend much on this – a nice card with a handwritten message, a mug, tea or coffee, or a bottle of wine are all appropriate Australian presents.