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‘I’m concerned my friends will think I’m cheap’: I used to give friends’ kids $100 gift cards, but I left my job in tech. Is $25 an insult?


Dear Quentin,

I am 52, and live alone without other income.

For the past 15 years, I earned a large salary in a demanding role at a tech company.  The company was sold and I took time off, and then started a different job in a new industry. I earn half of my old tech salary, and I have 75% less stress.

I have been generous in the past when giving gifts for graduations or birthdays for my sister’s children or friends’ children ($50 or $100 gift cards). Now my budget is greatly reduced, and I can only offer $25 gift cards. Is that an insult?

I am concerned my friends will think I’m cheap. 

Do you have advice for me?

Aunt/Friend Who Wants to do the Right Thing

Dear Aunt/Friend,

What matters is that you remember their birthdays, and mark their graduations — not that you give $25, $50 or $100. There’s one thing more valuable than a $100 gift card, and that’s a card with a message to say you wish you could be there to celebrate. 

We are all under orders from etiquette experts to give X amount if you’re a parent and Y amount if you’re an aunt/uncle or close friend. This guide even suggests that you add $100 for every degree your niece or nephew or child earns. What a load of poppycock!

Other “experts” — and I use those parentheses kindly — suggest $25 is just fine. Of course, there is no hard and fast rule. It all depends on what you can afford. You could also buy a board or card game for the entire family. Monopoly has editions for many U.S. cities.

Etiquette experts give people ranges for how much to give friends’ children for graduations, birthdays, communions and bar/bat mitzvahs to take away any social awkwardness, and help provide a framework to make life easier. All guides should have caveats based on income.

The Moneyist, to be fair, is guilty of this too. I recommend tipping in restaurants up to 20%, although it varies by restaurant and by city. But I don’t think your friends or siblings are holding you to the same one-on-one social contract a customer enters into with wait staff. 

Your siblings’ and friends’ children will receive many cards from friends and family for birthdays, and other special occasions. I don’t see them shaking each envelope for a check or a $50 note. Children want to be remembered by their friends and family, and they want to be seen.

You could do other things like take them to the movies when you’re next in town, or take them for pizza, and a game of tennis in the park. There are so many ways to connect with your nieces and nephews, and friends’ children by giving them your time.

Time + Birthday Card = Memories.

Amazon Gift Cards
AMZN,
+1.00%

can’t put a price on that.

Readers write to me with all sorts of dilemmas. 

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

By emailing your questions, you agree to have them published anonymously on MarketWatch. By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Co., the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

More from Quentin Fottrell: 

‘How to travel for free’: I spent $500 hosting my friend for a week. Should she have paid for food and utilities?

‘I’m 63 and desperately hate my work’: Should I pay off my mortgage, claim Social Security and quit my job?

‘He’s content living paycheck to paycheck’: My husband won’t work or get a driver’s license. Now things have gotten even worse.





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