I was going to ask this question around Christmas, but, you know, life. I’m still curious, though, so I’m asking it anyway, and now you have a wealth of recent experience to use as examples for your answers, which you are surely going to give me.
Okay, a couple of scenarios.
One. You have a group of people you exchange gifts with. Family, friends, whoever. Just people you regularly buy for. And you set a gift budget for the group as a whole – like you’re going to spend $150 on each person. That’s a made up number on the high side, or the low side. It’s made up. It doesn’t matter. So you’ve got $150 to spend per person. Obviously not strict – if you find a great $145 item for someone, you don’t scramble to find a $5 thinger to make it exactly even. In the same vein, if you spend $160 on someone for the perfect gift, no big. You get me. $150-ish. Now, say you find the perfect item for someone. It’s what they want/need/secretly desire in their heart of hearts or whatever. And it costs $150. Perfect. Except, you get some insane deal on it. Like, totally insane. You’ve got a coupon and reward points and there’s also a sale and it turns out your giftees tastes match up with no one else’s so this item is totally unfavored by the rest of the world so it’s also on clearance. You end up spending, say, $50 for a $150 item. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s clearly an expensive item, anyone who sees it can ballpark the price, etc.
Now, keeping in mind that your budget is not a shared budget, it’s just what you’ve decided to spend on each person privately, not a group agreement, what do you do? Do you think, all right, extra money in the budget! And buy that person an extra $100 gift to go with your sweet $50 deal, bringing their total actual value of gifts up to $250 while you spent $150 on everyone else in the group? Or, do you think, all right, extra money in the budget! And redirect your saved $100 to Christmas eve dinner, or a bonus gift for your spouse, or, surprise!, you needed new tires right before Christmas because you were driving to Disneyland and didn’t actually check the tires well in advance to prepare for this possibility, which was surely going to happen regardless, because that’s just how your life goes, and even if you had checked them in advance and budgeted for them, your dog certainly would have eaten a glass ornament or something just to fuck with you?
Two. Work gift exchange, or secret santa with your volunteer group, or teacher gift, or something like that. Public budget is set and it’s $10. Unlike the scenario above where you set your own budget for the group of people you’re giving to, independent of their budgets, and everyone gets each other what they can comfortably afford to spend and everyone appreciates everything regardless because we’re all good people and we all know good people, in this case, the budget is set and public, fair and agreed upon by everyone, and everyone in the exchange will be getting each other gifts around the same value. You pull someone’s name, a friend, right, or someone you comfortably know. And it just so happens you have a $10-$15 item at home that you were given, new and unopened. It’s not a crap regift, it’s good. Maybe you were talking to that person about a thing you own, and they say they always meant to get one, and then, surprise, you were gifted a duplicate! Something you might have bought for your giftee anyway.
So, you decide you’re going to give your person this $10-$15 item. You acquired it at zero cost, therefore you’re putting out no money on the exchange, when everyone else is, in theory, spending $10-$15. In this case, do you grab another $10 item and include it, so your giftee does have more value in their gift than the rest of those in the exchange, but you haven’t spent any more than anyone else? Or maybe tack on a $2 or $5 item just so you feel like you also spent something? Or just give them the brand new perfectly suitable gift, knowing it meets the budget, and save your $10 for when your dog slams himself into a wall trying to run away from home inside the house because the sonic booms from the ceremonial F-4 Phantom II retirement flyover shook the houses on base so badly someone’s door actually fell off and your dog is a giant wiener and maybe you can put that $10 toward his prozac prescription?
Two different scenarios, right? I’m sure you’ve come across these more than once in your life, maybe even this year, because we’re all similar people, right? And you know what’s written on my family crest. Never Pay Full Price. So we all get killer deals here and there from time to time. But how do you handle them with gift giving and budgets?
To recap, in scenario one, your budget is private, just what you personally have decided to spend on each person in the group. Each person in the group may spend differently – more or less. No one knows your budget. You’ve just set an even one for each person. In scenario two, everyone knows the budget, and everyone has the same budget, and everyone will exchange gifts together in some kind of horrific forced fun holiday thing in a conference room where most people are checking their email on the phones, and two people are wearing ugly Christmas sweaters and continually turning up the volume on the Christmas carols playing over someone’s iPhone WITHOUT EVEN A BLUETOOTH SPEAKER ATTACHED.
I am interested to hear what you do.