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Money as a Gift: Appropriate Amounts for Birthdays

Updated on October 07, 2015
How much money to give for a birthday gift
How much money to give for a birthday gift
Money as a Gift: Appropriate Amounts for Birthdays
Money as a Gift: Appropriate Amounts for Birthdays

Money is one of the best gifts you can give a person for his or her birthday.

It not only shows how much you want them to enjoy their day, but it also frees them up to buy whatever they please for themselves -- and everyone appreciates that.

In this hub we will discuss giving money as a gift, the suggested amounts for how much you should give, and who it is appropriate to give money to for a birthday present in general.

We base this on your relationship to the recipient and your budget as well.

Money can be a confusing, sensitive topic when it comes to presents, so we've broken down some customary suggestions for you.



Suggested Appropriate Dollar Amounts to Give for Birthdays:

For sisters, brothers, and cousins -- These dollar amounts stay lower because siblings are somewhat close in age and their relationships tend to be more casual.

  • Up to age 13: $10 to $25
  • Ages 14 and up: $20 or $25

For grandchildren, nieces, or nephews -- I raised these dollar amounts because these relations have less financial responsibility towards the recipient throughout the year. Often the birthday gift is one of only a few presents annually:

  • Under the age of 13: $20 to $50
  • Ages 14 and up: $50 to $100

For sons or daughters -- The minimum gift is somewhat low because as a parent, you are financially responsible for and give to your child all year round, so do not feel the need to give an exorbitant amount:

  • Under the age of 13: $10 to $50
  • Ages 14 and up: $20 to $100

For parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles --

  • Give them $25 to $100 for their birthday. With today's economy, sometimes cash is the best birthday gift you can give your elder family members. You might even be helping out with them putting the money towards groceries or medication.




Your Own Comfort Level

Don't be limited to what the suggestions are on this page. If any of these dollar amounts seem too high for you, simply give what you can.

Also, you may base your cash gift on how your relationship with the person is. If the recipient has not been in your good graces, don't feel obligated to give them a lot of money or even any at all.


Preventing Embarrassment of Adult Recipients

Sometimes, surprisingly, people you care about are actually embarrassed or insulted when you give them cash for their birthday. They feel it is a direct statement on how you feel they are doing financially. Especially when you know they really need the money, people are the most sensitive.

In this case, one of the most useful presents you can really give someone outside of cash is an Amazon gift card, and the person won't feel embarrassed when you give them this gift. They can buy thousands of pantry food items from Amazon, or even use the gift card towards replacing a broken-down appliance.

This happened to me when I lost a corporate job during the recession. We needed a new clothes washer and I had to wash the clothes in the tub in the meantime. I didn't even have enough money for quarters for a laundromat at the time. My aunt actually gave me a $300 Amazon gift card (very generous -- I know), and gone were the days of washing clothes in the tub. I was so happy that I basically cried when my husband hooked up the washer. Sometimes you just don't know how badly a person needs your gift.


Money as a Gift: Appropriate Amounts for Birthdays
Money as a Gift: Appropriate Amounts for Birthdays

The reason you shouldn't give money to people outside the family as a gift:

Because money between non-family members usually symbolizes obligation or superiority. Within the family, where love is involved, these feelings are usually non-issues.

At first this sounds odd. But think about how money symbolizes obligation: in the real world, it is usually exchanged for goods, services, or employment. Giving a friend money for their birthday can make them feel somehow as if they "owe" you.

And how does giving money symbolize superiority? You usually give money to people who have less than you: to charities, homeless people on the street, when you are in a position of power over someone else. Remember the gift card option!

Who is it alright to give money to?

While giving money as a gift is a kind thought, limit this sort of gesture to family in most cases.

Giving money as a gift is appropriate for sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren on their birthdays.

Other than that, you can give money to very close friends if they have made it clear they are in dire financial straits or they say they prefer cash as a gift, but otherwise, don't.

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