Christmas is a budgeting nightmare. To help us figure out how much to spend and on who, even MS Excel offers a ‘Holiday Gifts’ template. But ultimately it’s up to us to decide, and it’s a bloody hard task.
There is no gifting etiquette which would clearly establish how much you should spend on a gift for someone. Our society has come up with all sorts of precise instructions for various social interactions, leaving gifting completely out of the equation.
Gifting for me is as much a creative process, as it is a pragmatic calculation of your current resources, so it’s really important to know what you can afford.
A favourite designer of mine, Artemy Lebedev, argues that his best creative ideas never come out from the “outside the box” thinking. Instead, having clear boundaries and goals can help you streamline your thinking. It allows you to focus on the problem at hand – so you are essentially “inside the box”.
In the context of gifting, think of “the box” as your pot of money, and work with what you’ve got.
I use my own of system, which is not perfect at all, but it keeps my bank statements happy (oh, by the way, underspending is also a crime!).
Firstly, separate all potential “receivers” into four groups:
- Very outer circle – “I barely know them through a friend of a friend”
- Outer circle – “I know a bit about them and we speak sometimes”, like your college mates and colleagues
- Social circle – “We go out together and I know them well”, so your friends
- Inner circle – “I care about them a lot”. These people are your core support, like family, best friends and your partner.
Set up an amount you would be happy to spend on somebody from your very outer circle. The simplest calculation that does the trick for me is a bottle of wine you would carry to a random party, depending on your current situation. This will be our X.
Now here comes the mathematical magic!
As the very outer circle rarely ends up on Christmas lists anyway, if you really need to give them something, limit it to the X itself.
Multiply this X by 2 for the “outer circle” and by 3 for the “social circle”, and apply to all occasions, including Christmas.
The inner circle would require a separate blog post another time, but broadly:
- Multiply the X by 5 for random surprise gifts
- By 10, if there is an occasion that requires a gift, but you don’t consider it significant (in my case that would be Valentine’s)
- By 20 for special celebrations like birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas, of course 🙂
Does it make sense to you? Share your budgeting tips with me!