My Friends and I Always Break This Gift-Giving Rule to Save Money—and Peace of Mind

published Dec 11, 2020
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If you’re someone who loves giving gifts, finding the perfect present for your friend or family member is half the fun. There’s a thrill you get when you decide on kind of gift you want to give them, then another when you narrow down the exact product… and who can forget the satisfaction of realizing it’s within your budget? But doing this over and over again can be both time-consuming and wallet-draining, no matter how fun or rewarding it is. That’s why one group of my friends decided a few years ago to avoid the process altogether, and revamp our annual group gift exchange to make it less stressful.

Now, we lean into breaking a major gift-giving rule: We find a small gift within a set budget (usually under $10 or $15), and give the same present to everyone in our group of four people total.

Giving everyone the same present can be a divisive issue, which is why the agreement to buy into the tradition works here. We gather for our annual dinner (though this year it will be on Zoom) knowing that three of us will unwrap the same present with slight variations. What’s more, the knowledge that we each own similar items feels like a link to one another, which has been extremely comforting in the past year.

Last year, I got three of Anthropologie’s ever-popular monogram mugs for my friends (and had enough money left over to throw my own initialed mug into my cart to complete the set). One friend bought the other three of us funny socks with person-specific designs on each pair. Another sourced pretty miniature watercolor paintings of different New York City skyscapes from an outdoor market, and explained why each one reminded her of us.

This year, I’m eyeing:

My favorite part about this tradition is that it completely strips away preconceived notions about gift-giving, and proves that sometimes “the thought that counts” doesn’t necessarily mean the gift has to be wholly original. It just has to come from the heart.

What’s more, it’s easy to find gift sets of certain products and split them up into ready-made sibling gifts. And in a year where we’ve been relying on our group chat and FaceTime sessions to vent and stay connected, this tradition feels like yet another link to each other. In some ways, it feels like a lifeline.