Gift-Giving Budget Guide header

What Goes into Giving?

Gift-giving is a wholesome activity that people are happy to partake in, but it does come with a price. Birthdays, weddings, and holidays are just a few occasions where offering someone a present is customary—but when the receipts inevitably start to pile up, certain decisions need to be made. We've interviewed 1,015 U.S. adults to learn more about their gift-giving habits with a focus on their budgeting strategies and schemes.

We'll take a closer look at their annual budgets and whether they tend to go overboard for certain holidays or events more than others. You'll also see what kind of gifts are popular choices right now and be able to use our customizable gift budgeting widget to know what kind of money you should be dropping on a present given the occasion and recipient.

Key Takeaways

  • 2 in 5 budget-conscious gift-givers said they regularly spend more than intended when buying gifts.
  • Mother's Day was one of the most common gift-buying occasions, behind only Christmas and birthdays.
  • 74% of people said there's nothing wrong with buying a gift card when suggested gifts on a wedding or baby registry are too expensive.

Establishing Boundaries

Shopping for friends and family can be an expensive affair, which is why the majority of consumers (about 3 out of 5) create an annual gift-giving budget. A budget like this is helpful for planning the total amount of money set aside for gifts in a given year.

Infographic on annual consumer budgets for gift-giving

Respondents were most likely planning to spend anywhere between $100 and $499 on gifts on a yearly basis. Budgeting less than $100, or anywhere between $500 and $4,999 was relatively common too, but very few people exceeded a budget of $5,000 or more. Overall, the median gift-giving budget was $300 per year.

While budgets are meant to help people stay within a comfortable spending range, accidentally overspending on gifts turned out to be a common occurrence. Forty-four percent of respondents indicated that they are typically able to stay within their budget range with a few slip-ups here and there. However, another 44% said they often or always go over their gift-giving budget, compared to the 12% who said they never or rarely do. Hearing that nearly half of consumers overspend on gifts, you might be wondering: which occasions typically inspire such excess? To find out, we asked our respondents that exact question. Check out the results below.

Infographic on the most common occasions to go over an intended budget for gifts

We can see that people tended to get a little overzealous with their spending during the winter holidays, namely Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year's. During the holiday season, clothing and accessories, gift cards, and toys and hobby-related presents were the most common purchases.

The Budget Buddy

Unsurprisingly, birthdays and Christmas were the most common occasions for gift-giving by far—the runners-up were Mother's Day, weddings, Valentine's Day, and baby showers. Let's learn more about people's takes on spending during these holidays.

Do you generally expect your friends to spend more or less on gifts than you spend on them? What about your siblings, parents, or children? According to our results, most people either don't care or believe the spending should be equal between acquaintances, close friends, siblings, and romantic partners. However, we saw more interesting opinions when it came to parents and children—43% of people expected their parents to spend more on their gifts, compared to only 15% of people who believed they should spend more than their parents.

Naturally, many parents expected to spend more on presents for their kids than their kids would spend in return. However, more than 1 in 4 (29%) of respondents said that children should spend more on gifts for their parents than parents should spend on their kids. This seems to imply that many parents with grown children have bigger expectations for the gifts they'll receive.

In any event, if you find yourself at a loss for how much you should spend for certain relationships or occasions, here's a tool to help you find out (recommendations are based on our survey of over 1,000 U.S. gift-givers):

Simple, Yet Effective

Being a great gift-giver is a skill, but presenting someone with an over-the-top present isn't always the necessary route.

When presenting someone a gift at a big event, like a wedding or baby shower, it's always nice to see the recipient smile from ear to ear, profusely thanking you for your generosity. To make the best impression possible, a large chunk (45%) of people even said they'd spend more on a gift for a special occasion if they weren't able to attend (compared to only about 10% who said they'd spend less).

However, the same pressure can cause issues when items on gift registries are over your budget. Thankfully, most people said it's OK to substitute expensive registry gifts with affordable gift card amounts.

Percentage of respondents who say it's acceptable to give a gift card instead of a specific item

Seeing as the global gift card market is estimated to have reached over $988 billion in 2021 and expected to hit close to $1.5 trillion by 2026, this gift idea is clearly here to stay. For some, it's also acceptable to think even more inside the box: 70% of respondents said they've given cash as a wedding gift before. Giving cash as a gift can be a controversial choice, but it's also a common one, given our results.

Cards These Days

We asked for which occasions people thought it was generally acceptable to give a gift card as a gift and discovered that many major celebrations made the cut.

Infographic on the top five occasions for giving gift cards

Birthdays once again reigned supreme in the gift-giving conversation, as 83% of our surveyees said they were the perfect time to issue gift cards as a present. Two-thirds of respondents said that they find gift cards to be especially good gifting options for teenagers and for friends or family who live far away. If only there was a way to send gift cards virtually …

We've Got You Covered

If you ask people if they enjoy spending money, you probably wouldn't hear a lot of yeses. That being said, the act of gift-giving makes it all worth it, especially seeing as a ton of people inadvertently overspend on presents for their loved ones. The holiday season, unsurprisingly, was the most action-packed gift-giving time of the year and was when people were neglecting their budget the most. Luckily, we've created a widget to help you know exactly how much money you can comfortably spend given the occasion and recipient.

We also learned that extravagant gifts are commonplace for high-profile events, like weddings and baby showers, but going the gift card route was also widely popular. In fact, people have been using gift cards for other big milestones, such as birthdays, Mother's Day, and graduations, too. It's hard to miss when you're giving someone the ability to buy what they want at the places they love. At, you can send someone personalized greeting cards and gift cards for their favorite brands. It's all online, meaning you can put a smile on your loved ones' face anytime, from anywhere. Gift-giving has never been this easy—head over now to see for yourself.

Methodology and Limitations

Data used in this report came from a survey of 1,015 adults in the United States resulting in a 3% margin of error at a 95% confidence level. Relevant demographic sample sizes are as follows:


  • Men: 51%
  • Women: 48%
  • Other gender identity: <1%
  • Declined to answer: <1%


  • Millennials: 58%
  • Generation X: 27%
  • Baby boomers: 10%
  • Other generations: 5%

To gather information on gifting related to specific holidays and occasions, we first asked respondents to select the occasions for which they typically give gifts from a list of 16 holidays and occasions. The average sample size for the 14 occasions included in the report was 403 respondents, ranging from 214 to 807. The occasion referred to as "Winter holidays" in our report was grouped from the holidays Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.

To help ensure that all respondents took our survey seriously, they were required to identify and correctly answer an attention-check question. Please note that survey data have certain limitations related to self-reporting. These limitations include telescoping, exaggeration, and selective memory.

Fair Use Statement

In the spirit of giving, feel free to send this article to anyone you'd like. We just ask that you do so for noncommercial purposes only and provide a link back to the original page so the study's contributors can earn credit for their work.