Gifting Etiquette: How to avoid being the cheap friend

The countdown to the holidays has begun and the pressure is on. It's time to make your gift list and check it twice – but there’s something holding you back.

Maybe you were just laid off or didn’t get the raise you asked for. The bills are piling up and the thought of shelling out hundreds of dollars on holiday gifts is making your palms sweaty and your mind abuzz. We've all been there, or will be there at some point in our lives. But how can you still participate in this year's gift exchange without looking cheap?

“You should only ever be giving gifts that are within your budget to begin with,” says Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of etiquette maven Emily Post.

Here are her recommendations for how to give gifts without blowing the budget:


There are so many different options that you can create if you choose to go the homemade route (just take a look at Pinterest!). And while it may save you some money, don’t forget to think about what you’re doing beforehand so you don’t waste cash on materials you don’t need.

Use your words

“It might be a year where you use your words instead of your wallet,” says Lizzie. Express them verbally over coffee, or spell them out in a heartfelt card.“Take the time to really express how grateful you are for a friendship or a loved one in your life.”

Spend time together

Skip the gifting altogether and host a holiday movie night or a home spa day (one of Lizzie’s favourite ideas) with your friends, with each person bringing whatever they can. You can share your favourite nail polish, recipe or even your favourite movie.

If you still need reassurance before you cut back your gift-giving budget, here are Lizzy's three rules of budget gifting:

1. It may seem self-explanatory but the holiday season is about spreading love – not spending all your savings. “You can’t fake it," says Lizzie. "You shouldn’t take out a loan in order to purchase [a gift]."

2. Don't compare your gift against your friends': “It’s nobody else's business what your finances are,” says Lizzie. “If that’s the case, get new friends because if your friends are judging you based on a gift that you give them, when it was something sincere but just not store-bought or just not expensive, I think you’ve got a problem with the friendship, not with how much you can spend.”

3. Nothing beats a sincere and thoughtful gift – not even a price tag. “When you’re sincere about a gift that you’re giving, don’t be ashamed if your gift only cost $10, but use that $10 as best you can. Really get something that you believe the other person would like,” says Lizzie.

Stay tuned every Friday for more "Gifting Etiquette" advice for this holiday season!