real life

GROUP THERAPY: How much is too much to spend on a 30th birthday present?


I’m facing a bit of a dilemma.

I’m at the point where a lot of friends are turning 30. My own is coming up this year, too. So, understandably, there are a lot of 30th birthday parties being thrown. Which is all very lovely.


The dirty 30s also happen to be the age of weddings galore. I have five invitations stuck on my fridge, all for weddings happening within the next 12 months.

And while I love a celebration… My bank account doesn’t.

You see, weddings involve gifts. As do birthdays.

Every wedding will set you back at least $100 for the gift alone. I’m well aware of that. However, call me naive, but until the 30th birthday invitations began dropping, it hadn’t registered that this was a milestone birthday that would involve gifting more than a scented candle. And to be honest, for the last few years I’ve only really offered presents to my absolute best mates.

I have three separate 30th birthdays in April and I’m being expected to put in $60 for each of their presents, which are being bought as a group.

They’re good friends, but not my super close friends. (And no, they’re not throwing parties with a drinks tab.)

My eyes popped when I was told to put in $60. I can’t go against the grain and be the only one to give less. But I can’t help but think that $30 should be about right for a gift.

And with group gifts the norm these days, getting a good present between six people leaves you with $180 to play with – that’s already a pretty damn good wine decanter or spa treatment, if you ask me.

So I thought I’d check with a few people what they thought was an appropriate amount to pay as part of a group gift for the big three-oh.

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Of course, there are a lot of factors at play, including the gift you want to buy, how close you are to the recipient, what your salary is, and how lavish the party will be.

Most people fell into one of two camps: The first being that $50-60 was a good benchmark (dangit). The second group was adamant that $30 was more than enough. (“Especially if they aren’t throwing a big party,”  one woman added.)

Then we had a few extremes. Including the fella who said he’d pay just $20.

And on the other end of the spectrum, a woman said she’d pay about $200.

“My group usually all puts in for one big gift. I don’t do gifts to a random birthday, like one of my husband’s friends for example. Best friends I’d spend $200ish,” she said.

My questions also led me to discover I really don’t have it that bad. Because apparently, there are the birthday parties where you are asked to pay an eye-watering amount just to have your toe inside.

“I was invited to a 30th and had to pay $100 just to attend, and then buy your own drinks,” said one colleague.

But perhaps the best advice was just to treat every birthday on a case-by-case basis.

“It depends on the present and how much you actually like the person. Joint gifts are always a good idea. But if there’s no bar tab, then I’m less likely to feel as generous,” one said.

Another mate was a little more specific: “I’m a big believer in working backward from what the present costs. If it’s a $200 bracelet four of you are putting in for, pay $50. But if it’s a $150 bracelet five of you are putting in for? $30,” another mate said.

So I guess on these three occasions, I’ll just have to accept paying $60…

What do you think is appropriate to pay for a friend’s milestone birthday gift? Tell us in the comments below.