Birthday Gift Giving Etiquette

Finding the perfect birthday gift for her can be exhausting. Between the hours searching for the best gift or the amount of money and energy you put into getting something you know that she is going to like, you feel like you have wasted so much energy when you could easily just not get them a gift at all. Then at the end of the day, you feel you have to do it again for the next neighbor, friend or family member. It's a never ending cycle.

Below we have listed some questions to ask yourself before starting the next journey of finding a great gift. These questions are supposed to help you find a great gift, in your price range OR discover if you even need to be getting them a gift for their birthday.

Birthday Gift Giving Questions Answered:

  1. Should I buy a gift for a co-worker?
  2. If somebody gives me a gift, do I have to give one back?
  3. Should I buy a gift for my neighbors’ birthday?
  4. What is the proper gift etiquette for giving gifts to twins?
  5. Is it okay to combine gifts with a major holiday close to their birthday?
  6. Is it okay to give a cheaper gift than they gave me?
  7. I accidentally missed my friend’s birthday, is it too late to get her a gift?
  8. Do I need to get every niece and nephew a gift?
  9. What is the appropriate amount of money to spend on a birthday gift?
Birthday Gift Box | Shadow Breeze
  1. Should I Buy a Gift for a Co-worker?

To answer this question, we first need to define the term “co-worker” Is this your best friends, you get drinks with her after work and share all the juicy gossip in your love life? OR is this somebody you just happen to have sat by for the past 3 year who you could go a few days without talking and not even notice. IF your answer is the first one you should be getting her a birthday gift that is as boss as she is. If you have a funny personalized inside joke, get her a gift that fits that theme. If she is your after-work drinks buddy, maybe consider getting her a margarita themed gift box with her name personalized on the glass for a special surprise. She is going to love it.

However, if this is a co-worker that you haven’t had a ton of outside of work contact with but also you talk to on a daily basis at work, a small and cheap gift should do the trick for their birthday. A “thinking of you” plate of cookies or even a small bracelet that just reminds her that you appreciate her and all she does would make a great birthday gift for her. Often times if there is a donation for some form of party or gift at work, that will be sufficient for your work buddy who you aren’t as close with.


  1. If Somebody Gives me a Gift, Do I Have to Give One Back?

As a general rule of thumb if somebody gives you a gift, yes you need to give them a gift back. Situations may vary but the fact that somebody put the thought and effort into giving you a gift on your birthday likely means you need to do the same. In general, spending around the same budget as they did on your gift is sufficient. For example, if they have you a box of chocolates with a handwritten note, you may want to give them something along the lines of her favorite box of girl scout cookies or a gift card to her favorite nail salon.

  1. Should I Buy a Gift for My Neighbor’s Birthday?

For the purpose of this article let’s say that a neighbor is somebody that you interact with on occasion, but you wouldn’t consider a friend personally. If it somebody that you mow each other’s lawns, invite over for dinners often or have a picnic at the park occasionally, these are your friends and you should definitely think about buying them a birthday gift (especially if they have given you a gift before).

If they are somebody that you don’t interact with as often, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Would I be offended or sad if they didn’t get ME a gift?
  2. Have a spoken to them in the last 6 weeks?
  3. Do I want to be better friends with them or m I fine the way our relationship is now?

If the answer to #1 is that you WOULD be sad or offended if the didn’t get you a gift, you most definitely need to get them a gift for their birthday. Do unto others that you wish to have done to you. If it is your first time giving them a gift on their birthday, maybe start by giving them something small such as a food gift box or a bath gift set that you know they are going to love and use.

If you are on the edge about getting your neighbor a birthday gift, as yourself “Have we spoken to them in the last 6 weeks?”. With this one, you could always play the “I forgot because I haven’t seen you in so long card” Plus, if you haven’t seen them in the past  weeks anyway, they probably aren’t close enough of friends to actually require getting them a birthday gift.

Finally, if you are just starting out a friendship with your neighbors but you want to develop the relationship into a close friendship, or simply better than it is now, you should absolutely be getting a birthday gift for her. If you know each other decently well, try and theme your gift around something that you know they like. For example, it was my neighbor’s birthday a few weeks ago and I know that she is in love with her cat. She loves all cats, so I found the best cat lovers’ gift that included personalization plus emphasized her love for cats. She and I have been in more constant communication since then and I love how something as simple as a cat gift box was able to make her into one of my best friends.

  1. What is the proper gift etiquette for giving gifts to twins?

This gift has an intimate number of “what if’s” or “what about’ s….” As a general rule of thumb, twins often strive to have others seen them as individuals as opposed to the same person. Often, they feel disappointed when their birthday gets lumped together with their twins and their gifts get combined (especially when they are younger). Some of the most common questions you may have are:

  1. What if I can’t afford to buy two separate gifts?

An easy answer to this question would be to get something that is more of an experience as opposed to an item such as purse, new phone or clothes. Some great experience gifts that they could do together include a puzzle, ice skating tickets, concert tickets, a dinner gift certificate or maybe even a Netflix account that they can both use and get the benefit from.

  1. What if I have a great idea for one twin but not the other?

This can be tricky, especially when you are close with both individual twins. If you have a great idea for one twin, you should absolutely get her something that you know she is going to love. If you don’t want the other twin to feel left out or like you forget them, get them a gift that is personalized so it appears that you put a lot of effort into her gift as well. has 100’s of gifts that include free personalization and are packaged beautifully to make them feel loved.

  1. What if I am only friends with one twin?

This can get a little dicey depending on the situation. If you are invited to a night on the town or a birthday party for both twins, you probably need to get a gift for both. Twins can get competitive with each other (even when they are older) and it’s best to probably at least give something to the twin you aren’t as close with so that they don’t feel underappreciated. However, if you are much closer with the one twin, you can absolutely get her something that is more expensive, more personalized to her, or something that you know that she specifically is going to love. This however does not apply to younger children. If you are 15 or younger, you should absolutely be getting both twins a gift as feeling can very easily be hurt. 

 5. Is it okay to combine gifts with a major holiday close to their birthday?

For the most part YES you should be getting them a different gift. Take it from somebody whose birthday is within 6 days of Christmas, people who are born around major holidays do not like their birthday being lumped together with all the other crazy antics that are going on. It is already SO easy for their birthday to be forgotten or overlooked, even if you DO remember their birthday, get them a gift separate from the Christmas gift you already got them.

The only time I would say is an exception to the rule is if you want to get them a large present that would not be spent on a single gifting event. For example, if you want to give your best friend tickets that cost $300 to her favorite band, you can lump that gift together with the major holiday and call it a combined gift.

Also, as a side note here, no matter how good the sale is, if their birthday is close to Christmas, always try to get them something not Christmas related. I can’t tell you how many wreaths, Christmas tree decorations or Santa themed pillows I have received for my birthday. Try and get something that could be used year-round.

6. Is it okay to give a cheaper gift than they gave me?

Absolutely! Gifting should never be a chore; it should be getting you excited to give something that you know they are going to love, no matter the price. Plus, people understand if you need to be sticking to a budget or simply can’t afford the same caliber of gift that they gave you for your birthday. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give her a gift that is meaningful or special, simply find something that is more in your price range and give her something you know she will like.

If you are looking for more ideas, you also could give a homemade gift, This shows that you put the time and effort into thinking about their birthday, they will love it!

 7. I accidentally missed my friend’s birthday, is it too late to get her a gift?

There are a million reasons why you might accidentally forget your friend’s birthday. The important thing is that you get them something, no matter how late it is (within reason). If you are within 4 weeks of her birthday (say just a month late on getting her a gift), you just drop the gift off and explain that it took awhile to come in the mail, you wanted to wait until after her birthday to make it more special or that you simply forgot but still wanted to get her something!

If it has been more that 4 weeks since her birthday, you can simply send her a box of cookies or treats and say “thinking of you” instead of happy birthday, This is enough to show that you are thinking of her, but not a big enough reminder that you forgot her birthday. You could always say “happy late birthday” if you don’t care about reminding her that you accidentally forget her birthday gift.

 8. Do I need to get every niece and nephew a gift?

I come from a large family, my husband has 7 sibling and I have 3. With each and every niece and nephews birthday I want so badly to send them the fun and exciting gifts I used to (when there were only 3 of them), but as my family grows, my budget (and memory) often restrict me from getting a gift for each and every one of their birthdays. A solution I have found is to always put their birthday in my phone to alert me, so I don’t forget it. Then, I always call and sing happy birthday to them to remind them that I am thinking of them and I love them. On special birthdays (ex -13, 16 or 21) I will send them a small gift card to McDonalds or some other restaurant so they can get a small treat for their birthday. This way they aren’t feeling forgotten and can enjoy a sweet little treat on me!

If you can afford getting something bigger for all your nieces and nephews or you don't have as many, absolutely go for it and spoil them, who doesn't want to be the fun aunt or uncle?

 9. What is the appropriate amount of money to spend on a birthday gift?

Finally, the question we have all been asking ourselves, how much should I be spending on a birthday gift? This question does vary depending on your age and financial status (for example my 18-year-old self couldn’t afford meals nicer than ramen, let alone expensive gifts for friends and family). In general, the closer you are to the gift recipient, the more you should be spending on their gift (THAT DOESN’T MEAN YOU NEED TO BE SPENDING 100’S OF DOLLARS THOUGH!). Getting a gift that is perfect for the individual is much more important then getting a gift that is expensive they may not appreciate as much.

The best way to get a gift that appears expensive, when it is much more affordable, is getting a personalized gift for her. Some great examples are personalized pine boxes, custom wine tumbler, or even an engraved margarita glass with her name on. This will make the gift recipient feel that you have put a lot of money, time and effort into getting them the perfect gift.


Birthday Gift Giving Etiquette

We hope that this answers some of the most common questions that are asked about giving a gift to friends, family and neighbors during their birthday season. If you remember nothing else, remember that it’s the thought that counts and that you should be giving a gift because it is fun and exciting, not because it is a chore that needs to get done.

If you have and other birthday gift giving questions, please let me know in the comment section below. We would love to hear more about what personalized birthday gifts you will be getting your friends and family below.

Looking for birthday gift ideas for a best friend.   Check out our list of 35 birthday gifts for a female friend.

Check out our Do I Need to Give My Girlfriend a Valentine's Day Gift article.  

July 21, 2021 — Morgan Falevai


Wendy said:

Should I send a birthday check for my nieces’ significant other? I do send one to my adult niece as she has no other living family now. Her significant other has been in the family for 25 years.

Tanya G. said:

My comment relates to #5. My birthday is 7 days before Christmas. As a kid, it bothered me because I knew I was not getting the same heightened celebration as my sibling. As an adult, however, I LOVE it! If anyone asks me what I would like for my birthday, I tell them cash. I go way overboard buying Christmas gifts for everyone and their mother so the extra birthday cash helps me buy more presents for everyone. My husband gets irritated with me because he wants me to spend the money on myself (Probably also why he stopped giving me cash long ago and instead gifts me items he knows I will love). No one except my husband knows I do this though so mums the word! : ) Also, I am probably the exception, but the few times others have gifted me Christmas decor for my bday, I loved it. I am huge into decorating for the holidays so the more the merrier!

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