When did Gifting Become Over the Top?

I have found myself, on a number of occasions that involve the standard gift giving ritual feeling rather uncomfortable about the gift I’ve given. There are various events that I believe require a modest, yet thoughtful gift. Now, I’m not talking about a wedding (though I do find the new fad of asking for money a social faux pas) – but that’s another post for another time. Today, I’m talking about baby showers, engagement parties, kitchen teas and bridal showers.

The first time I ever went to a baby shower I asked my Mum what an appropriate sort of gift would be. I’d never been to one before so was slightly unsure as to how much I should spend and how large a gift I should be giving. I was told something small and practical is the most useful sort of baby shower present, such as a muslin wrap, a blanket, packet of bibs, socks or onesie. I ended up purchasing a very nicely gift boxed set of three little towels that seemed both cute and practical. I thought this was a sufficient gift, however I was wrong. Upon arriving at the baby shower with my modest gift bag in tow I was surprised to see other ladies arriving with large gift baskets and gift boxes overflowing with numerous items. I also witnessed someone putting money in a card (it was quite a lot and I don’t feel comfortable disclosing the amount here). I immediately felt uncomfortable, my little gift bag was overshadowed on the gift table by these large customized gift boxes. Once my sense of embarrassment had started to subside I began to wonder why I should feel this way. I was very happy with the gift I’d selected. It was within my budget, I’d put a lot of thought into it, it was nicely presented and also extremely cute.

Could all these other guests easily afford these expensive items? Was this the expectation now? Or are people just trying to outdo one another? Not having discussed this with anyone directly, I don’t believe I will ever know the answer, but I believe this to be a major problem with out society. It’s why we all have too much stuff, so much credit card debt and not enough in savings. We go over the top, spend too much on stuff we just don’t need. I’ve had numerous friends tell me they have bags of baby clothes at home still with the tags on because they were given far too much and the baby could never wear it all before going up a size or two. 

I’ve found an engagement party or bridal shower to be a similar experience. I see brides receiving big ticket items for these events – the sort of item I personally would save for a wedding gift. A kitchen tea used to involve gifting the bride with small kitchen items like tea towels, kitchen utensils and cookery books. These days this seems to have been taken up a notch to expensive crockery and large household items. Again, who can afford to do this? Even if I could afford it I probably wouldn’t want to do it. I believe this sets an unfair expectation, and in some instances certain events have left me feeling like an ATM rather than a friend. Very harsh words I know, but true. I don’t want to be viewed as cheap, I think I should be able to purchase an appropriately sized gift without making my credit card go into meltdown or sacrificing my savings or lifestyle.

I find my Mum and other women close in age to her often telling me how little they used to spend on these sorts of events. My Mum once told me the only thing guests were asked to bring to a kitchen tea was a copy of their favourite recipe so the bride could collate herself a personalised recipe book. I think that is a lovely, thoughtful idea. Far more frugal and extreemly minimalist than any other gift that could be given. Is this why my Mum’s generation is so much more financially better off than mine?

How do you feel about expensive, over the top gifts? Have you ever been caught out, embarrassed or have you just spent too much?