I research and write about common home and finance topics that affect people's everyday lives.
What Is the Appropriate Amount of Money to Give?
Money is one of the best gifts you can give someone for their birthday.
It not only shows how much you want them to enjoy their day, but it also allows them to buy something fun for themselves—and everyone appreciates that.
In this article we will discuss giving money as a gift, the suggested amounts for how much to give, and who it is appropriate to give money to for a birthday present in general.
The guidelines below are based on your relationship recipient, the age of the recipient, and your budget.
Money can be a confusing, sensitive topic. Take the guesswork out of the process by using the guidelines below. Remember, you can always adjust up or down as needed, but it can be helpful to have a place to start!
Suggested Dollar Amounts to Give for Birthdays
Depending on the age of the recipient and their relationship to you, the amount of money you should give as a birthday gift can vary quite a bit.
Sisters, Brothers, or Cousins
These dollar amounts stay lower because siblings are typically close in age and their relationships tend to be more casual. Cousins are slightly more distant, so the amounts can be lower for them, as well.
- Up to age 13: $10 to $25
- Ages 14 and up: $20 or $25
Grandchildren, Nieces, or Nephews
I raised these dollar amounts these recipients are members of a younger generation (you are their elder). Not only that, you don't have financial responsibility for them, so birthday gifts are one of the few times annually when you may be giving them a gift.
- Up to age 13: $20 to $50
- Ages 14 and up: $50 to $100
Sons or Daughters
These gifts are somewhat lower because as a parent, you are financially responsible for your children year-round. No need to give an exorbitant amount!
- Up to age 13: $10 to $50
- Ages 14 and up: $20 to $100
Parents, Grandparents, Aunts, or Uncles
With today's economy, sometimes cash is the best birthday gift you can give your elder family members. You might even be helping out with groceries or medication.
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- Any age: $25 to $100
Adjust These Amounts as Needed
Don't be limited by the guidelines on this page. If any of these dollar amounts seem too high for you, simply give what you can.
Also, you may also wish to consider the nature of your relationship with the person. If the recipient has not been in your good graces, don't feel obligated to give them a lot of money. You could perhaps decide to simply send a card, instead (with no gift).
How to Prevent Embarrassment of Adult Recipients
Sometimes, the people you care about may actually be embarrassed or insulted if you give them cash for their birthday. They may feel it is a judgment on your part about how they are doing financially. Especially if you know they really need the money, they may be very sensitive on the topic.
In this case, one of the best presents you can give someone might be an Amazon gift card (or Target, Walmart, etc.). Gift cards are very common gifts, and they have the advantage of feeling distinct from cash. The recipient can use the gift card to buy whatever they like—from something fun and frivolous to something that might be fulfilling more basic needs (food, clothing, new appliances, etc.).
This happened to me when I lost a corporate job during the recession. We needed a new washing machine, and in the meantime I was washing our clothes in the tub. At the time, I didn't even have enough money for quarters for a laundromat. My aunt actually gave me a $300 Amazon gift card (very generous, I know), and gone were the days of washing clothes in the tub. I was so happy that I basically cried when my husband hooked up the new washer. Sometimes you just don't know how badly a person needs your gift.
Can I Give Money to People Outside My Family?
I'd say the answer is no, and here's why.
Monetary gifts between non-family members usually imply obligation or superiority. Within the family, where love is involved, these feelings are usually non-issues.
At first, this may sound counter-intuitive. But think about how money symbolizes obligation: in the real world, it is usually exchanged for goods, services, or employment. Giving a friend money for their birthday can make them feel somehow as if they "owe" you.
And how does giving money symbolize superiority? You usually give money to people who have less than you: to charities or to a homeless person on the street. You have more than the other person, and you are sharing your largesse. Remember the gift card option.
Who Is It Okay to Give Money To?
While giving money as a gift is a kind thought, in general I would suggest limiting this sort of gesture to family.
Giving money as a gift is appropriate for siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins, nieces/nephews, and grandchildren on their birthdays.
Other than that, you can give money to very close friends if they have made it clear they are in dire financial straits or they say they prefer cash as a gift. Otherwise, don't.
More About Gift Giving
- Gifting Etiquette: How Much to Spend on 7 Types of Gifts | U.S. News & World Report
A guide on how much to spend on wedding gifts, baby showers and presents for everyone from teachers to real estate agents.
- 8 Ways to Creatively and Thoughtfully Gift Cash and Money | Real Simple
Money is an appropriate gift, according to etiquette experts. Learn how to make money gifts, plus how much money you can you gift to a child and other friends and family members.
- Do Presents or Money Make the Best Gifts? | Holidappy
Is it better to give money or presents to friends and loved ones for special occasions? As with many things, it depends!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Life and Luxury (author) from South Beach, FL on September 12, 2020:
Thank you, Louisa.
Louisa young from Lagos Nigeria on September 11, 2020:
Good write up
Life and Luxury (author) from South Beach, FL on July 18, 2019:
I think it depends on your income level. I think $20 is appropriate and $50 or over is quite generous.
JessicaA07 on July 17, 2019:
What about for Mother, father and spouses?