How much do I spend on a new colleague’s wedding present?

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    Dear Penny,

    My team is starting a collection for a joint wedding present for a new employee in our office. She’s been on the team for about a month and our team consists of a mix of directors and junior staff (she’s a beginner).

    My question is: what is the appropriate amount to contribute to the collective gift? Are directors expected to give more even if they are not working directly with the recipient? We give a VISA gift card so it’s not that we have to hit a certain dollar amount for a gift from the registry.

    Nobody on the staff is invited to the wedding as a guest because we don’t know them well enough. I realize that no one except the person organizing the gift will know how much I’m contributing, but because it’s a wedding I should give more to someone than I normally would give to someone I don’t know well.

    How do you see it

    -D.

    Dear D.,

    This woman’s wedding is undoubtedly a very big deal in her life, but let’s face it: it’s not that big of a deal for you.

    We all have many acquaintances, each of whom will celebrate great events in their life. But we only have so much money and time and space for the brain. That is why we need to focus our resources on the people we love most. Office hierarchies seem irrelevant here as you are not working closely with this employee.

    You are not required to contribute. But realistically, there is a lot of pressure when employees ask for money. Since it doesn’t sound like hacking into it, I’ll say fork over $ 10 or $ 20.

    A good way to help you keep track of your gift giving is to budget a small amount for gifts each month. Be based on how much you can afford to give gifts, but also how much you want. Keeping a separate bank account just for this budgeting category can make things even easier.

    The goal is not just to stop yourself from spending too much on gifts. When dealing with the money that you have to spend on other people’s special occasions, it is a matter of deciding what is important to you. Ultimately, if you ever feel like you need to give more to someone who is playing a little bit in your life in honor of their special occasion, you have to ultimately accept that it may mean paying less for your best friend’s birthday gift or your anniversary gift Parents have to spend.

    I think there are some important lessons here on how to approach collective gift giving in the office. First and foremost, anyone organizing an office gift should understand that people don’t just contribute out of goodwill. Nobody wants to look like the office curmudgeon.

    It might not seem like that bad when you’re financially stable, but when you’re living from paycheck to paycheck it can be a real burden buying random wedding favors, birthday cakes, and takeaway gifts year round. Don’t assume that you know if someone you work with is having problems.

    When you are the one coordinating, you make it easy for anyone not to contribute without being ashamed. Send an email to everyone who completes the plan. Make it clear that giving is entirely optional. When someone does not give, assume that there was a reason and that it is none of your business. Under no circumstances should one gossip about who gave what, what should be tolerated.

    Also, be very careful before asking employees to contribute to a higher position. Again, I don’t think your respective ranks are an important factor here as you are not working directly with the future bride. I also feel good that you are all giving a novice gift. However, this would give me a break if newbies were asked to contribute to a gift for their boss.

    Ask a Manager’s Alison Green has a good rule of thumb here: gifts at work should go down, not up. In other words, it’s okay for managers to give gifts to their employees, but employees shouldn’t be asked to pay for their boss’s gift.

    Each of you individually asks what the appropriate amount is and how much everyone else is giving. But overall it doesn’t matter how much you give. They show the new employee that she is welcome. I’m sure you and your future spouse will appreciate the nice touch, no matter how big or small.

    Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].


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