I’ve got a habit that drives a close friend nuts. She always buys me an assortment of Christmas presents every year, and every year I end up returning at least one of her gifts because it is way too expensive.
This year she got me a $390 wallet by Ferragamo (picture). I used to have a Ferragamo wallet three years ago, but it got lost or stolen in a tennis locker room one day. I was so mad because the wallet was a present and also very expensive.
I’m not into name brand items, although I do appreciate well crafted things. Quality, not quantity is something I’ve learned to cherish the older I get. For the past two years I’ve been happily using a $30 Fossil wallet everywhere I go. If I lose it, no big deal. My friend wanted to treat me since she knows how little I treat myself (she’s read my entire Budgeting & Savings category).
When I opened the present, my immediate thought was, Sweet! But this wallet could feed a lot of starving kids. Gotta return it.
My friend could sense my desire to return the wallet so she made a preemptive blurt, “No! You aren’t going to return this gift! If you return it, you will make me very sad!”
The last thing I want to do is make a thoughtful person sad. But at the same time, $390 is a damn lot of money for a wallet! I don’t want to be one of those folks who totes around luggage that costs more than the items inside. My Fossil wallet has been working just fine. No, it won’t get looks from the ladies when I whip it out to pay the bill, but who cares when I’ve got a sexy smile?
I began to rationalize with my friend why she would feel sad if the wallet was returned. I told her, “Is it because you feel bad facing the sales clerk?”
She immediately said, “No, it’s not that at all. I just want you to want to have it! I enjoy giving you something I know you’ll like and use. You always return my presents!”
I told her I appreciate her thoughtfulness, but the cost is just too much for me to accept. I bought her a gift worth roughly $125. The only way I would feel OK is if I bought her a present of equal or greater value. But then the cycle would never end until we both go broke!
The best solution to our gift giving quandary is to stop giving each other gifts. I stopped exchanging gifts with my parents and adult relatives long ago. Instead we just go out for lunch or dinner when we’re in the same city and fight over the bill. I would propose the same to my friend, but she just loves giving and receiving gifts. It’s been a part of her upbringing. It wouldn’t feel right to ask her to change.
The second best solution is to present the situation to all of you and ask what would you do if you were me? She earns an above median income for San Francisco, but is not rich. If she was a multi-millionaire or had a huge trust fund I honestly wouldn’t feel as bad.
She says the gift makes her happy, but the gift makes me feel guilty. So wouldn’t logic dictate she should return the gift if she wants me to feel good as well? I also get a thrill out of returning things because it feels like I am or my gift giver is saving money. And we all know that saving money makes us happier!
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Have you guys ever rejected gifts or asked the giver to return the item because it cost too much? How did you go about rejecting the gift while demonstrating your appreciation without making the gift giver feel bad? What type of compromise did you make?