My friends and I have a standing policy that we don’t exchange birthday or Christmas gifts. Instead, we hang out and go to lunch or whatever, always splitting the bill, of course. It makes things so easy and avoids conflicts like the one JChin is now encountering.
She and one of her friends always get presents for each other, and the friend gets her kid presents too. Well, JChin and friend are going out tonight for friend’s birthday, and JChin was agonizing over having to buy dinner for two after she already bought a gift—and, in fact, wasn’t even sure if she was supposed to pay for both people or just for herself. She was seriously worrying about this for days, saying how she had a budget and couldn’t afford it and all that, when friend turned down JChin’s choice of a restaurant and picked another. jChin figures this means that they’ll split the bill, since friend was the one who picked the place, but at the place she picked, dinner for one is just as expensive as dinner for two somewhere else! The hamburgers are $15, and they’re the cheapest things on the menu.
Watching her (frankly amusing) struggle from the outside about what to do (tell her friend it’s too expensive, suck it up and go, etc) and whether or not she still has to pay for both of them makes me thankful for the fact that my friends and I are very conservative with our money. We don’t like to spend, so when we go out, we can usually get meals for $10 or less per person unless it’s decided beforehand that we’ll splurge just this once. And not having to worry about gifts takes the pressure off, because you don’t feel like your friendship will be judged based on a material thing, and you don’t have to worry about if you spent as much money as they spent (as irrational as these thoughts and feelings of being judged can be, we all have them, and sometimes they’re true). It really just makes everything soooooo much easier.