To be upset about crap birthday gifts from friends?

(334 Posts)
AMidsummerNight Tue 22-Jun-21 22:49:20

Short version: I am in a tight group of four friends and we do joint presents. Mine always cost less and are crappy whereas theirs are always really good, and I have to pay for them.

For Context:
We have been friends as a group of four, for 3 years. We met through work. They were all friends with each other before I joined the group, they lived together in a flat for a year before I got close with them. I spent a lot of time at their flat for girls nights and we also had a lot of nights out together. Friend C has now moved out of the flat and has her own place in another part of the UK. I am now living elsewhere so there's just Friend A and B still in the flat together. We don't meet up as a group very often anymore. They are my closest friends, but it can't be denied that they are closer to each other than they are with me (probably because they knew each other before and have lived with each other/are still living with each other)

For our birthdays we do group presents - so the other three all chip in for the fourth person's present. There is always a group chat created to discuss what present we are getting and how much we each need to pay towards it. I have a lot less money than all three of them but always pay whatever is needed, even if it's difficult. Every year I am part of three group 'birthday' chats on FB to discuss what we are buying for the 'birthday girl'. I never usually get a say in what is bought because the other two always come in with ideas from the start, based on what they know the person will want because of what they have said they want, or seem to need. I always feel a bit left out and useless because I don't live with them/haven't known them as long and so don't know what they have said/hinted at. This means that I just have to say 'yes that sounds good' and then pay whatever my share of the price works out to be.

I have noticed that each year I am always the one who has the least spent on me. I know this from googling what my gift cost, or just knowing the price. Due to Covid preventing us all from meeting up and all living in different parts of the country, I haven't yet had my birthday present from last November. The plan is to all meet up next month for a group birthday celebration and exchanging of presents that three of us haven't yet had. So I don't yet know what my present for this year is, but the last two years my gifts from all three of them were:

Year one: A bottle of pink gin, a bottle of (cheap) wine, box of Ferrero Rocher and a mini bag of Thornton's chocolates. Can't have been more than about 30 pounds. Meaning about 10 pounds each.
Year two: A small bottle of organic gin liquor and a few packs of socks from Primark...I googled the exact gin and found that it was 10 pounds. The packs of socks can't have been more than 20 pounds altogether. So that's 30, again about 10 pounds each (and that's being generous because the socks might not have been that much.)

As I said, I still don't know what my gift from last year is and will find out next month. Because their birthdays all fall earlier in the year than mine, I have now paid towards presents for all three of them, for three years. All of them have worked out as a minimum of 15 pounds per person, sometimes a lot more. In 2019 the long list of presents for friend A came to around 70 pounds, which I think was about 23 pounds per person. She got really expensive Ciroc vodka, perfume, jewellery etc...this year she is getting new trainers, an ear ring hanger and a personalised mug. Last year she got a Onesie that cost 70 pounds. Friend B has had coffee from Whittards 'because she loves it', books that she likes, clothes, perfume....Friend C has had a really expensive, fancy bra and a canvas painting of her favourite piece of artwork. Friend A in 2019 was the most expensive and I don't think it was fair to any of the other three of us because none of us have ever had 70 pounds worth of presents. But all of their presents have always been 15, 16, 17, or even 23 pounds each. While my two cannot have been more than 10 each, if not less than that.

It's not just about the money. It's that my presents have always been the generic alcohol and chocolates, whereas theirs have always been more thought out items that they know the person wants. I know that the three of them have known each other longer and are therefore closer/perhaps know more what they want/more inclined to spend money on each other, but I do talk to all of them every day, we have a group chat...and I have mentioned authors that I love and things I would love to buy but can't afford (which is usually how they decide on presents for each other). They know that I love books by Sophie Kinsella and that there a few new ones out that I don't yet have, they know that I want the full set of The Lord of The Rings and Harry Potter, they know that I love candles and have wanted a nail set for ages but would never justify buying it for myself. Yet all I've had is alcohol and chocolates that cannot have come to more than 10 pounds per person. And three years in a row I have been paying out amounts like 15, 17, 23 for each of them to have thoughtful presents.

The celebrations are not equal either. For Friend A's birthday in 2019, as well as all the presents totalling 70 pounds, we went to a really posh cocktail bar, then an escape room and then back to the flat for takeaway. All had to be paid for by ourselves and I wasn't even asked about the escape room. The three of them agreed on it between them and I just got a message from Friend B saying 'I paid for your escape room ticket so you owe me 16 pounds'. I couldn't actually afford it at the time but couldn't really decline in that situation. I've always been of the opinion that if you want to do something for your birthday that your guests are expected to pay for, you need to check with them first before going ahead and booking it and then demanding money.

My partner, mother and other friends have said I need to tell this group of friends that I no longer want to join in with the group birthday presents. They think I'm being taken advantage of. I've been trying to work out for a while now what's happening - whether it's a conscious, deliberate thing to spend less on me or whether it's simply a case of not knowing what to get me and just going with the cheap/easy options. Even then, if it were me I would be saying 'ok so we have no idea what she really wants but she has paid a lot towards all of our expensive presents so let's get her the BEST chocolates and the BEST gin we possibly can, and throw in some perfume and smellies to make it up to the amount that we always have spent on us'.

My partner and others think I should just end this friendship. But I'm torn. I don't know whether I'm just being vain. So...I need other opinions. AIBU to be upset about the gift situation and if my gift for this year isn't decent, tell them I'm opting out of the group present buying?

OP’s posts: |
WithANameLikeDaniCalifornia Tue 22-Jun-21 22:53:21


Summersun2020 Tue 22-Jun-21 22:55:17

I really expected to take your side here to be honest, but you’re coming across as so petty. I expected a huge difference financially but the difference between 10 or 15 pounds is neither here nor there. They’re not leaving you out as you get a gift every year.
I think you feel like the odd one out in this group so are projecting your feelings to the gift situation.

Catswithflamingos Tue 22-Jun-21 22:56:04

I’m really failing to see what YOU get from this friendship

Summersun2020 Tue 22-Jun-21 22:56:08

Also “opt out” of the group present buying will make you look like a massive dick and will solve your problem of whether or not to end the friendship.

Xmasbaby11 Tue 22-Jun-21 22:58:04

The group birthday gift isn't working for you so I'd get out of that.

gamerchick Tue 22-Jun-21 22:58:31

I read a bit. Sorry OP.

Dislodge yourself from the current arrangement. Tell them you can only chip on a tenner from now on if it's bothering you this much.


Moonlaserbearwolf Tue 22-Jun-21 22:58:51

Tell them you’ve given up alcohol and chocolate…

This group buying thing is seriously hard work! My friends and I sometimes club together to buy a present for a special birthday, but wouldn’t dream of doing it every year. Once a decade is enough!

Not sure I have any advice, but I do sympathise with you - getting generic presents when the others have thoughtful gifts is upsetting. This is far more upsetting than the actual amount spent. Do you genuinely like these friends?

CoRhona Tue 22-Jun-21 23:01:31

I don't think it has been generic, they are buying you gin as I assume your drink of choice.

Tangled22 Tue 22-Jun-21 23:02:21

Gently, yes YABU. You are putting WAY too much thought into this. The fact you remember all these minor details about what has been bought each year is a bit bonkers. The difference between 10 or 15 each is nothing.

My friends and I don’t exchange birthday gifts since becoming adults. We might exchange a card or bring a cake if meeting up in person near the birthday, but usually not. I just couldn’t bring myself to care about this at all. I couldn’t even care if a friend forgot to text happy birthday, tbh. Good friends show they care in other ways throughout the year. Not from material things/remembering dates.

If you had three separate friends who remember to buy you gifts each year, I’d think that was quite amazing. But actually the whole arrangement set up the way it is, sounds a bit over-organised and forced.

The fact your partner and others think you should END the friendships…. Over gifts?! Just stop with the gifts and keep being friends. Unless the gift arrangement is all you get from these friendships. And they’re not actually your friends for any other reason.

Dogoodfeelgood Tue 22-Jun-21 23:06:53

From the money aspect it’s not a massive disparity but I can see why you would be hurt not having something thoughtful. I don’t think they’re “taking advantage” of you for the sake of £5 each for your contribution but I can see why you would be hurt. I never like group presents because what usually happens is the person who organises it gets all the credit, then when I comes to reciprocating the gift the previous recipient naturally thinks fondly of the previous gift giver rather than the silent partners in the gift giving group. Easiest way to side step this is to say “sorry girls, this year I spotted a gorgeous XYZ in a gift shop and grabbed it for X’s birthday, hope you don’t mind but I’ll opt out of the group gift this year”. Then you give your special gift to the birthday person, getting all the gift giving glory and appreciation for yourself, and they pay you back in kind with something equally as thoughtful next year smile

littlejo67 Tue 22-Jun-21 23:06:57

Sounds like you judge your value to them by the amount of time and money they spend on you. You think that's because you don't mean as much to them. Why don't you blatantly ask for what you want next time . Surely friends can be open with each other.

Miraloma Tue 22-Jun-21 23:08:33

Cripes OP, this is taking up a lot of headspace needlessly.

I was ready to maybe defend as it's only been what, 3 years?

But this is way OTT and you need to step back a wee bit x

VodkaSlimline Tue 22-Jun-21 23:09:55

What is the point of pooling your money then buying several small things every time? You might as well just buy individual presents - you could still consult each other to enjoy planning and prevent duplication. Why not suggest that? Then you can simply say "my budget is £15 so I'll get the scented candle" or whatever.

Nsky Tue 22-Jun-21 23:11:55

Agree to give up the presents say you find it too much

RogueMNerHidesUnderBigHat Tue 22-Jun-21 23:12:00

I sort of get where you're coming from, but your op is mostly about ££££ and not very much about thought and love; and I know what's more important to me.

I think focus on gifts less.
How is the friendship in other ways? Do you feel part of the group? That's more important, i think

WandaLust101 Tue 22-Jun-21 23:12:28

Sounds like the issues all stem from the fact that they have known each other for longer and are closer to each other. This will only change once you’ve been in the group a bit longer and grown closer to them. I would give it some time and see if things change.

You could raise being included in the making of plans as a way of seeing if it’s all a genuine oversight or if they’re not bothered enough to include you. If they seem genuinely sorry that they haven’t been consulting you etc and then make an effort to do so id take that as a good sign. If they continue to just do things their way I’d see that as them not wanting to be more inclusive. You can then decide based on that whether or not you want to stay in the group.

The amounts spent on each other’s gifts aren’t hugely different so I’d try not to get too caught up on that. Can you try and make more suggestions and be more proactive in the group in general? Perhaps you’re being too passive maybe?

I’m not getting the vibe that these girls are using you or anything like that so I’d recommend staying in the group for now to see if things change.

BirthdayCakeBelly Tue 22-Jun-21 23:12:32

Sorry didn’t make it to the end, stopped at the part where they spend £10 each on you but you spend £15 on them.
Isn’t this exhausting for you, working all this out?!
Just say ‘guys I can only afford £10 this time’. Or £5 if you want to start clawing some of your cash back.

Luckyelephant1 Tue 22-Jun-21 23:16:41

How old are you OP?

Immunetypegoblin Tue 22-Jun-21 23:19:22

The fact that you took the time to sit down with a calculator tells us that you need to leave this friendship group. It cannot be good for you to be dwelling on precise gift values to this extent.

TopBlogger Tue 22-Jun-21 23:19:50

Only read a bit as it seemed pretty clear from the first 3 overly long paragraphs what you were saying.

Yanbu to be upset, they do sound like they aren't putting much effort in for your gifts

Yabu to put up with it, not saying anything and keeping on shelling out.. Your gifts £10 each, theirs up to £23 each ? Stop being a mug

TheTeenageYears Tue 22-Jun-21 23:20:11

I don't see the point in joint, multiple gifts. It would make sense to club together if everyone ended up with a single item around £50 but buying multiple things in a group for an amount per item which could be achieved by paying the same as an individual just makes no sense. You are locked in a vicious circle of feeling you have nothing to contribute to the chat so potentially makes it look like it's not worth you input and that may drive the less personal gifts to you. If you really are great friends then you probably should speak up and let them know how you feel - it sounds like you have very little to lose.

nocoolnamesleft Tue 22-Jun-21 23:21:16

You've been googling how much the presents cost? Um, backs slowly away...

todaysdilemma Tue 22-Jun-21 23:21:58

I find this bizarre that you are expecting everyone in a group of friends to be treated the same! There will always be some people closer or friendlier for whatever reason, and you shouldn't be expecting so much by way of presents from just friends of 3 years. Unless they're treating you badly to your face or excluding you from every single event - I would accept that you will never be as close to them as they are to each other. But you can still have a friendship - not every friend needs to be a BEST friend. If you enjoy their company, and it means you have people to hang out with - just enjoy it for what it is, a way to have some social life. You can certainly opt out of doing the group present thing, by being honest and saying you can only afford a certain amount towards the kitty - and pay just that.

Dyrne Tue 22-Jun-21 23:26:34

If these women are your friends and you’re skint enough to be tracking pennies like this and obsessing over a tenner here or a tenner there; why haven’t you raised it with them? They may genuinely not mind the gift price disparity and if you haven’t raised it’s a problem then how are they going to realise you are struggling?

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