Monetary gifts

Monetary gifts are pretty common in Singapore and certain parts of the world, where we would gift money to congratulatory parties, mainly celebratory occasions, such as weddings, baby showers, housewarmings, etc.

In fact, it is also an easy (and lazy) way to prepare a gift, as you do not need to think about what to get for them, nor spend the time to shop for it. Let’s face it, I am sure many of us have encountered numerous occasions where we are lost on the selection of a gift.  And also, consider the possibility that the gift you were thinking of getting might be something that they already have.

Monetary gifts on the contrary, is pragmatic. 

And personally, I prefer monetary gifts too.

The tricky part however, is the amount to gift.

In a previous post, I had discuss about wedding red packets and the general expected remuneration based on the venue that the event is hosted at. The thing about weddings is that they are considered one of the most expensive events to attend. More often than not, the gift value is about $100 (upwards in fact).

On the other hand, baby showers and housewarmings tend to be “cheaper” events to attend. That is, the gift value often doesn’t exceed those that we would gift for weddings. I have not quite come across any articles or surveys that discusses in-depth the trends of gifting for such events (in Singapore) but based on personal experience and discussions with friends, the value tends to hover around $50.

Which I think is a fair figure.

Of course, this would also vary across each gifter’s financial circumstance, as well as how close the relationship that you have with them, which would also determine the value of the gift itself.

A close friend of mine told me, during her daughter’s baby shower, she had received lots of monetary gifts. However, there were two that stood out. Both were ang paos that contained just a $10 note inside.

One of them was from an old auntie, who is quite elderly and not working. She receives pocket money from perhaps 2 out of her 5 adult children.

The other one was from a good friend of hers. Apparently, this friend of hers is a professional and although not particularly well-to-do, is pretty financially healthy.

Which kind of surprises her.

She wasn’t expecting $100 from this friend but she thought that $10 did seem a bit demeaning.

I don’t exactly agree with her, nor disagree with her.

Although we would also like to think of gifting as “it’s thought that counts” rather than harp on the actual numerics, there is also an underlying baseline on what amount or value might be considered “appropriate”.

As my friend was saying, even though the old auntie gave her $10, she could totally understand because she doesn’t have much money herself. That $10 meant a lot to her.

She was however, perplexed by the value that she received from her good friend. They have been really good friends for almost two decades and although frugal by nature, she has never thought of her friend as being a miser.

This episode though, did make her wonder a little.

I can’t exactly fault her for thinking that way for in most gifting occasions, those that have a higher monetary value, are often gifted by close friends and relatives.

However, perhaps there is also be a corresponding value that makes one feel comfortable.

But if her friend had gifted her $20 instead, would that have made her feel better?

Maybe yes, maybe no.

What if that friend had gifted her a something else with an equivalent monetary value, would that have mitigate the disparaging feeling?


It is harder to judge the value of physical object although sometimes we can make an educated guess (based on the brand, quality, etc.)

And that’s also a reason why we tend to remove the price tag when we intend to gift an object.

And when we do not know the value of the gift that we receive, there is a wider spectrum of guess on the value of the gift and I think that makes us feel better since it could potentially fall on the higher side of the spectrum.

But when we receive an ang pao, the numerics are there and flat. No second guesses.

What about you? Curious to hear your thoughts on this. Feel free to share in the comment section below.


4 thoughts on “Monetary gifts

  1. This reminds me of a little of traditional gift-giving in my culture, where the exchange of money/gifts can (not always) serve as more of a token gesture rather than a well-thought-out gift… I always value the thought more than the gift. e.g. writing someone a poem can be more meaningful than buying them a small piece of jewellery.


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