The Danger of Gifting Doodads

July 15, 2013 | By | Comments (13)


If you’re buying wedding presents and hostess gifts this summer (who isn’t?), here’s a useful piece of advice: Give a single gift (like a vase, or a mixer, or even a check), and leave off the fun extra doodad (think: the flower frog, the cheap picture frame, the spatula).  Why? According to a study in the Journal of Consumer Research, the recipient of a gift subconsciously averages the prices of the presents rather than adding them together—meaning your offering gets downgraded to a value somewhere between the cheap extra and the real present. The doodad doesn’t act as a bonus; it distracts and detracts from the main event.

Check out more gift-giving advice.


  1. lupitatucker

    However, if the extra little gift is something handmade, or a very personal hand-me-down, then it does add value to the other, commercial gift.

    July 18, 2013 at 11:49 am
  2. Sonya L. Thomas

    That is ridiculous! If they are truly your friends, the price doesn’t matter! And if all items came from their registry, it’s their problem if they don’t like it!

    July 18, 2013 at 11:50 am
  3. Julia Edelstein

    Yes, that’s true. Researchers believe that if the little extra something is really personal, it doesn’t detract. But keep in mind: You could make an even bigger impact if you give that gift separately—or even the next day.

    July 18, 2013 at 11:53 am
  4. Advice Lady

    Also? Instead of a Groupon/voucher for a product, get the actual thing it’s for.

    July 18, 2013 at 12:00 pm
  5. lupitatucker

    Yes, true. Time will help separate the gifts in people’s minds. I find that a surprise wedding photo book a few weeks later is a great personal gift, because it helps relive the moment and the couple probably have not received their official wedding photos yet.

    July 18, 2013 at 12:01 pm
  6. Kate

    Well, if the gift receiver is averaging the value of my gift, doesn’t that say more about them than me?

    July 18, 2013 at 12:09 pm
    • Advice Lady

      I think the point is not that people are crappy and doing this on purpose, it’s a sort of unconscious thing. That’s why this is helpful advice not a warning you are being judged by gift recipients.

      July 18, 2013 at 12:19 pm
  7. Colleen

    I think it’s pretty pathetic to decide what to give and how to package it based upon what the recipient is going to do when they’re “averaging out” what the giver spent. How horrible! I think this is terrible advice; it teaches people to focus on how you’ll be perceived. Is that what we’ve come down to? Give what you can & package it how you wish. If the recipient is the kind of person you wish to give a gift to, they won’t be the “averaging” type of person. I love “Real Simple” and am disappointed with this post; you’re above that.

    July 18, 2013 at 12:25 pm
  8. Susan

    This is horrible advice. I don’t give gifts to the sort of people that I think would speculate about the cost of a gift. Do you think your readers are that superficial and that their friends and family are too?

    July 18, 2013 at 1:29 pm
  9. Sarah

    The idea that a major life event is a reason to get things and judge people based on their offerings is low, really really low. It used to be about “hey, thought you might need this because we did when we were starting out.” Being blessed with people thoughtful enough to want to provide something they think you might need or enjoy is more than enough for us. We usually ask that people not bring gifts as we really just want the present of their presence. Have you ever felt like you couldn’t/wouldn’t/shouldn’t attend an event because you weren’t able to take something that lived up to their expectations (or anything at all)? I wouldn’t want to be a friend with someone who thought this way.

    July 18, 2013 at 6:04 pm
  10. mmuggy

    Sometimes a little doodad on the outside of the gift can carry out the theme of what’s inside. I’ve found that these little extras increases the anticipation of opening the gift which makes giving the gift more fun for me. Something to think about….

    July 18, 2013 at 8:15 pm
  11. Daniel Huss

    Personal gifts are great. I got my buddy Keith’s wife a personalized song from songs for gifts. The are really into cowboy/cowgirl stuff so I got them a country version of the song. They actually played it at the wedding and then used it in their wedding video. is the site.

    July 22, 2013 at 5:10 pm
  12. Kim M

    I am on both sides of the fence with this one, I KNOW, BIG SURPRISE RIGHT! I think that it is partially just human nature to want to make everything “Sparkly”, whether it is just in the choice of words we use, or the pictures we hang on our walls, to the clothes we put on from day to day. These things are usually more a reflection of the “FEELING OR MOOD” we are in at the time. So if you look at it that way, then it should feel better to receive a gift that is a little “OVER THE TOP” wouldn’t you say!!!! HMMMMM! However, speaking for myself……I would definitely rather the check…I’m just saying…….

    April 4, 2014 at 3:44 am

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