Dear Miriam | How Do You Deal With a Gift Non-contributor?

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Dear Miriam,

I am part of a group text chat with a few friends. Whenever someone’s birthday or another special occasion rolls around (new baby, new home, etc.), everyone else in the group starts a separate chat to plan a surprise gift for that person, and we ask everyone to chip in $10- $20 each. I’m very organized and love gift-giving, so I usually take on the role of organizing and ordering each gift. There’s one friend in the group, though, who has never chipped in for anyone else’s gift, yet has enjoyed being on the receiving end.

I know I could get others in the group to share in the role of organizing and ordering these gifts so I’m not always the one chipping in extra to cover the friend who does not contribute. What bothers me most, though, is that this person isn’t chipping in at all, period. She often talks about the expensive accessories, tickets, etc. she buys herself, so it’s unnerving that she seems stingy when it comes to gifts for others. What’s the way to handle this?


Group Gift

Dear Gift,

Have you talked to the non-contributor? Asked her what’s going on? If not, you absolutely must start there. “Hey, I’ve noticed that when it comes time for group gifts, you don’t contribute. What’s up?” Then listen. You just don’t know what the situation is here until you ask, and any assumptions will, as you’re already experiencing, lead to the potential for difficult feelings in this friendship.

Maybe she has a budget for the accessories and tickets she buys herself, maybe even for gifts for family members and wedding presents, but this type of group gift isn’t in her budget. Maybe it just doesn’t meet her list of spending priorities. Perhaps she is extremely forgetful and never remembers to hit send on the Venmo payment. Maybe she’s pretended to be pleased as a recipient but thinks the whole thing is overkill.

Any gifts within this group should be attributed to the people who actually contributed, not the group as a whole, so at least no one feels like she’s unfairly getting “credit” for participating. Certainly, moving forward, you, or whomever is coordinating, should get a confirmation on how much you’ll be receiving from the rest of the group before committing to how much you’re going to spend. The solution is absolutely not for you, or others, to cover the non-contributing friend’s portion to make the gift “look” like it’s from everyone.

If she is intentionally deciding not to participate, that isn’t inherently wrong or worthy of judgment. People have very different approaches to and attitudes about gift-giving, and they don’t always line up neatly with social expectations. If this culture of group gifts in your group chat developed without everyone’s equal input, then there’s no reason to think that the gifts themselves need to happen with everyone’s equal payment.

Be well,



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