Q. I just celebrated my 30th birthday and was overwhelmed by the generosity of friends and family. Actually, the generosity of one friend in particular sent me into a state of shock. She purchased a new Coach handbag for me, which I know to cost nearly $200. I couldn’t believe it!
My concern is that I don’t really feel like I can reciprocate with that degree of generosity. (And if I’m being totally honest, I’m not sure I want to either.) I thanked my friend profusely when I opened the gift, I wrote her a thank you note, and I made sure to have the bag with me the next time I saw her. But am I obligated to “repay” her with a future gift of this magnitude??
A. First of all, congrats on celebrating a milestone birthday! Your friend obviously wanted to mark the occasion in a really special way. Take it as a sign of how much she values your friendship.
As for repaying her generosity, I wouldn’t think of reciprocating in terms of your finances. Just because your friend gave you a $200 handbag, doesn’t mean you’re in any way obligated to give her a $200 gift on her next milestone birthday. God knows most of us don’t have the bank accounts for it! Plus, the gift was given in the spirit of generosity and celebration, I’m sure, not with a let’s-keep-score attitude.
But…this friend must really cherish you. Is it fair to assume the feeling is mutual? Even if you can’t repay her financially (or don’t want to, as you say), there are so many other ways you can let a friend know they’re an important part of your life: a handwritten note to say as much, a meal delivery when she’s got the flu, a ride to the airport. If you care about this friend deeply, show your gratitude in another way. She’ll know your heart’s in the right place.