How Much Should I Give For A Bar Mitzvah Gift?

When a Jewish boy turns 13-years-old he has a “bar mitzvah”, whether or not the event is marked with a ceremony or celebration. According to Jewish custom this means that he is considered old enough to have certain rights and responsibilities or suit for the upcoming wedding this summer. (source: about.com).  I actually know quite a bit about bar mitzvahs.   When I turned the age of 13, my friends, family, and distant relatives I saw once upon a family reunion showed up to hear me belt out a poorly sung haftorah.  I can remember the long hours of practice and study it took to be able to read my portion of the Torah on that special day.   I also have vivid memories of the food, the dancing, and the gumball filled Pepsi bottles we gave to each of the kids.    With today’s Bar Mitzvahs reaching prices of epic proportions, people often wonder how much they should give when attending a bar mitzvah.

First things first . . . A bar mitzvah isn’t a wedding and shouldn’t be treated at all with the same light as a wedding.   Although some parents choose to spend the same amount or more on their children’s bar mitzvah, it simply isn’t the wedding.   The kid is only turning the age of 13!    We also need to separate whether just your child is being invited to the event or you are being invited as an entire family.    Unlike weddings, I do think it also matters how close you are to the actual child and family having the bar mitzvah.

Let’s talk about this whole Jewish history around the number 18.   Times have changed, but I can distinctly recall my cousin Melvin giving me a gift of “chai” which was $18 bucks.  Even in 1982 $18 doesn’t take you very far if you want to buy anything. The word for “life” in Hebrew is “chai”.  The two Hebrew letters that make up the word “chai” are chet and yud. Chai is equivalent to 8 and yud is equivalent to 10. So “chai”, chet and yud together, equals 18. Giving money in multiples of $18 is symbolic of giving “chai” or life. There are many people who give money in multiples of $18 as presents to someone celebrating a birth, a bar or bat mitzvah or a wedding.

If just your child is going to the bar mitzvah, don’t spend money on gift cards or savings bonds.  I simply think that isn’t a good idea.  You’ll be encouraging another teenager to go out and buy more stuff when they can be saving that money for their future.    A gift in the order of something like triple ‘chai’ or $54 would be a neat idea to give from teenager to teenager at the bar mitzvah.

If your whole family is going, you should be giving in the nature of about $75 to $100 a person (half for your kids).    So for a family of four with two adults and two kids about $300 would be an appropriate gift.    Although this is a celebration within the religion, skip the ideal Kiddush cups, candle sticks, or Tzedakah boxes.     Although the thought might be in the right place, cash is simply the best way to go when you get invited to a bar mitzvah.    I often hear that since this is a spiritual celebration that items like prayer books or other religious items would be acceptable.   Trust me that this will not be a good idea as much like wedding conversations are had back at the house that night about who was naughty and who was nice!

No matter what your faith, gift giving is always one of the toughest challenges we have in making day to day smart money moves.   It’s often a struggle that you’ll continue to discuss when the envelope is closed and you are on the way to the bar mitzvah.   Once you get there the damage is done one way or another, so make sure to at least get into a little Hava Nagila action and carry a leg of the chair during the joyous festivities.   And please no gold coins . . . unless they are real!

Additional Reading: How Much Do I Give For A Wedding Gift? , How Much Should I Leave For A Tip?

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Written by:

Ted Jenkin, CFP®, AAMS®, AWMA®, CRPC®, CMFC®, CRPS®

Co-CEO and Founder of oXYGen Financial, Inc - The Leaders in Gen X & Y Financial Advice and Services

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About the author  ⁄ Ted Jenkin @ Your Smart Money Moves

Ted Jenkin has spent the past 23 years giving personal financial advice to thousands of people across the United States. After graduating from Boston College in 1991, Ted spent more than 16 years working for American Express Financial Advisors/Ameriprise Financial. He was one of the youngest people in the history of the company to reach both Field Vice President and Group Vice President level. He managed more than 800 financial advisors throughout 8 states in his last position with the company. In 2008, Ted founded oXYGen Financial to help revolutionize the financial services industry by creating a new company that focused on serving the X and Y Generation. oXYGen Financial now has more than 2,200 clients throughout 25 states across the country many coming from social media techniques. Ted has been featured in over 30 magazines and newspapers including the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and The Huffington Post. He was on the cover of Registered Rep magazine and featured in the ‘what will financial planning look like in 2023’ article done by Financial Planning Magazine. He has six advanced designations from the College for Financial Planning (CFP®, CRPC®, CRPS®, AWMA®, AAMS®, CMFC®) and is an on air radio personality.

7 Comments

  • JesusChrist!
    March 30, 2013

    If I had known I had to *buy* my way into a bar Mitzah, I never would have accepted the invitation.

    I’m sorry, but $300 is INSANE for a 13-year-old’s gift. We do not even give that for a wedding! There seems to be an expectation of cash and more cash for these events that is truly distasteful.

    God, I wish I had turned down the invitation. Now I feel inadequate. Thanks, Ted. Can I give $36 bucks if I promise not to eat dessert? Or is it $54 per person if we eat at all?

    P.S. Does it matter in the least that Bar Mitzah boy is wealthy beyond belief and my family is struggling? Or is it still all about the Benjamins?

  • March 30, 2013

    You can give $36 all day long and not feel bad :)

  • davida
    May 2, 2013

    i agree. 300 is outrageous. we also have to pay for transportation, hotel, and new outfits. the kid is my nephew but he gets anything and everything he wants already.

  • davida
    May 2, 2013

    and by the way…twice, because my sister has decided to have the bar mitzvah in june and the reception in september.

  • May 3, 2013

    That is really interesting- did it save her money?

  • Sharon
    May 27, 2013

    How much would you give if the bar mitzvah is twin. Would u divide the amount or give double

  • May 29, 2013

    I would do double the amount

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