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 @ Your Smart Money Moves


My friends and family all think I’m a workaholic, but I say I’m just a guy that loves to help people do better in life.

My mother is still the only one that calls me by my real name Theodore Michael, my wife calls me Teddy, but for the rest of you it is just plain old Ted.

Ever since I was a little kid, I always loved money and being an entrepreneur. In fact, I still have cassette tapes of me talking to my grandmother at the age of five and my mother tells me all the time how much I played with money as a kid...

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Ted Jenkin is a frequent guest columnist for the Wall Street Journal and Headline News Weekend Express. He is the co-CEO of oXYGen Financial. You can follow him on LinkedIn @ www.linkedin.com/in/theceoadvisor or on Twitter @tedjenkin.

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  • Avatar
    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?

  • Ted Jenkin @ Your Smart Money Moves
    March 30, 2013

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

  • Avatar
    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.

  • Avatar
    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.

  • Ted Jenkin @ Your Smart Money Moves
    May 3, 2013

    That is really interesting- did it save her money?

  • Avatar
    May 27, 2013

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

  • Ted Jenkin @ Your Smart Money Moves
    May 29, 2013

    I would do double the amount

  • Avatar
    April 27, 2016

    I will be attending my first Bar Mitzvah and I’m curious, according to you the amount I should give is based on how many in my family will be attending; Is my gift meant to cover the cost of admission to the party? If I give according to you reccomendations, I would be giving $200 for two adults and $50 for my child. Are you Kidding me? I understand turning 13, in the Jewish faith, is an important milestone, but it was pretty important to me when my son turned 13 and his father and I didn’t give our own child $250. I am astonished to think someone would invite us to a party and then expect me to pay for attending. Tacky- Very Tacky! I would hope this is not what is typically expected in the Jewish community, if so at least the ones I know seem to have more class than that and I would expect that they would be horrified that this was even suggested. I will be sticking to an amount more appropriate for a 13 year old.

  • Ted Jenkin @ Your Smart Money Moves
    April 28, 2016

    Since I was bar mitzvahed many many years ago I think it would be acceptable on a family of five to give $18 per child and then $36 per adult given the situation

  • Avatar
    October 10, 2017

    Very helpful article and I think $300 is a totally appropriate amount. My kids had an amazing time at a bar mitzvah this weekend. If I was to take my kids to a nice dinner plus somewhere with the amazing entertainment they had it would easily cost me close to that. Oh and we had to pay three nights hotel but so what, it was a great weekend away for the family.

  • Avatar
    October 11, 2017

    Surely this discussion should not be occupied with wealth of gifts to partake in a celebration of of a Bar Mitzvah. The celebration should not be a competition for guests to see who tops the list of money gifts. One should partake of this event with the magic of the day without fearing the consequences of an affordable gift. My cousins Bar Mitzvah was a most wonderful experience, meeting my family for the first time.A truly magical day which will also remain in the memory of my cousin long after the gift money has been spent.!

  • Avatar
    David Ettinger
    November 4, 2017

    I believe Bar Mitzvahs, Communions, Quinceras, Brises, Birthday Parties, Parties in general and Weddings should all be parties where nobody is required to bring a gift. The families should pay for that special day and not expect anyone to subsides it. If I ever have kids, I’ll pay for the whole thing myself and tell people not to bring any gifts.

    As things stand now, if you’re going to bring less than $75 per guest anywhere in the United States, just let the family know. They will understand that you are of limited means and there shouldn’t be any hard feelings. Jews treat Bar Mitzvahs on par with weddings. They are often very expensive catered affairs where each guest costs in excess of $150+. To non-Jews, it’s just another kid’s birthday party.

  • Ted Jenkin @ Your Smart Money Moves
    November 10, 2017

    I appreciate your comments. If you can’t afford a big amount of money maybe a small gift card would be nice as well…

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