Is it the thought that counts?

The art of gift giving and friendship

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Here is a situation:

It’s your birthday.

Your friend brings you a mini cupcake from a bakery nearby. You love cake and although it is a very small cake, it still is a lovely gesture.

Later you are walking a different route home, you pass the bakery. You discover the bakery has been giving out free mini cupcake samples all day. It’s the exact same cake you were given as a gift.

How would you react ?

In my opinion gift giving is a way to show your friends how much they mean to you. Not through monetary value but through thoughtfulness.

Friends special events can sometimes creep up on us out of nowhere…..

I can admit that sometimes the day before an event I realise I forgot to buy a gift or memento.

However my general rule towards gift giving is to always try and get them something, no matter how small which reminds me of them, our friendship or the conversations we have had.

I think the most important thing when giving a gift is the story you can tell. For example:

  • A card that relates to them or writing a personal message in the card which shows thought. 
  • Their favourite chocolate.
  • A gift card for a shop they use all the time ( this can sometimes be seen as a cop out or generic however if it brings them value and they will use it. I don’t see why it should be frowned at.)
  • If strapped for cash – A handmade gift like a cake or scheduling something in their diary for the future, so they know you are thinking about them and want to spend time with them.

A gift marking a special occasion should represent your relationship so far. 

It should show thought. 

It shouldn’t be about money or physical items. 

The cupcake situation is an interesting one because it shows some thought. They got you a gift to mark the occasion and you do like cake. However the cake doesn’t represent you. It’s not your favourite icing, it’s not the sponge you would have selected. It wasn’t fully selected with you in mind. It’s kind of half hearted and it leaves you thinking is the friendship half hearted ? 

It’s difficult to think about it being half hearted when you would have did anything to make their day feel special.

We shouldn’t think of gift giving as tit for tat because not every individual is in the same position to give.

However it can be useful tool to help you evaluate where you stand in their life. If you see the person being very thoughtful towards others and not to you then you might want to evaluate your position in their life and vice versa.

This isn’t to say you should immediately cut them out of your life. Just be mindful they might not value your relationship as much as you value theirs. This may save you some headache in the future. 

I’ve had two situations like this:

  • Once with an ex boyfriend. He was working in a pharmacy store and was a cheap skate. I specified I would rather nothing at all for Christmas than a bath gift set from the store he was working at- as it would just sit in my cupboard and not get used. However they were on discount , he couldn’t resist and still bought me one – He didn’t listen, he didn’t understand me and what I valued. 
  • Secondly with a friend. I would always buy her really thoughtful gifts if I was around or make a point to send a happy birthday message if I wasn’t. I valued the friendship but I never received the same back. I accepted that was part of the friends personality. 

The ex I eventually split with and the friend I stopped making the effort to always be the first to reach out to. 

Both of the scenarios are different however the same goes for both of these individuals — they weren’t around when I needed them. They weren’t reliable friends. 

Perhaps if I had looked at the signs with their gifts or response to special occasions, I would have noticed it sooner.

So sometimes the thought does count.

Originally published at

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