How much money should you give for the upcoming Bar Mitzvah?
The million-dollar question (pun intended)…
… What’s too much money? What’s too little?
… And what’s the deal with the whole “multiple of 18” thing?
Don’t worry, this article will get rid of all your confusion…
How Much Money Should You Give for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah?
You should give the Bar Mitzvah money in multiples of $18. The number 18 translates to “Chai” (חי) or “life” in Jewish numerology. Essentially, you’re blessing the young boy/girl with a long & successful life.
For example: instead of giving $50, give $54. Instead of $100, give $108 and so on…
“OK, but how much should I give EXACTLY”?
First of all, keep in mind that a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is NOT a wedding…so don’t be in a rush to take out a mortgage for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah cash gift.
Remember: You’re getting a gift for a teenager. They don’t need a lot of money, nor should they get used to getting lots of money at such a young age (just my personal opinion).
When you’re trying to decide how much money to give, ask yourself:
- How close are you to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah or his family?
- What are the social & cultural habits of this family or community?
- How fancy is this Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony?
If you barely know the kid and his family, then $50-$100 (or $54-$108) is definitely OK.
However, if you’re their uncle and the Bar Mitzvah is at the Hilton, then that gift amount can cause you to lose your “favorite uncle” status.
A good rule of thumb is to take the amount you would’ve normally spent on a birthday present and multiply that by 1.5. So, if you would’ve spent $100, then $150 sounds about right (or $144 to stay in line with the “multiples of 18″tradition).
Here’s a table to clear out the confusion:
|Classmates & Friends||$50-$75 |
($54-$72 in multiples of 18)
|Distant Relatives or Acquaintances||$50-$100|
($54-$108 in multiples of 18)
|Close Family & Friends||$100 or higher|
Tip: The same holds true if you’re not physically attending the ceremony. Sure, you might technically be able to “get away” without sending anything. But ask yourself this: “If the situation was reversed – would you like it if someone close to you didn’t attend your child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah, AND didn’t send a gift on top of it?”
Per Person or Total?
Claire asked a very good question in the comments: “Is the gift amount given per person?”.
The answer is: usually, yes… but it depends:
- What if you’re attending with kids?
- What if it’s a distant relative?
- What if he’s having his Bar Mitzvah in his backyard?
Obviously, there’s no one answer. That said, in most cases, you’ll multiply the gift amount X headcount.
Confused? Here’s an example:
Let’s say you’re invited to a Bar Mitzvah ceremony of a distant relative, and he’s having it in a nice event hall. You’re planning to attend as a family of 4 (husband, wife and 2 kids)…
If we follow the rules of thumb above – then we fit the “Distant Relatives or Acquaintances” bracket, which means we can settle for anything between $50 – $100 per person. To keep things simple, let’s go with $72.
Now, because we’re attending with 2 kids, then it’s totally acceptable to give somewhere between half and 2/3 the amount you’d give as an adult: let’s settle for $54 per child.
So, finally, our “complicated” math formula equates to: $72 x 2 + $54 x 2 = $252.
(Ugh, I hate math).
$252 is the amount I’ll withdraw from the ATM… or, perhaps write a check?
This leads us to the next question…
Cash or Check?
Bar/Bat Mitzvah or not – don’t forget that at the end of the day – it’s a teenager we’re talking about here. And let’s just say that teenagers aren’t exactly famous for their intelligent fiscal policies.
If you’d rather give the money to the parents and have them decide how to invest the money – it’s better to go with a check, rather than cash. Kids at the age of 12-13 normally don’t carry checks, and they’ll usually need the help of their parents to cash it. In effect – you’re ensuring the money goes through the parents first.
On the flip side, if you do want the Bar/Bat Mitzvah to spend the money as they see fit – then cash is the preferred choice.
Should You Give Money, to Begin With?
Even though a cash gift is a very popular one, it’s far from the only option.
So, what else can you bring to a Bar/Bat Mitzvah?
Think about it – a big part of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Memory is the gifts you received from your friends and family… Trust me – no one remembers the guy or gal who gave money in increments of $18, just like everyone else did (unless you give a ridiculously high amount, in which case they’ll never forget you).
If you already know the young Bar/Bat Mitzvah, you probably know things like:
- What do they like (and don’t like)?
- How religious are they?
- What kind of gifts will their parents appreciate?
Think about that before you decide to give them cash or a check.
Tip: Another great idea I’ve seen people do in the past is to get the Bar/Bat Mitzvah a nice Tzedakah box, and chip in the first $18 (or more, depending on how generous you feel that day). That way, you get to have the cake and eat it too. Plus, you teach them a valuable lesson about the importance of giving Tzedakah.
A Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony is a big deal… and deciding how much money you should give can be challenging… But it doesn’t have to be.
Remember, it’s still a 12 or 13-year-old teenager we’re talking about here, so no need to go crazy and give away ridiculous amounts.
Just remember to follow the guidelines I laid out in this article, give the kid a decent Bar/Bat Mitzvah gift amount (in multiples of $18) – and you should be golden.