Manners & Money: Gift Registries

by Mike on March 12, 2010

Manners & Money is a mini-series about etiquette, social norms, manners, and how it effects our financial decisions. Have you ever spent more than you wanted in order to avoid “social awkwardness”. Are some of your frugal habits frowned upon by others in your social circle? Let’s discuss!

The topic for today is Gift Registries

A gift registry is an “enhanced wish list”. Unlike an ordinary wish list, a registry is attached to a certain retailer. They manage the list and remove items as they are purchased. Gift registries were once exclusive to weddings. However, now registries are created for other events such as birthdays, house warmings, retirements, graduations etc. When done with class, registries can take the guess work out of giving by selecting something the recipient has already shown interest in. Consequently, some use that same reason to avoid registies…stating it puts the focus on receiving material gift as opposed to celebrating the event. Here are some of the common arguments for and against registries


Eliminate the guess work
– Cuts down on the chance of multiple gifts since the retailer updates the list
– Decreases chance of receiving unwanted or unnecessary gifts (that you’ll probably end up regifting)


– Impersonal
– The recipient knows how much was spent on the gift
– Limited to certain stores

When celebrating major life events, your friends and family members want to be a part of the festivity. Some will welcome the idea of a registry, while others will be turned off. If you’re the recipient and you choose to use a registry, remember your guests are not obligated to use it. Receive every gift with appreciation. It is still the thought that counts! Also, take care not to offend guests with your registry by following these guidelines (from Giftypedia)

– Make the registry items relevant to the event
– List items in various price ranges (i.e. don’t list all expensive items)
– Limit your registry to one or two stores
– Do not print registry information on your invitations. Instead place on event website, insert, or inform family and friends
(Note: I’ve received invitations with registry information, I wasn’t turned off by it)

What about you? Have you set up a gift registry for an event? Have you shopped for someone else from a registry?

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

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2 Abigail March 14, 2010 at 5:24 am

We chose lower-end places to register because we didn’t want our friends and family to feel obligated to big presents. A good chunk of them didn’t have much/any money. Also, ironically, you’re given more freedom at these places. The other places make you go through a lot to sign up. They talk you through stuff for at least a half hour until you want to escape and never come back. At JC Penney/Target, you sign up and they give you a scanner to create your selection. No fuss, no muss.

I would just urge people creating a registry to put a wide range of items on the list. That way people who can’t afford much can still feel good about getting you something you need. One family member who didn’t have a lot of money to spend used our registry as a basis and got us the same things (different brands) from Wal-Mart. I’m guessing she had a gift card there or just hit a sale. She was able to get us whole bunch of little items (pizza cutter, salt&pepper grinder, etc) for affordable prices and put it together into a pretty good-sized gift.
.-= Abigail´s last blog ..Progress report =-.

3 PF Journey March 14, 2010 at 9:51 am


Thanks for that insight on the “other side” of the registry process.

4 BibleDebt March 13, 2010 at 9:59 pm

We are in the process of putting together gift registries for our upcoming new addition. I am a little apprehensive about adding all of these items that we may only marginally need. On the other hand, you want to put enough items where people feel like they can buy you something within their personal budget. I appreciate the gifts, but I am still not sure much I like the idea.

Great series, looking forward to future posts!

5 PF Journey March 14, 2010 at 9:49 am


First of all…..CONGRATULATIONS on the new addition coming your way.

I would add everything for 2 reasons:
1. Those little items add up when you have to buy them yourselves
2. It’s considerate of your guests varying financial situation. Rather it is a bottle set or car seat or anything in between, everyone can participate.

One month I was invited to 2 baby showers back to back. I would have loved to buy both individuals that top of the line car seat…but it wasn’t feasible. I was able to put together gift sets for the both of them.

Neither had registries so guess where we ended up….Target!

6 Ronnie March 12, 2010 at 5:38 pm

I like them for babies and weddings. I know what things I’m willing to buy; I don’t buy baby clothes because a lot of people do, and given how quickly babies grow, I prefer to buy something like a first-aid kit and sippie cups. Those were my last two purchases, for a set of twins.

Weddings are interesting. I’ve seen people put flatirons and blowdryers on them; umm, I am not financing your FHI jonesing! I find those things inappropriate. I’m also turned off by the pay for honeymoon ones. Of course, I limit my spending on weddings to $20, so I tend to ignore most of what’s there.

Oh, and Kevin, don’t think it’s just the women! One recent wedding I went to had a Williams & Sonoma registry, and it was ALL for the groom. Over $150 for a skillet?? I think not, thank you!

7 PF Journey March 14, 2010 at 9:44 am

Hey Ronnie,

Good points about the flat irons! Everything I’ve read about registry etiquette in preparing this series says that off-topic / irrelevant gifts on a registry are indeed bad form.

The verdict is still out of the pay for honeymoon and wishing wells. IMHO, those are OK, you may have a wedding couple that already has many of the basic gifts and doesn’t need more “stuff” to clutter up there space. If that is what they want, I have no problem supporting it and knowing my gift will be used and appreciated vs. wondering if their really going to use something else I may have purchased.

8 LuceAndDee March 12, 2010 at 4:06 pm

My family loves wishlists! We all keep a running wishlist on so that whenever an occasion comes up where we need a gift for someone, we just know to check to wishlist and find something they are guaranteed to like. I’ve also seen some of the mothers in my son’s class do birthday wishlists but I tend to not share that info unless someone asks. Weddings and baby showers are a different story of course! In that case, everyone should share away!

9 PF Journey March 14, 2010 at 9:39 am

I never heard of — I’ll have to check that out. Of course, it probably wouldn’t work for a group that is not Internet-savvy? Or is it also linked to specific retailers.

10 Kevin@OutOfYourRut March 12, 2010 at 1:29 pm

I’m not going to get into the male-female divide on this, any time I do I come out ugly!

Target would be a place I’d register because I’m not comfortable asking, or more precisely directing, people to more expensive stores on my behalf. But of course that’s completely hypothetical because I don’t register, but I’m saying, if I did.

Maybe I see the dark side of this because I’ve never been good with people getting me gifts. Maybe I need to talk to Dr. Phil about that…
.-= Kevin@OutOfYourRut´s last blog ..Since when are you the quitting type? =-.

11 Kevin@OutOfYourRut March 12, 2010 at 11:39 am

My wife and I have never set up a gift registry, but we’ve participated in them for others.

Here’s my major beef with gift registries: no one ever has a registry at Target, they always have them at Macy’s, Dillard, Nordstrom or higher. It forces you either to pay a higher price than you planned or can afford, or to buy something “small”.

Other major beef: it limits the options, particularly the one that allows you to shop around for better prices.

By definition, a gift is something given at the option and pleasure of the donor. Registries seem too much like a solicitation for a gift with specific parameters.

Am I being to hard on this topic? As a guy I don’t share the sentimentality of registries that women might.
.-= Kevin@OutOfYourRut´s last blog ..Since when are you the quitting type? =-.

12 Abigail March 14, 2010 at 5:19 am


We actually DID have a registry at Target. Apparently a popular one because we got a lot of gift cards for it. The only other place we registered was JC Penney. Our family and friends had various levels of income, but we didn’t even expect gifts from at least half the people who would come to the wedding.

We actually refused to sign up at Macy’s. First, the woman didn’t listen to us. She asked us who did the cooking. We said neither. Then we said we had just bought an expensive set of pots and pans. She barely acknowledged that response and when she finally stopped talking, she steered us straight to the kitchenware.

Also, Macy’s clearly encourages you to pump your friends and family for benefits. Depending on how much THEY spend, you get. Really creep-like stuff. Pissed us off.
.-= Abigail´s last blog ..Progress report =-.

13 PF Journey March 12, 2010 at 1:14 pm


You bring up some good points. The irony of it is, sometimes the recipient stays away from places like Target is because they will be perceived a certain way. Especially weddings, where people are encouraged to spend, spend, spend! I’ve actually seen some baby registries at Target. I mean, is baby going to know if their receiving blanket came from Target or Macy’s?

I’m sure gender also plays a role. It is usually the ladies that get together and set up the registries. But, generally it is the ladies who go gift shopping as well. Hmm…you may have stumbled onto something worth exploring in more detail!

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