To reciprocate or not reciprocate that is the question?
Your fear is that the person who bought you a birthday or holiday gift will feel upset and annoyed if you don’t reciprocate. That can be the case but it depends on the person who is giving you a gift. If they are more affluent than you they may recognize you can’t reciprocate and have no wish for you to try to do so. If this is the case ensure you send a thank you card for the gift and remember to send another card when the occasion arises to reciprocate the gift they bought for you.
A card shows thought and if that person continues to buy you gifts in the future you know they do not expect you to reciprocate. If they stop, they recognize gifting isn’t something you want to do. And that’s ok.
If you don’t want to reciprocate but you do so out of politeness and because you don’t wish to cause offence, you may find yourself in a loop of gift buying for this person every year with no way out. It is better to ‘nip it in the bud’ before it grows into something you can’t cope with.
You could also speak to the person and explain you won’t be reciprocating due to other commitments. You may wish to show your appreciation by inviting them to dine with you.
I bought them a gift, they haven’t bought me one?
If you are the person who bought the gift, see above as to why gifting isn’t always a nice surprise. It can put pressure on the receiver to reciprocate. If you are hoping for reciprocation you may be in for disappointment. Giving gifts should always be initiated as a one way thing, where you expect nothing in return. You give from the heart or because the occasion dictates it.
If you are the first in a friendship or family situation to start the gift buying or are caught up in it and don’t know how to stop, be honest with the person. If you don’t feel that you can be due to losing face etc. then consider making them a handmade gift, inviting them for a meal instead of buying a gift or suggesting ‘Secret Santa’ for family members, friends or work colleagues. They will probably be relieved and happy to do so.