Chinese New Year is around the corner and it's time for pineapple tarts, new clothes and giving of ang baos (or receiving -- lucky you!).
But it can be a pretty daunting experience, especially for newly-weds, who are giving out red packets for the first time.
While I don't think there should be a “fixed rate” when it comes to giving -- since it is the sincerity that matters rather than the exact figures -- I think it's a "good-to-know" kinda thing about what people are dishing out these days.
I certainly wish I had done up this “guide” last year when I first got married!
Here are some things you might want to consider for those new to giving:
Question: It's my first year of marriage, do I have to give ang baos?
I'm not sure why this practice is in place, but it is generally accepted as the norm to not feel obliged to give.
However, it really depends on the individual. For me I chose to give out ang baos even in my first year of marriage and most of my friends actually do so as well.
Question: Do I have to give an ang bao to my older, unmarried siblings or relatives?
This is quite debatable as it varies from family to family. For my very, very, very close relatives, I'll give to wish them good luck but for those that I'm less close to (or look like the type that will get offended!), I'll play by ear by observing whether the other couples give them or not before deciding.
Question: What's an acceptable minimum amount?
The amount of money given is almost always an even number and a quick check with a few friends shows that $6 is a decent “minimum amount”. Apparently $2 ang baos are deemed too little these days as recently reported in The Straits Times.
Some kiddo might just end up posting it on Facebook calling you a cheapskate aunty!
As a Hokkien, I was brought up to think that '4' is an inauspicious number so I wouldn't give out $4 or $14 ang baos, but some of my peers do not think much about it and have no qualms doing so.
Question: What's your financial situation like?
While it is nice to be generous, your own financial situation should definitely be taken into consideration.
After all, it's the thought that counts!
(A little tip: Sort the different denominations into different ang bao packet designs so you don't end up fumbling through your handbag and running to the toilet to check which is which lol.)
Question: So, how much to give in an ang bao?
(A quick ask-around reveals my figures to be on the conservative/ “low” side, so maybe I'm cheapskate. But whatever.)
Grandparents and parents/ in-laws: $50 or more
Though we're not required to give them by tradition, it is seen as a form of filial piety so do try to give more if you can! If you draw a comfortable salary and can spare more, I would think that $200 is a good amount.
Siblings: $18 or more
Again, give more if you can, especially if he/ she is your best sister or brother in the world!
Unmarried relatives: $8 or more
The general consensus for this is “how close” you are to them. For your cousins that are practically like your brother/ sister, I'll say $20 is a good amount.
Own children: $28 or more
Because there's nothing like parental love.
Nephews and nieces: $10 or more
Usually depending on how much you like their parents, oops.
Children of friends and colleagues: $8 or more
Same as the above.
Others e.g. neighbourhood cleaner, postman, security guard and other random kids you don't know and will never see again: $6
Well, though it is technically not necessary to give an ang bao to your condo's security guard or to your garbage collector, it is a sweet gesture to thank them for the work they have done and to wish them good luck for the new year.
It is the season of giving after all!