DEAR HARRIETTE: My budget is a little tight this year, and I can't provide the extravagant birthday presents I've been able to in years prior. Upon opening my gift, one of my friends looked at me and said, "What would I even use this for?" I had gotten her a plant in a color-coordinated pot to match her living room as well as an amusing coaster set and a card. I felt incredibly put on the spot and said she could use it for everyday life. She looked unimpressed. This happened in front of a small group, and I couldn't believe her bad manners. I couldn't afford anything grandiose, but I thought my presents were all right -- I wouldn't mind receiving them! I am wondering if I shouldn't have skipped presents this year and said I was broke. Another friend's birthday is in a little over a month, and I'm debating between giving a less expensive gift or admitting my financial hardships. Are presents the way to celebrate a birthday, even if they're unappreciated? -- Presently Baffled, Detroit
DEAR PRESENTLY BAFFLED: Be honest with your friends. Tell them that your finances are tight and you can't afford expensive gifs anymore. Rather than finding yourself in a position like this again, change your gift-giving policy to heartfelt cards and skip the gifts altogether. In this way, you show your love without needlessly attempting to show the size of your wallet.