Bar Mitzvah gifts, broke edition
August 12, 2018 8:36 AM   Subscribe

Bar Mitzvah gifts, broke edition: I have a Bar Mitzvah coming up, and I'm flummoxed as to what to get. I am close to his mother- we see each other every few months- but I have barely spent any time with him and really don't know him at all.

I know the easy answer is money, but I'm barely getting along on freelancing these days and I'm worried a low denomination of $18 will appear cheap. I'd hoped to get him a book he'd really enjoy that would also obfuscate how little money I have to spend- maybe George R. R. Martin (maybe that's a little too R-rated for a 13 yo) or a really amazing graphic novel. Non-literary but affordable (under $30) suggestions are welcome.
posted by foxy_hedgehog to Grab Bag (8 answers total)
Jewish person here, saying that if I knew you and your circumstances, and you gave my kid a check fro $18 when I knew you were strapped -- that would be so meaningful and I wouldn't look upon it as cheap at all.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:42 AM on August 12, 2018 [6 favorites]

maybe George R. R. Martin (maybe that's a little too R-rated for a 13 yo)

His short fiction mostly isn't R-rated at all - get him a copy of Dreamsongs and set him up as a SF hipster who knows all the obscure early stuff!
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:44 AM on August 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Can you ask the mother about him? I was artsy, so a few people got me sets of nice colored pencils/pastels/drafting tools, which were likely well within your range.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 8:46 AM on August 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Not sure how much he'd enjoy it exactly but unless you think there'd be political objections, planting a tree through Israel's Jewish National Fund would probably be seen as a classic, if unremarkable, gift. (Looking through the page, you can also donate for water resource development.)

More generally, there might be other charities you could contribute to in his name that wouldn't specify the amount.
posted by trig at 9:40 AM on August 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

The standard bar/bat mitzvah money gift where I'm from is $36 — double chai. It's a little over your $30 limit, but if you're worried that $18 seems low, that's what I'd do.
posted by Charity Garfein at 11:56 AM on August 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

My daughter had her bat mitzvah earlier this summer, and you should give what you like, $18 is fine, $36 is fine...but some folks took the trouble to get different denominations so the sum was $x (as in, $1 + $2+$5+$10 for the $18), which was charming. (At least for the parent.)

Alternately, maybe a copy of the graphic novel Judaism for Beginners, although it seems to be out of print. I have a copy, it's well-done.

(for girls, jewish-themed jewelry is a hit, but that's trickier with boys.)
posted by leahwrenn at 5:42 PM on August 12, 2018

His short fiction mostly isn't R-rated at all - get him a copy of Dreamsongs and set him up as a SF hipster who knows all the obscure early stuff!

This, or something by Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams; he's at the age where a lot of people start reading those big series. Or Neil Gaiman, although he has enough middle-grade stuff out that kids have usually discovered him. Something really good from the adult section of the bookstore makes a great gift at that age. You could get one of those and still give him the $18.
posted by BibiRose at 4:02 AM on August 13, 2018

I'd avoid the tree-planting. It's like giving out toothbrushes on Halloween, beyond the project's aim to yoke Jewishness to some physical connection to Israel (whatever your politics there may be). I've received a few of those over my lifetime and they are basically immediately forgotten. Give the kid something the kid would enjoy, or let the kid pick it themselves.

Double-chai ($36) is universally acceptable. And can be given in the form of an Amazon gift card, which can sometimes be had discounted or through credit card mileage/loyalty programs points etc. (Although I guess you'd have to do a $20, a $15 and slip a dollar in the envelope. A dollar coin might be a cute momento.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:43 AM on August 13, 2018

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