Other than flowers, gifts are overkill until you have established that you’re in a relationship, not just casually dating. Unless it’s Valentine’s Day and you’re spending it together or a birthday or Christmas/Hanukkah.
How Much to Spend. The first time you buy her a gift is tricky, especially if it’s for a holiday like Christmas where you will both be buying a present for each other. You don’t want to look like a cheapskate if she gives you much more than you got for her. And you don’t want to make her feel bad (or weird) by giving her more than she gives you. Early in a relationship, a first gift for a birthday or Christmas shouldn’t exceed $50 and should be only one item. If it’s Christmas where she is also giving you a gift and she spends less than you, it’s not so awkward if all you’ve given her is one item. And if she spends more than you, take her out to a nice restaurant and pay. Or take her to The Nutcracker or other holiday-related show.
What to Avoid at Any Stage of Your Relationship
Generic gifts. It’s fine to bring over a bottle of wine for dinner or a party but if it’s meant to be a gift, like for a birthday or Christmas, don’t give her wine, unless it’s a particular wine that has meaning for her. Other generic gifts: fruit baskets, videos, scarves, magazine subscriptions, frames with nothing in them, and anything you would get a teacher, your mother or a female coworker.
Gift cards. You might as well hand her some cash. It’s tacky. Exceptions to be noted on Friday.
Gifts that imply criticism. For example, a cookbook, an instructional video, a how-to book.
Clothes. You don’t have good enough taste. Exceptions to be noted on Friday.
Something you like because you want her to be into it too--unless she has specifically shown real interest in it.
Joke gifts. No one needs more stuff that’s funny for two seconds and then takes up space and gathers dust.
Up on Friday: What You Should Get