How much hongbao to give

Between $8 and $10 seems to be the going rate for hongbaos, or red packets, this Chinese New Year.
Between $8 and $10 seems to be the going rate for hongbaos, or red packets, this Chinese New Year.PHOTO: TAMARA CRAIU

The going rate is $8 to $10, up from last year's average of $8

Singaporeans are feeling generous in the upcoming Chinese Year of the Monkey despite the bleak economic outlook.

According to a street poll of 60 people The Sunday Times conducted last week, the going rate for hongbao is $8 to $10, slightly more than last year's average of $8.

That is the amount most people say they would give their relatives or friends' kids. For their own children, parents typically give more.

Retiree Barbara Cheong, 66, plans to give $88 to each of her daughters, aged 35 and 32, the same amount she has been giving them for the past decade. "My daughters are working so they don't need the money, but I give them hongbao to wish them good luck for the year to come.

"As for other people's kids, I will give them $8 each. It's a nice auspicious number."

She will also give $8 hongbao to service staff at her condominium, such as the security guards and cleaners. "They help to keep my estate safe and clean, so it's important to show them a small token of our appreciation."

Hongbao, literally red packets in Mandarin, are handed out as blessings and good luck. Usually, married couples give hongbao to unmarried people and children.

No matter the amount, people say it is the thought that counts.

Ms Jane Sim, 36, a private tutor who is single, says: "Not everyone has the means to hand out a lot of money, so we shouldn't care too much about how much is in the hongbao. Even if I get $2, I see it as a sweet gesture. The luck comes with the red colour of the hongbao, not the amount inside."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 31, 2016, with the headline 'How much hongbao to give'. Print Edition | Subscribe