What if you could give a loved one an Apple iPad 2 this holiday and pay only the price of a case? Or give an Xbox 360 with Kinect for the price of Modern Warfare 3? A growing number of group gifting sites are making it easier to partner with friends and relatives to purchase big-ticket items. Instead of lackluster stocking stuffers, your nearest and dearest can get what's really on their wish lists -- and you can stick to your budget.
Group gifting sites mirror deals sites such as Groupon by collecting payments from individuals until an item reaches a tipping point. If a group is unable to raise enough money for a chosen gift in time for Christmas (or any other occasion), the site will refund the contributions, let the group substitute a cheaper gift, or issue a check or gift card instead (for a processing fee of about $6.95).
EBay Group Gifts is perhaps the highest profile group gifting site. It began as a partnership between the ecommerce giant and social gifting platform The Gifts Project (eBay has since acquired the startup). An organizer chooses a gift from eBay's new, fixed-price inventory (as opposed to a used item up for auction), creates a gift page, and invites email contacts or Facebook friends to pitch in. They can contribute using a credit or debit card or through PayPal.
Shareagift operates similarly but lets users collect money to buy a gift from anywhere, even offline. As of April 2012, Shareagift.com is now a totally free service. Let's Gift It and Paypal charge a small service fee. Let's Gift It lets users choose a gift from any online store or a gift card in the amount of the gift.
On group gifting site eDivvy, you can find gifts from merchants including Amazon, Apple, Macy's, and Target.com and invite participants via email (no Facebook option here). Again, service fees and contribution charges apply.
Of course, the option with the largest selection and lowest fees is physically collecting the money and going out and buying the gift. Group gifting sites simply let you skip the hassle of hounding people for cash and avoid fronting the money yourself.