This article is by staff writer Adam Baker. Baker recently listed the Top 10 Money Movies of the Decade.
At this point, I hope you’ve done most of your Christmas shopping (and/or making). Only the brave or the foolish have yet to form a holiday shopping plan of attack. *looks around* Alright, so I have a minor confession to make: Courtney and I don’t buy gifts for each other.
To put it more bluntly, we just ignore the issue. We vaguely talked about it (albeit a couple years ago now), but somewhere in the mix we started assuming that we wouldn’t exchange them.
If I remember correctly, we actually did exchange at least a little something before our daughter was born. We never were big purchasers, though. I’d say we might have exchanged one or two small gifts at most during the dating years. These days, it seems as if every year we have a new excuse to skip exchanging (and certainly purchasing) presents.
Take this year for example. We’ll be spending Christmas backpacking around the South Island of New Zealand. Over the couple days around Christmas, we’re splurging for a bit more expensive lodging than normal to have internet access (for family back home mostly). We’ve decided this will be our gift.
Last year, we were saving for our big trip and decided to not exchange or buy gifts for each other. The year before that, we were getting ready for the baby. Before that it was the wedding. My point is not to give you my life story (although it does seem a little busy now that I write it), but to show how it was so easy for us to fall into a routine.
And it’s not necessarily all bad. But I’d be lying to say there wasn’t part of me that wishes we had a slightly different policy for Christmas gifts. It would be cool to see what Courtney would get me if left to her own brainstorming. And I’m sure she’d be eager to see what I’d come up with.
I guess we want to make certain we don’t buy into the consumerism hype. We’re trying to keep our possessions extremely minimal and light while traveling, but that doesn’t automatically exclude everything from our wishlists.
A couple options I thought up for our married-life Christmas approach:
- Keep things the same. Keep focusing on the our project type of mentality. Focus on doing something special together like an event or activity, but that is mutually planned (and thus has no surprise).
- Exchange gifts without any restrictions. We know people who fall into this category. Each spouse is trusted to spend or alternatively get creative in whatever way they see fit. There’s no similar budget set ahead of time or planning out of the gifts at all. This would be particularly hard for us to do as we have 100% joint finances and wouldn’t consider changing that.
- Exchange specific pre-planned gifts. A lot of people we know fall into this category, as well. They buy each other gifts, but in reality each spouse actually picks out their own. That seems kind of lame to me, especially when it’s between two spouses. It’s basically just allocating more splurge money for yourself. That’s fine, but its not really what we are looking for.
- Exchange gifts under budget restrictions. This seems like the most realistic option for us. We already define a set amount for ‘blow’ money each month. By increasing this slightly for Christmas and purchasing our gifts in cash (if possible), we could still have surprises even with joint finances. We could set the restrictions low if we wanted to focus on being creative to save money.
I’m not afraid to admit that a bit of consumerism would be a little refreshing for us. Actually, exchanging a reasonable gift (probably just a single decent one) wouldn’t be the end of the world — and it might add a little enjoyment to the process.
Obviously, we wouldn’t want to fall off the other side of the wagon and go crazy at the local mall. (Although this seems unlikely given our borderline scroogish history.)
Even if we decided to continue to forgo spending money or even exchanging gifts at all, I’d like to become a little bit more targeted with our approach. Maybe we could pay for a babysitter and spend the evening volunteering in some way together. At the very least we could look back and say, we did XYZ for Christmas two years ago. That seems better than we were saving up for our trip or we bought some bedding for the crib.
Who knows…maybe I’m just suffering from a bit of the consumerism fever this year around. What do you think? What system do you and your significant other employ for swapping Christmas gifts? Do you have any creative ideas we can adopt?
J.D.’s note: I’m going to make an embarrassing public confession. I’m the lamest husband ever when it comes to gifts. I want to give Kris something thoughtful and nice — but I don’t. This year, especially, I’m the king of lameness. Kris ordered matching luggage for us. I’m paying for half. That’s our Christmas gift exchange. I feel like I need some sort of intervention, so I’m eager to hear your advice for Adam in the comments.
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