When money is tight, we often give the least to those who mean the most. Instead of forgoing neighbor gifts or teacher gifts, we decide not to do anything special for our spouse. Sometimes the stress of thinking of another gift causes us to enter into a gift-giving truce with our husband or wife.
When money is tight, here are some ways to save on spouse gifts.
Focus on Needs
When finances are tight, we often avoid buying things for ourselves even when they would normally be justifiable needs. Chances are, if money is tight, both you and your spouse have legitimate needs that are going unmet. If you have a little bit of money set aside for Christmas gifts for each other, focus on things that your spouse really needs instead of spending it on frivolous niceties.
Make Something for Each Other
If you enjoy a good challenge, setting a “handmade challenge” for Christmas gifts might be totally up your alley. Even if you aren’t crafty, a thoughtful love letter, a creative book of the top ten things you love about your spouse, or a compilation of favorite photos or memories is something anyone can do. You’ll find that handmade gifts from the heart will mean much more than any gift you could have bought.
Give the Gift of Time
Most of us are spread so thin these days that the people who mean the most sometimes get very little of our time. The gift of time, especially when it’s scarce, is more valuable than what you could buy in the store on any budget. Remember when you were a kid and you made coupons for mother’s day that your mom could redeem for breakfast in bed, mowing the lawn, or a big hug? Why not do the same for your spouse? You can get creative and make it fun, thoughtful, and personal.
Our Spouse Gift History
In nine years of marriage, we’ve never set standards or stipulations on spouse gifts for Christmas. Some years we haven’t given much, other years have been more thoughtful and heartfelt. Still other years we’ve done the “buy something for yourself and have your spouse wrap it up” trick. This year we’re doing something different.
I usually opt for practical, useful gifts for my husband. He’s not much for fluff, so I try to think of a few small-ish things that he needs, but hasn’t got around to buying. I often buy him work clothes (white shirts and ties), but I don’t feel qualified to buy electronics for him (that’s totally his domain, not mine). I am also not good at spending large sums of money all on one item, though the small things add up.
Some things I’ve bought him in the past:
Pocket Knife–After relying on one cheap knife after another, I figured it was time that my husband had a nice reliable knife. We both love outdoor activities and he has been a Boy Scout leader for years. I knew the knife would be put to good use and be appreciated.
Watch— During the law school years, I replaced his velcro digital watch with something more professional-looking. I found something that had good reviews and looked nice, but didn’t cost a fortune. It was something he needed, but wouldn’t have thought of buying for himself. He still wears it everyday!
Planet Earth— One year I found the 11-part BBC series on sale 75% off on Amazon and I knew my husband would love it. It’s something he probably wouldn’t have sought out or asked for, but learning about animals and the world is totally up his alley.
Although he knows that I don’t do Christmas wish lists, my husband still sometimes asks me for ideas of things I want or need. I don’t like giving any suggestions because it ruins the surprise. I like thoughtful gifts that come from the heart, not just having him complete my shopping list. He doesn’t feel qualified to buy clothes for me (but frankly neither do I). Every few years he gets me a bigger gift that costs more than I would feel comfortable spending on myself.
Some things he’s bought me in the past:
Cricut— Back in 2007, when the Cricut electronic cutting machine was still fairly new, my husband bought me a Cricut Expression. He was a little nervous that I would be upset that he spend over $300 on my gift. I had just opened an Etsy shop the month before, so I didn’t fret that he spent so much. I knew I could have the machine pay for itself. Now seven years later, my Cricut has paid for itself month after month after month.
Sewing Machine— Before my brother’s December wedding in 2010, I was working feverishly to make matching dresses for all the little nieces to wear. In the middle of it all, my sewing machine bit the dust. It was getting close to Black Friday, so I planned to just get one of the doorbuster sewing machines for under $100 so I could finish the dresses. My thoughtful husband had a different plan. In his spare time he researched sewing machines and found an awesome one for me (way nicer than I would have bought myself). It came as an early Christmas present, before I had a chance to buy a cheap one. Because he had done so much research, we was able to demonstrate all the amazing features when it came. Every time I sew, I think of my sweet husband.
Blendtec— Last year my husband surprised me with a Blendtec blender. After nearly a year of making green smoothies, he figured it was time we had a blender that could really handle all the things we wanted to blend. We had made adjustments to make a regular blender work for green smoothies and now we had proven to ourselves that we would make good use of a high power blender.
Our Plan This Year
My husband suggested that instead of regular gift-giving between the two of us this year, that he would do a special project, much-needed project at home that would account for both of our gifts since he would need to buy supplies.
We live in his parent’s unfinished basement. It has a concrete floor that we have covered with an assortment of rugs so our feet don’t freeze. The external walls are concrete and the interior walls are sheet rock, all unfinished. We have exactly zero closets, so all storage is out in the open.
I have lamented a time or two that there isn’t a single “pretty” place in our house for taking pictures. Every picture either has an ugly wall, hideous rug combo, or a stack of boxes as a backdrop. Consequently, I don’t take nearly as many pictures as I used to.
My husband wants to finish the wall by the kitchen table, so we can have a nice spot for pictures and to have our home feel a little homey-er and less basement-y. It will actually require rebuilding the wall before finishing it, in order to do it all right.
I agreed that it could be his gift to me, but I wanted to do something for him, too. I told him I would do something that didn’t cost anything, so he could use the money for the wall. He hinted at the mending pile. While I love to sew new things, I don’t really enjoy mending, so our mending pile is rarely tamed. While he is working on the wall, I will be mending his clothes!
Our gifts to each other will be labors of love this year.
How About You?
- Do you and your spouse give each other gifts?
- Do you have a price limit or rules about spouse gifts?
- Have you ever done an unconventional gift like we’re doing this year?
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