Money Considerations for A Couple Buying Each Other Christmas Gifts

by TTMK on December 9, 2013 · 2 comments

gift for spouseThe holiday season can be a great time of year.  Personally, I really enjoy it – particularly for the family aspect of it.  There’s something about spending time together with all the familiar music, ornaments, and traditions, that bridges past memories with the present.

Of course, there are also gifts involved.  Some families go all out for gifts, spending a lot of money or a meaningful percentage of income on them.  Other families spend more modestly, and some spend very little at all.   This is one of those things that really seems to be across the board in terms of how people handle it, and much of it is based on habit, what they experienced (or didn’t) growing up, as well as emotion.

When it come to gifts and spouses, there seem to be some unique factors in play.  As partners, you’re ideally operating as a team to begin with.  If you take this approach and have joint finances, you’re all in together.  What’s his is hers, and what’s hers is his.   That’s all great, though it does make for a few considerations around gift-giving that can make things interesting.  Here are a couple of them:

How Much to Spend

Shouldn’t a gift be given from the heart, based on what you want to buy for the person and what you think they will like?  You know, it seems kind of weird to want to give somebody a gift, but have the recipient dictate how much you can spend.

However, that sentiment applies to situations where you aren’t actually spending the other person’s money.  If you’re spending his or her money on a gift, it does make sense that their should be some input.  The clincher to me is that you’re both (hopefully!) buying gifts for each other with joint money.

In talking to a few other couples, I’ve noticed very four different approaches.

  1. They buy what they want for each other, and don’t consult with each other at all about is spent
  2. The man is the primary gift-giver to his wife (not the other way around), and she doesn’t care how much he spends
  3. They buy gifts for each other, and have some kind of unstated understanding of how much is reasonable
  4. The couple sets a budget for how much they will spend on gifts, and keep gifts within that limit

Now, there is no right or wrong way to approach things.  Having said that, I’m not exactly keen on the first 2 choices.  I see issues with financial discipline in the first one, and imbalance in the relationship in the second.  The last 2 approaches seem more reasonable to me.

Between them, I like approach #4.  Setting a limit that each could spend, and just working within that.  If the two people are totally in sync with spending habits or doing quite well financially, I think approach #3 can work well too.

How to Keep the Gift a Secret

I’m all for transparency, but we don’t want to ruin the fun around the holidays!

If you buy a gift on a credit card or via joint account, your spouse can technically check purchases and figure out where you spent the money. This may or may not reveal what gift is purchased, but the potential could be there.  Hopefully we all have better things to do and have more patience than little kids, but sometimes curiosity gets the best of people.  Another scenario is that the spouse just accidentally across the information.

A solution I would propose is simply setting aside cash for holiday spending.  This way, at least you’re mitigating some risk that he or she will find out what the gift is.

Bottom Line – giving gifts to the person you love can be fun and special for each person.  Doing it in a way that’s financial responsible yet maintains the surprise is a win-win!

My Questions for You

What is your approach to buying gifts for your spouse or significant other over the holiday?

Do you utilize separate accounts, or use funds from a joint account?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Little House December 9, 2013 at 9:07 am

In the past, we’ve decided what we want as a couple and purchase that item. One year it was a fridge, another it was a camera, etc. We really don’t do individual gifts unless they are small items like a DVD. I know, that sounds lame, but in the past we had so many gifts to buy other family members, we had to skimp out on ourselves. The past two years have been a little different, so maybe we’ll change our ways.


TTMK December 9, 2013 at 10:10 pm

That doesn’t sound lame…actually, it seems like you both are thinking of others first. Good for you.


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