Separate Accounts for Holiday Spending?

by TTMK on December 20, 2012 · 6 comments

When buying a gift for someone, there is often an element of mystery involved.  They might not know that you’re getting them a gift in the first place.  Or, if it’s a time when they pretty much know they’ll be getting something, the mystery is what kind of gift they will get.

The other kind of mystery involves what the person paid for the gift.  Realistically, I don’t care what someone paid – unless they spent a lot, in which case I feel guilty that they did that.  Of course, people aren’t spending lavish sums on me anyway, so I don’t have to worry about that 🙂

All t his being said, one situation where how much the other person paid can really matter – and hit home – is how much your spouse paid for your Christmas gift!

This comes from a conversation I had with someone who had a strong interest in the topic, one which I guess I never thought about too much.  However, having done that just now, here are a couple of ways to handle gift-giving over the holidays:

Sharing Information

When you’re a part of a married couple, his money is hers, and her money is his.  It’s all joint finances, generally speaking anyway.  So if your honey spoils you with a $1,000 pair of earrings, he’s spending your money to do so.  So, the amount matters.

In this case, there is transparency.  Each person knows how much was spent on gifts, and you can budget together.  That’s great!

The downside is the privacy aspect of gift-giving, and the idea that it was given with affection from one to another.  That’s something that might be lost for some folks.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Giving gifts usually involves an aspect of caring, of wanting to make somebody happy.  From the perspective of the giver, why should the other person know what you paid for it?

This perspective is balanced with the reality, that we noted above: with a married couple, each person’s money is the other’s as well.  In this case, people can just buy gifts for each other without asking the other person how much they spent, and without worrying about telling either.  You’re still pulling from the same pool of money, but just keeping hush-hush about amounts so as not to spoil the gift giving and receiving experience.

Separate Accounts

In this scenario, people have different bank accounts from which to spend.  Now, I still don’t think that the notion of joint finances is avoided, because regardless of the concept of separate accounts of marital income, it’s still just that – marital income.  But anyway, if people do take the approach of having separate accounts in practice, then the other person will simply not know what you spent. And, vice-versa of course.

What’s my view?  I happen to like the sharing information approach, perhaps balanced by some don’t ask, don’t tell.  This is how I’ve handled it, and besides – the all-in aspect just seems to be a characteristic of being closer.  Separate accounts seem more detached to me. But again, we’re all different and what works for one might not work for another.

What Do You Think?

Do you like the idea of being totally transparent with holiday gift spending?

Or, do you prefer the idea of separate accounts, or a hybrid approach?

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Emily @ evolvingPF December 20, 2012 at 11:14 am

My husband and I don’t give each other gifts, at least not on major occasions. Sometimes we come home with a special treat for the other person, but in that case there hasn’t been enough time (or anticipation) to snoop around in Mint and investigate unusual transactions.

If we ever decide to implement an adult allowance/blow money system (not in the forseeable future), gift spending could come out of that for more of a surprise factor.


TTMK December 20, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Emily – that’s the key benefit as I see it, the surprise factor.


Brian December 23, 2012 at 11:42 am

We keep all of our finances separate although we plan and budget together. So, we don’t have to worry about seeing mysterious transactions!


TTMK December 26, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Brian – always nice to not have to deal with mysterious transactions


Michael December 23, 2012 at 12:40 pm

We have joint accounts for everything. That said, my wife and I don’t do much in the way of exchanging gifts, so I guess it doesn’t really matter in this context.


TTMK December 26, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Michael – awesome, spending little is a huge win-win!


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