Giving gifts when married

by Erika Torres

presentI think Eric and I will find ourselves in the minority when I make this next statement: We don’t do gifts.

For birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day or any other gift-giving holiday except Christmas, we don’t give each other gifts.

And even on Christmas, I will send him a link to what I want and all he has to do is order it.

Call us unromantic, but this rather peculiar trend of ours began out of necessity. During the first two years of marriage, we could barely afford to go out to celebrate, let alone lavish each other with gifts.

On our one-year anniversary, I saved for several months to be able to splurge on a weekend trip to San Diego. For us, the gift to each other was being able to spend time together and go out.

This past year, we had a country-themed outing with friends for Eric’s 30th birthday, and the bar tab was Eric’s birthday present. For Valentine’s Day, we splurged on a homemade meal of rack of lamb. For our anniversary, we went all out and probably went to the most expensive restaurant in Orange County–the bill came out to just under $300. Since we didn’t get to celebrate our anniversary last year (you know, with Eric breaking his back and everything), we decided this meal counted for two years worth of marriage.

And again, this past week, for my birthday, I was stuck going to work all day and having grad school class at night. I’m counting our upcoming trip to New York as my birthday/anniversary gift.

I guess gifts never became a big thing for us, because if we really want something, we save for it and buy it. Maybe it’s also because we share all our financial accounts, so it’s not like we’ll really be surprised with a gift since we’ll most likely see the purchase through online banking before we receive the gift.

Perhaps we allow ourselves to splurge a little during these special moments, like Eric buying a pair of cowboy boots for his birthday, but for the most part, we are completely fine with contributing our funds to experiences and not things, hence celebrating special occasions with travels and dinners than physical presents.

I’m sure one day we’ll get to the point where we can splurge on experiences and presents but until that time comes, we are completely fine with forgoing the tangible in favor of the memorable.

Do you do gifts in your marriage? 

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Teacher Girl May 13, 2013 - 4:43 am

I think that spending money on experiences together is way more valuable and important for a marriage than flashy gifts.

Cassi May 5, 2013 - 1:48 pm

Personally, in many instances, I’d rather have an amazing experience, instead of a gift. The only times I really enjoy gifts, is when it was something that I felt I really needed or wanted, but if you can buy it anyways, why not take that trip you wanted to instead. I don’t find it unromantic at all!

Megg May 3, 2013 - 11:14 am

We go in phases with gifts. Our first year we were married, we bought a house, so my husband’s gift was something small (I was also unemployed at the time) as was my birthday and our Christmas gifts. We joked that our gift was the house!
Our anniversary is Jan. 2, so we have decided to wrap Christmas and anniversary up together. We always go to the Melting Pot and splurge on a full meal there for our anniversary. We also try hard to do experiences. The second year we were married we went to Hawaii in Feb, so that was our gift.

The Norwegian Girl May 1, 2013 - 5:39 am

we´re not married, but we`ve lived together nearly 3 years. we do gifts, and sometimes I feel a bit bad, because BF loves to buy me these expensive gifts for birthday and christmas, especially after he started working and getting a decent pay, but I can`t afford things like that, and I´ve told him so, but he doesn´t think about the money it costs, he just wants to get me something nice, and he never expects something as expensive in return, but I wish I could afford something similar. Still, I have been able to buy some really nice things, thanks to my kickass planning skills, like buying gifts on sale 8 months before his birthday, so that the value of the present was pretty decent, AND the gift was supernice and well received, only that I paid a loooot less than retail price.

Nikki April 30, 2013 - 7:35 pm

We’re very similar in that we have joint accounts, so any major purchases wouldn’t be a surprise. We’ve veered toward exchanging ‘gifts’ for birthdays. We’ll talk about what each of us would like, and then we intentionally save towards them. It’s usually a day together with a nice meal at a chosen restaurant and a spa service or a music concert or cultural event. We also talk about sacrificing something else out of the budget for that month so that we’re not going overboard. It seems like a lot, but we’re hoping to become homeowners soon and we know that reward will feel much better.

Rob April 29, 2013 - 11:26 am

My wife and I do gifts, but mainly because we feel like we have to. We both prefer going and doing things, and we really don’t have room for any more trinkets. Also, like you said, we save and buy anything we really want anyways.

Sara April 29, 2013 - 11:12 am

We don’t do our anniversary or Valentines Day, but we do gifts for birthdays, Christmas, and sometimes for things like a new job or promotion.

Because of my schooling, we can’t really travel right now. Also- L never buys himself anything (!!!!), so sometimes his gift is purely based on what he needs!

A Super Girl April 29, 2013 - 9:34 am

We’ll probably end up like this. I think we’ll always do Christmas and Birthday gifts, but it’s so hard to think up gifts all the time, that we kind of didn’t do anniversary gifts this year. I bought a couple travel books for a potential trip we’re planning, and we got massages and went out to dinner. A couple Christmases ago, we planned a trip to Cabo and considered that our Christmas gift. More and more, I like doing stuff like that because it takes the stress out of finding just the right thing, and ends up being something fun we can do together.

JW_Umbrella Treasury April 29, 2013 - 3:35 am

I love getting gifts from my husband. He has great taste in jewelry and usually picks out something really unusual for me. He finds the jewelry at antique stores, so he usually doesn’t spend more than $50. That said, we only really do gifts for Christmas. For anniversaries, birthdays, and Valentine’s Day, we usually focus on experiences — dinner at a place we’ve been wanting to try, tickets to a musical, etc. Like you’ve said, the time spent together feels much more meaningful than stuff. Plus, we have a really small apartment, so we’re running out of space : )

cat Alford @ BudgetBlonde April 27, 2013 - 12:40 pm

I love gifts, not gonna lie, but I also love spending on experiences! Trips are my favorite. 🙂

Budget & the Beach April 26, 2013 - 2:35 pm

I’m not married, but I don’t think that’s strange at all. From what it sounds like you guys don’t always get to spend a lot of time together, so I’m sure that time is is precious to you!

Poor fat chick April 26, 2013 - 11:29 am

We do a mixture of both. Christmas and birthdays we do gift but we have a limit on it. Anniversaries and things like valentines day we have dinner. No gifts allowed. Usually works well
Last years my boyfriend and I went on a holiday to Cuba. We saved and saved for that trip and it was our Christmas, birthdays, Valentine day and Anniversary presents. Worked for us. We had a great time and had it paid off before we even left for the airport going there.
My parents haven’t done presents in years (started when they didn’t have any money raising three kids) and they just kept it going. Actually they do one gift, it’s a chocolate bar. They usually have a lot of fun trying to find the weirdest or ones that mean something. They put a lot of effort into finding the right chocolate bar. Its really cute

Ana April 26, 2013 - 10:31 am

I think this is an on-going trend. We don’t really do gifts. For anniversaries and birthdays, we’d rather go somewhere fun, travel or try a nicer restaurant. On Christmas though, if there’s something that we really like, we buy it for ourselves and call it a gift, like one year, for example, we bought a DSLR.

Erin @ Red Debted Stepchild April 26, 2013 - 9:14 am

We rarely do gifts. We would much rather spend money on experiences, whether that be vacation or just a nice dinner. It’s not unromantic, it’s just a difference in priorities :).

Tina @ My Shiny Pennies April 26, 2013 - 7:31 am

We do gifts for birthdays and Christmas and both are capped at $50. The gifts are picked from the wish lists we give each other.

Jen April 26, 2013 - 6:28 am

I love when my husband buys me a gift. Gifts don’t have to be lavish – they could be small things that are so meaningful. For my birthday, my husband once gave me a DVD that had my parents, sister and favorite aunt wishing me a happy birthday. We lived across the country from them, but he managed to get them to skype and recorded that. That is the best gift he has given me. When my husband gives me a gift, I know that he has been thinking about me. We do experience gifts too, we went to New York for Christmas. When he gave me that small pair of earrings that I had been looking at in the hotel room, I just melted knowing how much he loved me.

monique grattan April 26, 2013 - 5:13 am

We don’t do gifts either. We now just get our daughter something. However as I think back over the years we really never did any gifts. Sometimes I would make something…or spent very little on a gift.

I do think that you need to honor the special day by doing something though. It is rough when the day goes by (birthday, anniversary) and nothing is done.

Micah April 25, 2013 - 7:41 pm

I’m nowhere near being married, but I definitely see the logic in this. For my birthday or an anniversary, I’d much rather go on a trip or just have a nice dinner. I don’t need gifts. And even on Christmas, I think we can limit it.

Brittney April 25, 2013 - 7:17 pm

We do gifts! It’s definitely my love language so I don’t like to skip out. 🙂 We actually have separate ” fun money” accounts that we buy gifts/clothes/etc. It’s kind of nice to have that separate account that is all yours (we each know how much is in the account) to spend as you want. I think it helps avoid the “you bought what for how much?!” conversations!

Katrina April 25, 2013 - 5:56 pm

We exchange gifts for Christmas and birthdays even though we do all of our banking together. For us, it really is the thought that counts (and one of my husband’s primary love languages is gift giving). We don’t spend much on our gifts for each other ($20 for Christmas and $25 for birthdays), but I find it a nice challenge to find a meaningful gift that falls within our budget. For example, for my husband’s birthday this year I bought him a Swiss army pocket knife because he had been talking about wanting one. He loves it. However, we did combine our anniversary gift money together this past year and bought a comforter for our bed (with a little help from a gift card and coupon) instead of buying two separate gifts.

Remy @MLISunderstanding April 25, 2013 - 5:23 pm

We love gifts! Birthdays, V-Day, Xmas, and sometimes (although rarely) just because. We just don’t spend a lot of money on them. Sometimes they’re experiences, or services, not things. For example, last Xmas we made a deal not to spend any money on our gifts for each other — I used SwagBucks and TrueBlue points to get 2 movie passes for us and make a donation in her name; then I regifted a White Elephant gift I’d received that would actually be useful for her. We also agreed not to buy anything for each other that wasn’t on our wedding registry, for one year after the wedding. (We still want the stuff we didn’t get, so….) For her birthday, she got a sleeping bag; for mine I received ramekins I’d picked out; for Valentine’s Day I surprised her with a massage table (it was on our registry and on sale!) and she got us new sheets. The fun is in the surprise and in the giving, not in the money spent, for sure.

eemusings April 25, 2013 - 4:57 pm

We don’t really do gifts, either. I like to go out to eat somewhere nice, or go out of town. Like you say, when you tend to save up for things, and when you share finances…

That said, T does like THINGS, so sometimes I do get him stuff (often video games).

Shannon April 25, 2013 - 4:56 pm

We give gifts at Christmas, but we tell each other what we want.
For Valentine’s Day we go out to a nice dinner.
Both of our birthday’s and our anniversary are in the same month, so we typically buy things for the house and call that our “gift.” Last year we had a knocked a wall down and got new carpeting, how romantic! This year we’re putting in a patio and doing landscaping. Realistically, we buy what we want when we want it and I think as we get older our tastes/desires have changed. I’d rather put money toward redoing the kitchen than buy a pair of designer shoes (three years ago that was not the case)!

CeCe @Frugalista Married April 25, 2013 - 4:51 pm

We do but it’s not romantic which is fine. It’s like, what do you want? I answer and then he gets it. And, in general we don’t spend too much money. He did buy me a laptop for my B Day years ago ’cause I was broke and he was being generous. Our finances are not 100% combined. At this age we do get what we need on our own most of the time. If your finances are commingled then it’s practically like buying it yourself if he gets something you wanted anyways! It’s all about what’s important to you as long as you are on the same page. We do Birthday and Christmas. We actually don’t really even celebrate our anniversary and V Day got axed this year.

Michelle April 25, 2013 - 4:43 pm

We do gifts, but they’re usually no surprises. He’ll pick out what he wants and I usually do the same.

One Frugal Girl April 25, 2013 - 4:15 pm

We don’t give gifts to one another either. I ask for chocolate covered strawberries for Valentine’s Day, (I don’t always get them), but that’s about it. Most of our gifts are meals made together or doing something together that we both enjoy. I like it that way. I think there is a lot of pressure in finding the right gift. The way we celebrate now we don’t have to worry about any of that. Instead we just enjoy each others company.

Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies April 25, 2013 - 4:04 pm

Not really. We usually pick out something small for our b-days, which are a week apart, and then something a little bigger for christmas, but it’s usually picked out by the receiver. Every once in a while I tell Mr. PoP I want a surprise, in which case I end up with jewelry. =) But we don’t even do dinner or anything for V-day or our anniversary. They’re just another day!

Lisa @ Lisa the Vegetarian April 25, 2013 - 4:03 pm

We’re not married yet, but after almost 4 years together, I feel like we’re as close to married as you can get without the ring. My bf and I do do gifts, but I always get kind of upset over how much money he spends. We’ll go into the occasion saying that we won’t overdo things and that we’ll set a price limit, but he always goes way overboard and then I feel like I have to compensate for his overspending. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice that he wants to buy me things, but sometimes I wish we could opt for saving money!


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