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Do You Exchange Gifts with Your Significant Other?

The following is a post by staff writer Crystal at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff. Her blog covers living expenses, saving for your future, and the fun stuff along the way.

In the Beginning

In college, Mr. BFS and I spent weeks thinking of the perfect gift ideas for each other. We also paid a pretty penny to bring those gifts about. We definitely did not go the homemade gifts route. I remember spending $100 on our first Valentine’s Day together on candy and a couple of video games I knew he wanted. This was when $100 was what I used for my groceries for 2 weeks or more and it took me 20 hours of my part-time work to earn.

I also remember him shelling out hundreds of dollars on date nights before I started sneaking $20 bills into his wallet. He was of the mind that I shouldn’t have to pay and I thought that he shouldn’t be the only one contributing. I didn’t tell him what I was doing until a few months later, lol. After that, we knew we were getting married anyway, so we didn’t care who paid and severely cut back on our random spending. Ah, young love. :-)

After Getting Hitched

After we tied the knot, we spent even more on getting each other the items we knew the other wanted but would never splurge on. For example, about 3 years ago, I bought hubby the whole original “Get Smart” series without shopping around – there went $220. He was so happy but we have yet to finish watching all of it.

He’d then turn around and buy me whatever was on my mind at the time, like my opal earring and necklace set or even the Miche purse I wanted – girly stuff I normally avoid but he knows I was eyeing.

This system was working for us but the longer we are together and the more money we make, the harder finding the perfect gift is and the more expensive it seems to be.


Recently, we have started giving each other more experiences and less physical stuff. For my last two birthdays, Mr. BFS has taken me out for Italian food (which I adore and he’s just okay with) and then we fed the ducks at the nearby “lake”. It was so much fun! I love having the ducks surround us and tentatively peck cracked corn out of our cups!

For his last two birthdays, I have found great deals on a few board games he wanted and threw him a board gaming potluck birthday party at our house with all of our friends. At this last one, he stayed up until 2-3am gaming and happily asked for the exact same party for all of his birthdays to come, lol.

We still have consumer wants that we save for, like a new laptop since our oldest one is slowly giving out on us, but we just seem to have far fewer wants and spend way less. Hanging with our friends, feeding the ducks, or even a fun date night makes me happier than any piece of jewelry ever could. Plus we are now using the hundreds that we were spending on stuff for multiple vacations throughout the year. We both love vacations. This just makes sense for us.

Do you and your significant other have a system? What works for you?



  1. You just made me remember that my husband used to buy me a flower and a little something on our monthly anniversary (when we were dating). He would leave it on my car or whatever. That ended about…22 years ago.

    I have already shared how I celebrate birthdays, and for me, that is being treated special and basically getting my way. I don’t want anything, but I still usually buy something for my husband that is usually functional. (getting him a GPS was a great purchase)

    For Christmas, we spend less than 30 dollars on each other. We do still buy little things for each other, but you are right, it is harder and harder and we get older.

  2. My hubby and I have been together for over a decade. In the beginning we would get gifts for each other. But after a while, we stopped exchanging gifts. Every now and then I’ll get a gift for him and he’ll get a gift for me, but it’s not set in stone that we HAVE to buy gifts for every Hallmark occassion. We’ve kind of gotten to the point where we just buy what we want, within budget of course.

    I think it depends what stage you are in in your relationship. Occassional surprises are nice. But we no longer feel the need to exchange gifts. Plus, since we share the same account, we can see what each other is buying (or at leaast where the other went shopping), unless you pay with cash.

    • @Melyssa, it sounds like you are where we are – buy what we want in general and occasionally find something for each other. Being able to see the expense does take away some of the surprise, lol.

  3. This was super timely for me as my girlfriend and I are getting ready to swap gifts. I don’t mind spending a decent amount (especially with her birthday coming a few weeks later), but I don’t want to put any pressure on her or make her feel that what she gets me won’t live up to my expectations.

    • @Daniel, maybe tickets to a fun event for both of you? I’m surprising my husband with tickets to the Transiberian Orchestra – this will be our 5th or 6th time and I personally wouldn’t mind skipping it, but Mr. BFS adores them every year, so there we go…

  4. The Wife and I go back and forth on this. Some events we won’t and some we will, it all depends on if we have another big event coming up in our lives. I love the giving experiences though – for the Wife’s 30th bday we went down to Florida to The Ritz, and for my 30th next November we are going to Atlanta to see my Falcons play!

    • @Evan, that sounds about the same as us. We love travelling but hubby is also a gamer, so most of my gifts are experiences and most of his involve a video or board game (or now supplies for Curling…)

  5. My husband and I have never really exchanged gifts. I’m quite lazy when it comes to gift giving in general and would rather spend my money on things we both want. So, we normally decide on something that would bring pleasure to both of us; usually that means something for the house like a rug or new outdoor table. I know that this is sort of odd, but I really don’t like useless, random gifts! ;)

  6. He gets 10x his weekly allowance (whatever that is) at Christmas and his birthday. Usually he uses some of that to buy me something nice for Christmas (last year it was a pair of nice sleeping pants to replace the pair I’d torn). He also picks out his own boardgames. I think he gets more pleasure out of shopping for them than he does actually playing them, so who am I to deprive him of that.

    For birthdays we make each other cake (like we blogged about last week ;) )

  7. We gave stuff to each other, but now that we have 2 kids, I make the kids make a card or something and that’s it.

    For mother’s day and my birthday, I want to be able to choose what we do together as a family. My husband opts out on many of my excursions with the kids so he can do stuff around the house. It’s better for both of us because I always want to stay someplace longer than he does or spontaneously do some extra thing that he doesn’t want, and it’s a crappy day for both of us. Those two days are the exception..he does things my way and does not complain. It’s nice.

  8. Hello Crystal!

    I like to splurge on Paul for holidays. I guess it’s because we don’t splurge a lot at other times of the year, but we have a lot of fun with it! Ofcourse, we are recent newlyweds, so it could evolve as yours has.

    • @Amanda L Grossman, you really splurge alot less than us all the other time, so I think it’s awesome you let loose on the holidays! Mr. BFS and I would still exchange big gifts if we didn’t already buy what we wanted with our fun money, lol.

  9. He hasn’t really bought me anything for the last couple of years as he’s been mostly unemployed. I lean towards going out to new restaurants and ‘experiences’ – like I paid for a fishing charter trip for his birthday recently and for our anniversary we’ll go for a massage.

    The most I spent, I think, was on his bass and amp which he doesn’t play. I think the amp needs a repair, but even then, I doubt it’s going to get much use. NOT that I set a very good example…I barely pick up my guitar once a week.

    • @eemusings, yeah, the keyboard I bought Mr. BFS is a very-much-loved, not very-much-touched present, lol. It got put on hold when he went to grad school and he hasn’t found the time to get back to learning how to play…

  10. […] Do You Exchange Gifts With Your Significant Other? at Sweating the Big Stuff […]

  11. Sometimes we agree for Christmas to use what we’d spend on each other on something for the house or a vacation. But, I always want a birthday gift and a cake!

  12. We still exchange. I’ve hinted at stopping in the past and I think my wife would view it as kind of unromantic or that our relationship has turned into a lame platonic-type relationship. Not that much of our lives revolve around money, but if you’re not even buying a small gift for your significant other, I could see how it would be viewed as not being thoughtful or caring. In the grand scheme of things, economically speaking (which is how I view the world), gifting to others is always a net loss unless you give cold hard cash. Most people don’t want the gift they got or would have used the money for something else, hence creating a net inefficiency. But my wife doesn’t think like me…so I play along. She does a lot for me that she doesn’t have to either, so…happy wife, happy life!

    • @Darwin’s Money, yes, you can’t skip gift-giving unless both people agree, lol. Happy wife, happy life indeed – or as my husband quotes “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy…”.

      I think I generalized too much in my post – my husband and I still give gifts when they make sense, we just stopped buying and exchanging “classic” crap like we did when we were dating. And we include way more events and experiences now too. :-)

  13. Since we are able to pretty much buy whatever we want, but just aren’t that into “stuff”, we keep track of all those “hey, isn’t that cool?” things we see on TV, out shopping, whatever. That way, for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthday, Christmas, whatever… if anyone asks, we have a ready made list of everything from a citrus squeezer to new pipes for his Harley. :)
    But we are only allowed to buy one big ticket item for each other at any given holiday. I implemented that rule after one of our first Christmas’s together and he bought me EVERYTHING on my list. To the tune of “I don’t like to remember” how many dollars. Kind of missed the point of sharing the list. Oh well.

  14. Our story is almost just like yours. over the years of being married we have been buying less stuff for each other and indulging in more experiences with each other instead. It really has been more satisfying.

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