My husband and I have never been the type to think we need to spend hundreds of dollars on each other at Christmas. In fact, many years we’ve opted not to exchange gifts and instead bought something big jointly, like our trip to Belize or a Wii. If you and your spouse plan to exchange gifts, make sure you agree on a budget beforehand.

Spend a Lot or a Little?
Some couples view holiday gifts as a way to show each other how much they love and appreciate each other, which is sweet. But you should show it all year round. Of course, there are times when a big gift is a grand gesture on Christmas. My dad gave my mom her first pair of diamond earrings about five years ago, after thirty-five years of marriage. Opening those on Christmas morning meant so much more. However, that’s not every year. There have many years of practical gifts between them.

It doesn’t really matter what you spend, it depends on the thoughtfulness of the gift. If it’s something your spouse really needs or wants, but would never buy themselves, then this is the time to get it. However, if the reason your spouse hasn’t bought it is because they think it’s too expensive, then make sure it doesn’t exceed your agreed upon budget.

How to Set a Budget
Do you already have a gift in mind or are you the type to go shopping on Christmas Eve in search of just the right thing? I’m a planner, so my plan would be to choose a budget, and then find a gift within that budget. In years we do give each other gifts, we usually spend about $50 on each other. No, that’s not a lot, but we tend to buy the big items throughout the year. Usually our Christmas gifts to each other are fun little things, like a book we saw on Jon Stewart or a new Wii game we’ll both enjoy.

To set a budget, start by thinking about your total holiday budget. Now figure out what you should spend on other people. Now consider the amount you’ve spent on each other in past years. Use all those as a guideline to set your spending on each other.

Keep that number firmly in mind while out shopping. You don’t have to spend it all, but you should also try not to go over it by much. If it’s something really special, save it for a birthday or anniversary. The exception, of course, is that once-in-a-lifetime gift. That shouldn’t be part of the budget, but you should be sure you can pay cash for it. The once-in-a-lifetime gift becomes less special if your spouse has to spend five years helping to pay it off!

What Are You Spending?
What are you planning to spend on your spouse this year? Are you in the $500 camp or the $50 camp or the $0 camp?


3 Responses to “Agree on a Holiday Gift Budget with Your Spouse”

  1. Jonathan on November 21st, 2010 4:50 pm

    Very good advice. My wife and I just got married in July, and so are still in ‘save as much as possible’ mode. :) We probably won’t go much over 30-50 on each other. But we don’t really set a budget. Instead we save budget money in a special account throughout the year, and then use that money for whatever we want, including the holidays.

  2. Aryn on November 22nd, 2010 11:13 am

    Congratulations on your marriage and on starting on the right track! Your account idea is another great way to pay for gifts without debt.

  3. Tony on February 18th, 2012 10:53 pm

    Christmas or not, I always give gifts to my wife since she loves surprises. The gifts are not expensive but what is important is that she appreciates it and that makes me love her all the more.

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