I’ve Forgotten How To Buy Christmas Gifts For My Husband

by Elizabeth on December 10, 2012 · 6 comments

The first year my husband and I were married, he bought me what I thought was the world’s best Christmas gift: a full-size, framed picture of Cameron Indoor Stadium (college basketball fans will know this is where Duke University, my alma mater, plays its home basketball games). A few years later, he outdid himself when he bought me a Precious Figurines in the midst of our struggle to get pregnant, a gift that said something he couldn’t quite put words to. He was a pro at buying the perfect Christmas gifts for me, and I was no slouch either.

As a child, I’d always laughed at the idea that it was better to give than it was to receive, but in the early years of my marriage, I came to not only believe that old adage, but to live by it as well. I got so much pleasure out of buying just the right gifts for my husband that I started to look forward to watching him open Christmas gifts more than unwrapping the presents he’d bought for me.

Then we had kids… and everything changed.

The No-Gift Christmas

Our first child was born in September 2008. After her arrival, I took a prolonged maternity leave from my job – 16 weeks at home – to adjust to motherhood. The holidays came at the tail end of my time away, which meant that all the money we’d saved up for my maternity leave was long gone by the time Christmas shopping season arrived.

In order to make sure we didn’t start the new year in a hole, my husband and I agreed to a “no-gift” Christmas. Instead of lavishing each other with Christmas gifts as we had in past years, when our budget was usually around $250 per person, we went cold turkey. That year, although there were piles and piles of gifts under the tree, every last one was for our then three-month-old daughter; not a single present was for us.

The next two years were tight for us financially as well, so we once again chose to skip giving gifts to one another. It wasn’t until last Christmas that we finally found the wiggle room in our budget to once again exchange Christmas gifts.

The “I Need” Christmas

After several years of not exchanging presents – and really living on a tight budget – there were many, many things my husband and I actually needed. I desperately needed new underwear; my husband really wanted to replace his four-year-old running shoes. I didn’t want him going underwear shopping for me (I knew exactly where that would land me – in lacy thongs 365 days a year), and he wasn’t exactly keen on having me pick out a pair of shoes for him (I tend to go with fashion over function when it comes to footwear). So we went “Christmas shopping” for ourselves.

Re-Learning a Lost Art

This year’s been really good to us. Thanks to my newly-minted position as a professional writer, I’ve been able to make the financial decision that new underwear, socks, and bras are no longer Christmas gift material, but are incorporated into our family’s regular budget. In other words, my Christmas list – and my husband’s, as well- will no longer be comprised of needs, but of wants.

It’s a luxury, for sure, and one I’m not quite sure how to handle. Over the past several years, I’ve actually forgotten how to buy Christmas gifts for my husband. Our bare-minimum budget over the past four-plus years has meant we haven’t bought each other many gifts over the past several years, and that – when we do buy a gift – it’s usually with the other person’s input. There have been no secrets, no grand surprises, our gift giving has been expected, boring even. To tell the truth, I really don’t have a clue how to buy my husband presents anymore, how to secretly figure out what he wants without leading him on or giving him a clue.

So here’s my question for all of you – do you buy Christmas gifts for your spouse, or do you do your own Christmas shopping? If you do buy for one another, are those presents “surprises”? What’s the best gift you’ve ever purchased for your spouse – or the best one you’ve ever received?

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brick By Brick Investing | Marvin December 10, 2012 at 9:35 am

First off left me say that as a life long TARHEEL I am a little disappointed to find out you are not only a Duke fan but a student! ;-) (Fun Fact: I actually played against JJ Redick in AAU when he played for Boo Williams out in the VA Beach area)

My wife and I experienced the same thing. When our daughter came life got flipped upside down. I literally forgot about my birthday until a couple days later. I was honestly never good at picking Christmas gifts for my wife. I mean lets be honest, all she has to do is google the latest financial best seller or the top selling PS3 game and I’m all taken care of. With her it was always a challenge but after having our daughter it is easy. I’ve made family videos on our Mac, tshirts, this year I’m giving her a coffee mug and photo collage.


2 Emily @ evolvingPF December 10, 2012 at 10:55 am

I can see how this progression went for you, although I never enjoyed picking out gifts. So much pressure! My husband and I haven’t really given each other any gifts since we got married. We make lists/drop hints for what we need and hope that our families of origin provides it for us, and if not we buy it for ourselves later on. My husband is definitely better at picking out gifts for me than I am for him – probably the best time was when he got a bunch of great boardgames for my birthday.


3 The Happy Homeowner December 10, 2012 at 11:57 am

I’m not married yet, but I love, love, love giving gifts to my BF. I’m all about the small, thoughtful gestures (for instance, we have a running inside joke about rubber ducks so I’ll definitely be adding another to the collection…haha!). ‘I don’t have to spend a ton of money to give a memorable gift that’s appreciated’ is my gift-giving motto :)


4 krantcents December 10, 2012 at 5:10 pm

My wife and I do not exchange gifts. I stopped a long time ago. We give gifts to our children and a couple of clos friends.


5 Financial Black Sheep December 10, 2012 at 7:55 pm

My husband and I love to go shopping together, so we normally know what each other is getting for Christmas. We usually start anywhere from July to October in order to spread the money out through a few months and buy when things are on sale. By the time Christmas rolls around we find some really fun things under the tree that we forgot about. Some of the thing are wants, most are needs, but either way we enjoy the gifts we had forgotten about. :)


6 Holly@ClubThrifty December 11, 2012 at 7:38 am

It is nearly impossible for us to find gifts for one another. Neither of us want anything and we both resent getting gifts we don’t truly want. We usually just don’t buy for each other anymore. I have probably returned the last 5 or 6 things my husband has bought me. =)


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