Gifts can be a sensitive topic for couples, especially around the holidays. But there’s good news: You don’t have to blow your budget — or even buy anything — to get your partner a great present.
To provide some inspiration, we asked three financially savvy couples to share their personal gift strategies for the holiday season.
Stick to handmade
Sean Chon, a software engineer, and his wife, Jessica, a dietician, have been married for more than a year and live in the Bay Area. To save and avoid getting caught up in consumerism, they give each other only handmade gifts.
Jessica once made Sean a raincoat for Christmas, just in time for their visit to her parents’ house in rainy Washington state. Sean says he wore it every day on that trip. This year, he plans to install a butcher block countertop — a relatively large project — in their kitchen as a gift for her.
How can you make handmade gifts less stressful? “Don’t be a perfectionist, and have a tall glass of wine when you’re crafting,” Jessica says. “Handmade things are supposed to have irregularities and character.”
Sean adds, “Try to find a craft or act of service that you genuinely enjoy doing. Gift-giving should be fun.”
Roger Ma, the founder of financial planning firm lifelaidout, lives with his wife, Jennifer, in New York City. They consider themselves “big foodies,” so instead of exchanging traditional gifts, they splurge on a nice holiday dinner.
“At some point, we got frustrated with the holiday gift-giving process. I’m admittedly a hard person to shop for since there are few things I actually want,” Roger says. “We both value a great food experience more than material things.”
They’ve dined at some of New York City’s top-rated restaurants, including Eleven Madison Park, Bouley and Blue Hill. In fact, Roger manages a spreadsheet in which he ranks restaurants around the city for future visits.
Budget for one big-ticket item
Engineer Mang-Git Ng and his girlfriend, Leslie Tse, a researcher, are based in San Francisco. Instead of buying separate gifts, they prefer to combine their funds for a larger shared expense, such as a quality knife set or a trip to India.
“Budgeting has made us more thoughtful about what we spend our money on. Around the holidays, we’ll agree on a big-ticket item to save for together,” Ng says. “Because of this, we’ve learned to be more collaborative with our spending habits, which is especially important during the gift-giving season.”
Regardless of what you decide to give your partner, remember that you don’t have to buy gifts to say “I love you.” As long as you’re both on the same page, you can enjoy gift-giving without overspending.