Your mate should top your Christmas gift list, but when there are other holiday social obligations—the office pool, Secret Santa gifts, white elephant exchange, in-laws, BFFs and more—you probably do as most married couples do: resort to practicality and agree not to exchange gifts with each other. Again.
Most marrieds place practicality above all else because theirs is a combined budget. Unless a couple keeps separate accounts or stashed away some mad money into a Christmas savings, it doesn’t matter who buys what for whom. The price of gifts pinches both spouses. In other words, you end up paying for your own gift. Why bother, we think. Better to spend the money on buying gifts for everyone else on our list.
For years, my husband and I did just that. Other people would feel sorry for us when we explained that we didn’t exchange gifts between us. You’d think that over time we’d take each other for granted and slip into a ho-hum marriage, but we didn’t. Here’s why:
1. Any day is Christmas. When my husband saw something he wanted, he didn’t have to wait for Christmas. “You deserve it,” I’d say. And I’d encourage him to brush away any guilt. He didn’t feel deprived so when Christmas came around, he didn’t have desires or expectations that rested upon the one gift-getting occasion of the year. For us, the focus of Christmas truly was about giving.
2. We loved to “receive” the joy of giving. We loved to play secret Santa together for others.
3. “It’s the little things that count.” Baking his favorite Christmas cookies while he hung up the pretty white lights that I adore always put the love into the holidays.
4. Homemade, handmade. Unless you’re a crafty couple, requiring handmade gifts can be lot to ask. One year, I sewed pants for him that turned out ten sizes too big. He never wore them but the laughter has been a gift that keeps on giving whenever we remember it. But anyone can learn to make some simple wind chimes, stationery, or warming pads filled with aromatics. Search the Internet for free patterns.
5. The low-cost challenge. Setting a ridiculously low price limit is a fun challenge, and you’d be surprised to see just what you can give for under $5 or even $3. Some intoxicating incense will set a dreamy bedroom mood. Pretty nail polish—with a homemade coupon for a home pedicure—provided a lot of date night fun when he tried to paint my toenails. Garden seeds. Downloaded music CDs with personalized mixes.
6. Love letters. One of my favorite gifts is a love letter. Write a list of the 100 reasons why you love her and she’ll cherish it forever.
7. We unwrapped each other. The best gift of all was when we fell into bed at the end of a harried holiday season and remembered that we were each other’s best gift of a lifetime. Good thing kisses are free.
If you and your spouse decide not to exchange material gifts, don’t forget to give the intangibles that make being married a gift in itself: time, attention, and lots of love.