Couples & Christmas: Keeping the Holidays Meaningful

Ever since the week of Thanksgiving, my husband and I have been in constant conversation about gift giving: Who do we still need to buy gifts for? Did we ever figure out something for X person on the list? Will everything arrive in time? But, the biggest question on our minds of late is: What will we give each other?

My husband and I are of the mindset that you shouldn’t give a gift unless it’s something meaningful for both the giver and the recipient. We are getting to the place in our financial lives where we can afford what we need and even most of the things that we want. Many of the things we want that we don’t have are larger goals we are working toward — like my husband’s Jeep, remodeling our bathroom, or our trip to Vancouver Island next spring. While we could both think of something to purchase for the other person with the funds we’ve set aside for Christmas gifts, we wondered: Are there better ways we could use that money?

During our Thanksgiving celebration at my parents’ house, I was surprised to hear that some of the couples in my family had encountered a similar question. Some decided to continue giving each other gifts, while others decided to forgo gifts to each other and instead focus on the kids. Still others agreed to put their money toward a goal they both cared about, like a new dishwasher or a weekend away.

You don’t have to spend a lot to show your love for your partner. Here are a few ideas to keep the holidays meaningful:

·      Handmade Gifts: Call me old-fashioned, but I’m a big fan of homemade gifts. They are not only more frugal, but also often much more meaningful than store-bought gifts. Some of my favorite gifts that my husband has given me over the years have been ones he made himself: A necklace using stones we picked up during our travels. A book that tells the story of our relationship. An “emergency kit” for my desk at work that includes band-aids, bobby pins, pain killers, a lint brush, chapstick, cough drops, and more — it’s come in handy more times than I can count.

Tip: I realize I may have lucked out in the handmade gifts department because I married an artist. But your gifts don’t have to be works of art to be valuable. Maybe you could write a letter or bake your partner’s favorite treat? Don’t let your perceived lack of “creativity” hold you back.

·      Play to Your Strengths: Maybe your handicraft skills are a little lacking, but you still have time and talent you can offer your partner. One Valentine’s Day my gift to my husband was a long back massage. I did research online on how to give an exceptional massage — all it cost was a few hours of my time and a bottle of massage oil. Has your partner been nagging you to fix a leaky faucet or complaining about a cluttered room in the house? Or maybe they could use a night off from cooking or a week when they didn’t have to worry about the dishes.

Tip: Consider: What would make your partner feel appreciated during this busy season? My favorite birthday gift from my husband is a homemade meal I have no part in making and a free pass to not help with the dishes. Year after year it’s the most memorable part of my birthday. Not sure where to start?  Keep an eye on your partner — are there tasks you could do around the house to make his or her life a little easier, especially if you are hosting family or friends this month?

·      Create Your Own Tradition: Whether or not you decide to give a gift to your partner or spend all of your money on the kids, take a moment to enjoy one another. In some families, parents stay up late on Christmas Eve drinking hot chocolate and wrapping gifts. My husband and I started giving our most meaningful gifts to one another a day before all of our family arrives so we can have some time together around the tree, just the two of us.

Tip: Soak up the moment with your partner. It’s these traditions — large or small — that help fan the flames of your relationship during this busy (and often stressful) time.

·      Join Forces: Have some big dreams you’d like to focus on? Put your Christmas money toward a larger goal you both share, like a new piece of furniture, an upgrade to your home, or some extra spending money on your next trip. If you’re struggling with debt, give each other the gift of moving one step closer to being debt-free. This is a great way to align your money and your values during this holiday season.

Tip: If you are putting your money toward a larger savings or debt repayment goal, don’t forget to actually move the money toward the goal. Don’t let it sit in your checking account — it will just get spent.

·      Multiply Your Generosity: Another great way to bring meaning back into the holidays, especially when you have most (if not all) that you need and want, is to give back. Use your wealth to be generous to others this season. Surprise each other by finding new causes that reflect your values.

Tip: As always, be sure to do your research. Many organizations out there will be glad to take your money, but not all of them are doing sustainable, fruitful work in the world. Curious how to vet organizations you may be interested in? Use Charity Navigator.

No matter what approach you take to giving gifts as a couple, take this opportunity to reconnect and make sure you are on the same page in terms of how you want to give to each other this year. Don’t forget to make the focus of the season the relationship, not the gifts. Take the opportunity to invest in each other in tangible and intangible ways.

What approach do you and your partner take to gift-giving during the holidays? Share below.

 P.S. – If you follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram you may have noticed some new video content. Each Tuesday I’ll be releasing a brief video tip on my Instagram and I’ll be going live on my Classy Frugalist Facebook page at 8pm (Central) on Thursdays. Don’t miss out on these two opportunities to dig deeper into each week’s theme. During this week’s Facebook live, I’ll be sharing ideas for how couples can make the holidays meaningful. Send me your ideas and you might just be featured on this week’s FB Live!