Now that the holiday shopping season is wrapping up, I’m happy to report I’m finally done. Done trying to come with up practical gifts my kids will like. Done with the impossible quest to find a gift my parents or in-laws actually need. Done buying gift cards for my nieces and nephews, my kid’s teachers, and their bus driver.
Yep, I’ve bought for family members, educators, and even strangers this year, yet I’m leaving one very important person off my list for good – my husband. He’s not getting anything.
This probably sounds harsh, but I haven’t really bought my husband anything for his birthday or Christmas for years. We’ve gone on some trips that coincided with his birthday and called them “birthday trips,” but those were an accident more than anything else.
And before you chime in, no, I don’t feel bad at all. And no, I don’t expect a gift in return. In fact, it’s become an annual tradition to not buy each other anything at this point. And so far, we’ve both followed through with our no-gift rule without much fanfare or any stress.
Five Reasons My Husband and I Don’t Exchange Gifts for the Holidays
If you’re wondering whether our marriage is “okay,” I totally get it. However, you can put your fears to rest because our 11-year marriage is as strong as ever. There are plenty of reasons I don’t buy my husband anything for his birthday or Christmas, and none of them has anything to do with how much I love him.
Here are the main reasons we go gift-free as a couple:
#1: We already have enough stuff.
Last Christmas, my mother gave my husband a $25 Amazon.com gift card for his birthday. Eleven months later, he still hasn’t spent it!
Ask him what he wants and he’ll shrug. Interrogate him for ideas and he’ll give you a blank stare. Buy him something he doesn’t really want and he will take it to the store and return it!
A few years ago, I gave up. He doesn’t need anything, so why should I rack my brain to come up with the perfect gift? And the same is true for me, his wife. I could stroll through Macy’s or Kohl’s without finding a single shirt or blender I just had to have.
#2: I ‘give’ to my husband all year long.
While birthdays and the holidays provide a solid cause for celebration, I am not necessarily nicer to my husband on those days. Sure, I’ll make him a birthday cake, but I’m not running out to spend hundreds of dollars on him because society says I should.
And really, I’m nice to my husband all year long. I make dinner every day, do around half of the laundry and dishes, and help him coordinate activities with the kids. I plan all the family vacations, and take special care to choose trips I know he’ll love. I buy special groceries to make his favorite Italian and Greek foods. I watch all the boring documentaries his heart desires, and without complaining most of the time.
And when he really needs something (no matter what it is), we buy it. What more could he possibly ask for?
At the end of the day, we’re very loving and caring spouses all year long. We don’t need a holiday to remind of us of how important we are to one another, nor do we need to spend money to prove it.
- Related: 10 Frugal Ways to Say ‘I Love You’
Of all the reasons we don’t buy each other gifts, the fact we share all our money is probably the most important. No matter who earns more or where our income comes from, we share our funds in a handful of joint accounts. As a result, anything we buy for one another is paid for with our money.
I don’t know about you, but I hate getting “stuff” I don’t want and paying for it myself. I would much rather save that money and have my husband give me a hug or a compliment – basically, anything that doesn’t drain our joint bank account.
Since my husband feels the same way, it makes perfect sense not to scorch the Earth searching for the perfect gift he can pay for himself. For us, it has always made more sense to save our money for something (anything) else.
#4: We splurge for experiences, not things.
Speaking of “something else,” our family enjoys experiences more than gifts nine times out of 10. A weekend trip to go swimming, a family vacation somewhere warm, or even a trip to my in-laws is a lot more meaningful than any item we could buy.
The best part about experiences is that we can enjoy them together. If you ask my husband, he’ll tell you he would much rather do something fun or different with the kids than get something new only he can enjoy.
#5: Our money goals are more important than gifts.
The final reason I don’t buy my husband gifts is a financial one; there’s only so much money to go around. With so many people on our holiday shopping list already, it seems crazy to buy something for each other as well.
As a married couple, we’ve got a mortgage to pay down, two kids who will likely go to college one day, family vacations to plan, and our future to save for. The more we can cut out of our annual spending, the more cash we have left to throw at those goals.
And yes, our future is a whole lot more important than a vase of flowers that will die in a week, or a fancy shirt my husband will wear once. We try to keep that in perspective whenever we shop. Since we don’t have an endless supply of money, we have to be smart with the money we work so hard to earn.
In our eyes, the stage of our lives where we want new things is over and done with. Now that we’re older, we’re determined to put our financial goals and our kids first.
That might mean a few less presents to open, but we’re perfectly okay with giving instead of getting right now. And we know deep down we’re much better off saving our extra money for the “stuff” we really want – financial security, debt-free higher education for our kids, and early retirement.
That might seem boring to some people, but for us, it’s the only way to live.
Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer and the author of Zero Down Your Debt. Johnson blogs at ClubThrifty.com, where she shares her obsession with with frugality, budgeting, and travel.
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- Why Your Spouse Is Your Most Important Money Decision
Do you buy holiday or birthday gifts for your spouse? Why or why not?