Buying Gifts for Your Special Loved One

December 17, 2013

by Ann Waterman

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I love O. Henry’s beautiful story of marital self-sacrifice in the The Gift of the Magi, but my more pragmatic side wonders if Jim and Della could have averted their gift-giving tragedy with a little more communication beforehand — maybe with something like, say, an Amazon wish list?

Of course, that’s just me. My husband and I acknowledged early on in our marriage that neither of us relishes the hunt for the perfect gift, which typically results in debilitating indecision and paralysis about what to buy. It’s not that we don’t like giving gifts; we just want to be sure we’re giving the right gift. We don’t have many wants (coupled with a dislike for clutter) and agree that targeted gift-giving with the aid of a wish list makes for a happier, stress-free holiday for both of us. Of course, we sometimes go off the reservation, but it’s nice knowing there’s a little help figuring out the other’s wants if we need it. If it’s OK for kids to give a wish list to Santa, why not adults?

We agree on a gift budget beforehand and usually stick to it pretty closely. Since we do most of our shopping online, it can be hard to hide those incoming packages from one another, but we only open those addressed to us and set aside those that aren’t. And as the bookkeeper and bill-payer of the house, I avert my eyes from the credit card statement the week before Christmas (the time my husband inevitably waits to make his purchases) so there’s at least a little surprise Christmas morning.

I’m always interested to hear how couples handle Christmas gift-giving. I have some friends who love to be surprised, and a wish list for them would be a real killjoy; others truly enjoy the process of researching and finding the right gift. And, of course, there are the more practical matters: Is there a set spending limit? And in an age where almost every transaction can be tracked electronically, how do you keep gifts a secret?

So, tell me about your gift-giving traditions for your special loved ones… I’d love to hear how you do it!

Image: Ann Waterman

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1 Zoe Saint-Paul December 17, 2013 at 1:32 pm

As much as we enjoy gifts, B and I have concluded that gift-giving is neither one of our love languages because we’re kind of pathetic about it and make it a last priority — even though we *are* good-givers (if I do say so myself). It always feels like we should have a little something for each other to open at Christmas, though, so we typically give each other a small wish list, and sometimes surprise each other with something. They’re never usually big or expensive gifts. We come up with a general price limit.

This year, I’m not sure what’s going to happen since we’re pretty behind on our shopping. Rest assured, we’ll both have a couple good books to read after Christmas is over, though. And hopefully I’ll have some dark artisanal chocolate. I also need underwear :-)


Margaret Cabaniss 2 Margaret Cabaniss December 17, 2013 at 3:35 pm

I’m definitely one of those people who agonizes over giving just the right gift — which can be exhausting at Christmastime, when you might be shopping for 20 different people. So yeah, I definitely appreciate a Christmas wish list! In general, I find those kinds of lists useful for giving me ideas about what the person might need, or a particular style they like…and then if I find something similar, I can go off the reservation a bit.


3 Kathleen December 20, 2013 at 9:52 am

My husband is a great gift giver. I am the worst ( I actually gave him a Dilbert Calendar is sheer panic once). To make matters worse, his birthday is a week an half before Christmas. Over the years, I’ve just asked him to e super specific Bout what he needs and try to follow that to the letter. I rarely trust my instincts. A few times we’ve opted not to give gifts and donate to a cause. I love that, but I think my husband enjoys giving gift and figuring out what I would like so now we at least give each other a little something.


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