I’ll Never Understand Spouses Buying Each Other Gifts

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that Kanye West is a bafoon. Recently though, the bafoonery was at an all time high when he announced he was $53 million in the hole on his clothing brands. (This was shortly before/after claiming himself as the greatest artist of all time, which is somehow even more bizarre than the $53 million.)


I tell you this as the background to better understand why I was baffled by a screen shot of Kim Kardashian’s Instagram. Thanks to USAToday, I came across this just the other day but have no idea when it was originally posted. But when I saw it I said, “Man, I’m just not fit for this world.”

Here’s the situation: For Kim’s birthday, her husband surprised her by renting out an entire theatre to watch a movie. She apparently, for a reason still baffling to me, thought it was a good gift…

Kim’s Response to This Surprise Gift


How Kim Should Have Responded

What the hell are you doing, moron? This isn’t a good gift. This is a stupid gift. You wanted to be cute and outlandish with MY/our money. Look, if Jason – our next door neighbor who has no financial stake in our relationship – wanted to do this for me then I would say, “Yeah, this is a great gift. Thanks, Jason!” But it wasn’t from our neighbor who has no financial stake in our relationship. It was from my husband who, it’s worth noting, is obviously doing incredibly stupid stuff with his money (see above). AND HAS A DIRECT EFFECT ON MY/our MONEY. So in essence you took money from MY/our bank account for a gift for me?

If I wanted to rent out a movie theatre (which is just a stupid idea anyways – we have a living room that’s bigger than most people’s houses) you know how you would know? I would have said, “Hey, I think it would be worth it if we rented out a movie theatre!” But I didn’t! So why did you use MY/our money to do it?

And what’s with people’s obsession with surprises!? Surprise? The only surprise is that you spent MY/our money without me knowing about it. If you didn’t spend your money without consulting your wife, maybe you wouldn’t be $53 million in the hole!

Understanding Marriage

When two people get married they legally and formally unite two independent beings into a larger, more economical, spiritual and emotional being, who (hopefully) is larger than the sum of those two independent parts. Someone named Luke married someone named Megan and now they are no longer known as “Luke” and “Megan”, but rather as “Luke and Megan”, “us”, “The Fitzgeralds”, “family”, etc.

From a finance perspective, the money she makes is her money…and it is also MY money. The money I make is my money…and it also HER money. Any money that she or I make is “our” money, which means I can say “that is my money” and she can say “that is my money.” Because it is. Because we are married.

I’ll Never Understand Spouses Buying Each Other Gifts

Spouses buying each other gifts is a bizarre tradition. Think about it: If I were going to buy Megan a gift just because it’s, say, her birthday (meaning the gift’s sole purpose is to celebrate that specific day), I would take HER money to go buy HER a gift. I’d go to a store I think she might like, pick out a gift that she probably won’t like, and do it all because it’s says April 27th on the calendar. And the same goes for my gifts. Why would she take MY money to buy ME a gift?

But How Do We Show That We Love Each Other?

Me and Megan don’t buy gifts for each other. Not for Christmas. Not for Birthdays. Not for Father’s day. Not for Mother’s day. Not for anything.

So how do we show our love for each other? How do we say “Thank you and I appreciate you!” We follow a monthly budget that gets us closer to OUR goals (her goals + my goals). We take “my wants” and make them “our wants.” We never spend OUR money unless we both agree on where it’s going. We consult with each other when something can’t fit into the budget. We sacrifice “I” for “us.” We tell each other “No.” We tell each other “Yes.” We make small, incremental progress towards OUR goals each day. We do things we wouldn’t do if we weren’t married. And we don’t do things we would do.

Gifts are transient and fleeting tokens of appreciation. How we handle money, and more specifically how it impacts our relationship, is a mutual gift that is not transient and fleeting because it is rooted in something much deeper than what you can get at a store.

How We Do Gifts

Just so we’re clear, I’m not anti-gifts. I’m anti-the-way-spouses-give-gifts. In fact, I think gifts – meaning an unusual and infrequent type of purchase – is a great way to say thank you, congratulations, Happy Birthday, etc. We just do gift-giving a little differently.

Here’s an example: Megan and I are expecting our second child in September. If we did things by tradition, I would be expected to go out and try to find and surprise her with a gift to celebrate that special moment when he/she arrives.

So am I scouring the shelves of all the local jewelry stores? Or Macy’s? Nope. Instead, Megan has decided that for her special and infrequent purchase (gift) she would like a new ring to symbolize each of our children. So guess what? SHE is going to take HER money to buy HERSELF the exact gift SHE wants. Our normal monthly budget does not apply to this gift – she gets whatever ring fits her desire. She’ll be happy. And I’ll be happy. What a gift for both of us.

Is a surprise gift nice ever once in a while? Of course! You should do that on occasion too. But if you really want to show your spouse how much you care and appreciate them, learn how to spend money together. Learn how to take “my money” and “your money” and make it “our money.” Learn how to budget in a way that accounts for both of your goals. Learn how to say a few smaller but personal No’s now for those bigger and united Yes’s.

The day I come home with a brand new car with a big red bow on it for Megan is the day she angrily replies, “You spent $25,000 without me knowing about it!?” Now THAT’s the gift that keeps on giving.

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  1. I’m with you on the “OUR” thing when it comes to money – except that I do think there is a place for his & her discretionary money . . . and I do think there is a place for thoughtful b-day gifts from spouse-to-spouse. A car? A rented movie theatre? No. I bought my husband a shirt for his birthday in April. It’s white – he never would have bought it for himself – and it looks great. He’s glad I bought it for him. Big ticket items get all of the planning and discussion you advise.
    Congrats on soon-to-be baby #2!
    Prudence Debtfree recently posted…My Stubborn Money-Management Flaw (With a Silver Lining)My Profile

    • Perfect summary, Ruth! The personal and discretionary money is a mandatory line item in any budget. Makes a world of difference! And yes, there is def a place for thoughtful gifts – especially when you can get something that they wouldn’t get themselves even if given the money. I went to the extreme (ie, no gifts) to make a point that a timeless tradition adored and applauded doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Thanks!

  2. “OUR” money is one of the biggies for being happily married. We buy small gifts, like a couple bucks, for each other through the year. Normally a handwritten card is all I usually give my wife. Just something to show I am thinking of her.

    Now that we are parents, we are happy just for some alone time & that is pretty cheap.

    Congrats on the upcoming baby, BTW.
    Josh recently posted…April 2016 Blogging Weigh-InMy Profile

    • Thanks Josh – couldn’t agree more! Combing such an important part of life more important than most people probably realize. So the question is: Our surprise purchases for your spouse (adored by people looking from the outside in and seen as so romantic, thoughtful, etc.) actually DETRIMENTAL to your marriage?? 🙂

      • Simple answer is happy wife=happy Josh.

        If I bought extravagant gifts that would wipe out our savings and put us on the street like a new car or renting the whole theater like Kanye, that would be detrimental.

        Getting something special like a ring or new pair of sandals doesn’t seem like an issue to me in most instances, especially if she will buy it anyways. It will be more meaningful if I buy it, even if she picks it out & I just have to pay for it & “surprise” her with it.
        Josh recently posted…4 Ways To Save Money At Lowe’sMy Profile

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