The YFGs don’t observe the usual gift-giving traditions. We don’t do Valentines, Anniversary, Birthday or Christmas gifts to each other. This invites a mix of hilarity, misunderstanding and respect from our family and friends.
Simply put, we have no reason to give gifts to each other at any particular time of year or spend a certain amount of money on each other because of a specific calendar date. I bought Mrs YFG a coffee machine in October, just because we both wanted one, and I surprised her without her having to make the decision about which one to buy. I buy her flowers just for the hell of it. To her that means much more than me rocking up with some candles and perfume on her birthday. What she really wants on her birthday is a day off work and all my attention.
Let’s be clear – we buy presents for other people, and other people buy presents for us. We just don’t get them between ourselves as husband and wife. Instead we show our affection for each other every day, not through buying some material good on an arbitrary date.
I would prefer not to give or receive gifts at all. I want people to save and invest their money instead. And I typically don’t want anything (if I need it, I’ve usually bought it already!) But nobody else agrees with my miserly ways. They just say I’m a grouch. Mrs YFG ascribes to a milder version of my grumpy anti consumerism: Semi-Frugality.
Mrs YFG likes to think of Semi-Frugality as spending money on stuff that really matters. Buying things that make her life significantly better in the long-term. She does this by only buying stuff when she knows it will provide more value to her in the long-term than its price. When she finds things that are no longer giving her value, she re-sells them on Ebay or gives them to charity. Semi-Frugality comes from the other direction of Frugality. Semi-Frugality means that by spending only when it makes sense, you implicitly end up saving money for your future. Frugality comes from saving first and spending second. I’m definitely in the Frugal camp – it’s how I’ve always been. But that doesn’t work for everyone (and Mrs YFG). We each have to find our own way to make Financial Independence work for us.
On the spectrum
I think a mistake that lots of personal finance blogs (and personalities) make is that there is frugality or not frugality. For those that aren’t naturally frugal, the idea of extreme frugality must be quite off-putting. Clearly, there is a spectrum when it comes to spending, from vaskning through to early retirement extreme. Finding the right balance is important and what can make a focused attempt to heavily save for retirement successful or doomed to fail. For Mrs YFG and I, I am more towards the ERE side of things, but not by much.
Bringing balance to the frugality
One of the most commonly cited “frugality hacks” is to cut out the lattes from Starbucks. And whilst I think for a lot of people, cutting down on the coffee trips is a good way to save some money, there will be some people who enjoy their coffee so much that cutting the habit brings a negative, rather than positive, impact to their life. In that sense, it’s important to find balance – as the Jedi Knights must do in Star Wars. Too much cost cutting, in the wrong places, will feel like a punishment and the dark side will grow.
That’s why I bought the expensive coffee machine last year. Mrs YFG loves a good cappuccino in the morning, but felt guilty every time she stopped at Costa to pick one up. Equally, when she didn’t have her morning cappuccino she’d feel unhappy as she was missing out on something she really enjoyed. Now we can have dozens of cappuccinos for the cost of one at Starbucks. We enjoy trying out different types of coffee (including forking out for Monmouth Coffee).
Some readers are probably wincing at me talking about buying a £50 coffee machine and £10 bags of coffee in the same verse. But in a way, that’s the point. Some people would find our coffee habit ludicrous. But that should be a big red flashing warning light. If they are spending lots of money on it, they should consider it a ripe area to save money. Likewise, if the thought of having delicious and fantastic coffee at home is making you salivate then maybe its a sign of something you truly enjoy but aren’t letting yourself have.
The gift of not gifting
That’s why for us, we can pass on not buying each other gifts. It’s the spontaneity of gift giving to one another that brings us joy. It’s the thought of expressing our love to each other everyday through little things that makes us happy. And going through an annual ritual of present buying seems like a silly way to do it.
All the best,
Young FI Guy