Why we don’t buy each other gifts

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.

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

Comments

  1. Hey. I used to try to do this with my first wife and for the exact same reasons. Money aside even, the thought of forced/staged occasions on valentine’s day for example in crowded restuarants being the same as everyone else, reminded me uncomfortably of penguins waddling in long regimented lines in wildlife documentaries. All depressingly dressed/looking the same, while doing the same things, so a perfect public display of joyless, synchronised conformity)

    As you say, it’s far more romantic to surprise with spontaneity, while affection and consideration in everyday deeds to me are far better proof you really feel goodwill for your partner. Even when things could sound cold, I explained why it was for both our good, like do you want to own your home by paying off the mortgage faster, or effectively just rent off the bank when having paid off only the front door, then interest only. (in which case you actually only have the option of first refusal on your home)
    It’s amusing how many people think they’re homeowners having paid off irrelevant amounts, yet look down on renters; think you own the house? Ok, stop paying the mortgage for a while and then see what happens next.

    It’s so rare to have a partner who is in sync with your underlying values relating to money, the power of that is just such an advantage, you’re a lucky guy man.

  2. Kudos to her too because a lot of women I’ve met have difficulty believing a guy making our point, or simply refuse to wait until the comfort level they want is earned, yet to be safe, security comes first.

    Actually I have twice the reason to be repulsed by the marketing fabrication of valentine’s day, (does anyone actually think for themselves, why would a religious person push mindless consumption anyway) because on the other side of the coin I waited on tables as a student. That day was the hardest of the year, because the couples were trying too hard and not relaxed like Xmas do’s or even wedding parties weren’t so strained.

    The eateries on the other hand knew they had a captive audience, so pushed all the food that was not moving in the days before as well as upselling crap booze and tat expensively. It reminded me of the nobility hunting on their private estates, rout-riddled old walruses blasting cage reared birds freshly released, confused and pushed towards the pissed old codgers and somehow all passed off as sport. 🙂

    1. FI Warrior you post strikes close to home. I come from a family of caterers. The “specials” board (at least ‘back then’) would be the opportunity to get rid of slow moving food. I’m not sure how ‘sharp’ the practices are these days (or at least at the places Mrs YFG and I frequent) but nobody can ever convince me that cabbage can be ‘special’ on Valentine’s Day.

  3. Birthdays aside, ever noticed how the consumer year is set up….valentines, Easter, Mothers day, Father’s Day, bank holidays, summer holidays, all in the first half of the year, all reasonably equally spaced. Then we get a bank holiday at the end of August to clear us out of cash and then we get a few months off to save for the big one…..Christmas! All in the script..WWJD if he saw what his birthday has become.

    1. Thanks Quitting Teaching, I never thought about it like that, but how conveniently spaced out all these “holidays” are. Not to mention Thanksgiving/Black Friday(…) spaced between August Bank Holiday/Labor Day (US) and Christmas…

  4. Yes when i grew up there was little focus on Christmas and birthdays. We tended to get the best gifts at precisely the point we most needed them, bikes, footballs, etc. It worked great and I continue the tradition on now.

    Not sure i buy the holiday conspiracy theory. What would you rather? Them all bunched up in January? Evenly spaced seems pretty sensible to me?

    1. Hi Rhino, good to see you commenting. That’s what is was like when I grew up, and probably why I mainly got money for Birthday’s rather than anything else.

      I’m not necessarily saying it’s a conspiracy theory, but it seems pretty sensible for relieving money from the wallet!

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