I Need A Gift For My Anniversary Like Frugal Hound Needs A Bicycle

Mr. Frugalwoods and I celebrated our 7th anniversary this week and I thought you might like to know what we got for each other. Try to contain yourself: it was nothing. Yep, that’s right, absolutely zilch. We’ve never been hot on gifts for one another and now that’s more true than ever as our relationship matures and frugality blissfully permeates our lives.

Frugal Hound testing out Mr. FW's new bike helmet. For the record, she does not need a bicycle.

Frugal Hound testing out Mr. FW’s new bike helmet. For the record, she does not need a bicycle.

I know that gift giving is significant for some couples and, I certainly won’t judge if it’s meaningful to you. Early on in our relationship, identifying the root reason behind gift giving was eye-opening for us. We realized that we were giving gifts to each other mostly because we thought we should. We viewed gift-giving as a cultural norm and we were adhering to it without considering whether or not it was something we actually wanted to do. Calling into question every instance of “expected” spending has caused us to live much richer, fuller lives devoid of doing things just because everyone else does or because we think we should.

To us, there’s no point in buying things we don’t need in order to celebrate a day that’s about love and commitment–and not remotely about stuff. And it’s not just about the money we save, it’s also the time we save and the anxiety and stress we avoid. I can’t tell you how many people have told me they fret over what to buy their spouses/partners for every birthday, anniversary, and groundhog day. That pressure to find the perfect gift is absent from our lives, which is honestly quite liberating. It’s nice to know that Mr. FW isn’t waiting with baited breath for me to deliver an ideal trinket, and vice versa. I never want to be judged on my abilities as a consumer. First of all, I’m a poor one and second of all, what a waste!

It’s What You Do Every Day

Mr & Mrs FW last weekend at my in-laws' house

Mr & Mrs FW last weekend at my in-laws’ house

For Mr. FW and me, buying each other gifts doesn’t even cross our minds anymore, but we discussed and agreed upon this approach years ago. We both came to the conclusion that we didn’t want the other person to throw away money on something we probably didn’t need in the first place.

I feel it’s prudent to point out that I don’t recommend entering into a gift-free zone unilaterally. You’ll want to ensure both members of the partnership are fully bought into the idea and looking forward to the prospect of not worrying about buying gifts.

The gestures of affection and respect that Mr. FW and I demonstrate for each other on a daily basis are far more valuable to us than a bouquet of flowers. I’d much rather have my wonderful Mr. FW cook me dinner every night and ensure that I have food for my lunches as opposed to some piece of jewelry he just went out and bought. It’s a lot more difficult to consistently commit acts of love than it is to fork over money for an object someone else made.

Sidenote About How I’m Not Anti-Gift

I’m not anti-gift (I swear!) and we do enjoy giving gifts to our family members. But for the two of us in our frugal love cocoon, gifts are as foreign and useless as a Rolex. I’ll also note that we frugalize our gift giving to family and friends by redeeming Amazon.com credit card rewards points for Amazon merchandise, re-gifting when appropriate, making homemade gifts (such as banana bread), and using gift cards we’ve received to buy gifts for other people.

By employing these methods, we spent a whopping $0 on gifts for 13 people last Christmas. It pays to save your gift cards! There’s very little that Mr. FW and I want for ourselves, so we’re happy to pass along gifts to people who will appreciate them rather than have them collect dust in our basement.

All credit for these amazingly wrapped gifts 'neath our frugal tree last year go to my fabulous mother-in-law

All credit for these amazingly wrapped gifts ‘neath our frugal tree last year go to my fabulous mother-in-law

Celebrations Without Gifts (they’re possible)

This isn’t to say we don’t acknowledge and celebrate the joys of our anniversary and the milestone it marks, we just don’t see the need to spend money in order to do so. Our culture conflates money with emotion, power, success, and respect when in reality, it’s a completely abstract thing. Spending money doesn’t inherently indicate that we love each other, nor does it illustrate that we’ll care for one another or work together towards our mutual goals.

For us, money is an unemotional tool to be deployed when we need it: for food, shelter, Frugal Hound kibble, and the pursuit of our early retirement dreams. Money isn’t a substitute for a genuine, deep relationship and it won’t heal a fissure in a marriage. It’s a balm, and a poor one at that.

There’s No Gift Police (that I know of… )

There’s no law saying you need to give gifts for an anniversary–it’s merely a social convention. Recognizing the distinction between these two states–requirements vs. expectations–is a key milestone on the road to frugal weirdo status. Once we started spending money only on the things we actually care about, we started spending a whole lot less money. I guarantee you no one gives a fig whether or not we give each other gifts and, if they do, then I refer myself to my frugal weirdo rule #1: don’t waste time caring about what other people think.

Celebrating our anniversary with a homemade sundae at my in-laws' house

Celebrating our anniversary with a homemade sundae at my in-laws’ house

Gifts are a status symbol and I know that for some folks, showing off the gifts they receive from their partner is a way of authenticating how much they’re loved. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just important to recognize it for what it is–an opportunity to impress others, not necessarily an opportunity to substantiate love.

For Mr. FW and me, it was beneficial to determine that spending money on gifts was serving as a stand-in for the more challenging daily compassion, attention, time, and hard work that a marriage necessitates.

It would probably be a whole lot easier to slap a bow on a handsaw* for Mr. FW and call it a day, rather than spending the time to dissect our innermost feelings. But, we do dissect those feelings for the betterment of our long-term relationship. And, that’s not to say that these actions are mutually exclusive–merely an observation that gifts can be used as proxy for true connection.

*When Mr. FW read this, he noted that he wouldn’t want me to buy him a handsaw because I wouldn’t pick out the right one. And he’s totally correct! It would be pointless (not to mention a waste of money) for me to try and select a handsaw for a man who researches used handsaws for fun.

To paraphrase the movie Fight Club (which I remain convinced is secretly about early retirement): stop working a job you hate, to buy things you don’t need, to impress people you don’t like. That pretty much sums up my entire Frugalwoods philosophy, but I think it applies particularly to the purchase of gifts, which are often inherently things we don’t need.

How do you handle gift giving with your family members, friends, or significant other?

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106 Responses

  1. Jacq says:

    From the Frugal Hound picture I thought the answer was going to be a new bike helmet, to replace the one after the accident, because Mr. FW needs it, and it’s a present for Mrs. FW to keep his brain safe. 🙂 Happy Anniversary!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Haha, yes we did indeed get him a new bike helmet (the one Frugal Hound is wearing) after the accident. But, the other person’s insurance will cover it, so not technically a gift ;). Gotta keep the brain safe for sure!

  2. My wife and I usually do not exchange anniversary gifts, we celebrate with a dinner. As far as gifts for family we set a budget and still to it. 🙂

  3. Mikel says:

    All good points. Maybe take it a step further and stop acknowledging the event date at all. As any of it really stems from cultural norms, and the older one gets, the more events to commerate really piles up. Never mind holidays, birthdays, and wedding anniversaries, there’s also death memorials, graduations, and such. At my age, the sheer volume of events makes it all quite tedious.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      We do enjoy celebrating the date of our anniversary–it’s a fun reminder for us of how long we’ve been together and how much we’ve done together. We’re not into some of the more commercial holidays at all (such as Valentine’s Day), but our anniversary is special to us in our own way :).

  4. Mrs. PoP says:

    We’re not big on gifting to each other – the only anniversary gift we got each other was getting our rings engraved with our initials and wedding date. We did that for our 5th anniversary because we kept forgetting all the other years before! =) Not gifting is so much less stressful than gifting!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Awww, that’s a very sweet anniversary gift! And, I agree, not gifting is vastly less stressful 🙂

  5. My husband and I don’t exchange anniversary gifts, but we do go out to dinner (without our daughter). Our 10th anniversary is this fall, so we’ve planned a weekend away (again, without our daughter). Especially after kids enter the picture, time alone to talk, sleep in, not worry about if the restaurant serves chicken fingers, etc., is highly prized!

    We do exchange Christmas and birthday gifts, but they’re typically useful things the other person wants. For example, I requested and received a new pair of yoga pants for Christmas, and my husband surprised me with a trellis he made for my pea plants to grow up, for my birthday.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Not worry about if the restaurant serves chicken fingers! Hah! I think that makes plenty of sense 🙂

  6. Laura says:

    Happy anniversary! I’m a big fan of the day-to-day affection you discuss in this post – I think it is so important in a relationship. Sure, I would love to be Scrooge McDuck (I’m dating myself here! lol) wealthy and swim around in my vault, but in reality that doesn’t matter and wouldn’t make a relationship better. My hubby is slowing getting this idea – we used to by gifts or plan trips for our anniversary, but we are moving away from that and focusing more on experiences.

    Last year we agreed to buy a used brush cutter for our property – the weeds were getting out of hand! Best purchase ever! Although when my hubby told a female co-worker what we bought for our anniversary, she proceeded to lecture him on diamond earrings and why he should have bought me something like that instead! 😉 He just laughed and said I probably didn’t want to wear diamonds while out cutting brush and weeds.

    And for family members – it depends. My mom and family just love spending time with us and I’m happy to respect that. They live a few hours away, so I don’t see them as much as I would like. My Mom and I garden and do crafts together and we all love playing cards. Don’t need to spend big for that stuff! My hubby has a harder time with his side of the family, but we are getting there.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      A nice brushcutter is a great gift! And I’ve totally experienced the same incredulity that your husband did when telling others about the gift. Mainstream society is convinced that flashy gift-giving is the _only_ way to properly show affection.

  7. Mrs SSC says:

    We too have never given anniversary gifts. I am a firm believer in memories and not gifts, so often we try to plan something fun or different. The last few years we even made each other hand-made cards 🙂 I am however trying to use our 10th anniversary (a few years away) to justify a trip to Hawaii… I think I can con my mom into babysitting the kids for that reason!

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Memories not gifts… very well put! Hawaii is beautiful! We’ve been to Kauai and would highly recommend it. Wonderful hiking!

  8. How true. My husband and I have never followed the traditional anniversary gift route and given gifts based on the anniversary year. In fact, we usually don’t give gifts and plan something to do together instead, if we have the money and time. Some years we just make dinner and stay home. I found myself feeling pangs of guilt while looking at a Facebook post of a lovely “paper” gift a friend received from her husband on their one year anniversary. I felt that I should have been buying these types of gifts all along. Then I remembered that our marriage is the gift, not what we spend on it. We are planning a weekend getaway to Vegas for our anniversary this year to celebrate our five year anniversary. I figure that makes up for the past few years of no gifts. My husband has always wanted to go and a free hotel opportunity came up so I pounced on it.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Our marriage _is_ the gift too! Plus we’re big fans of pouncing on cheap, awesome opportunities whenever they appear… not just on specific dates. Seems like you taking advantage of a free hotel is a great way to make some amazing memories.

  9. Cheryl says:

    Your approach is quite mature. We have all accumulated more stuff than we need that just clutters up our living space. Frankly getting a gift of something I do not want or need is not necessary. I believe a gift should be useful. For my mom’s birthday we gave her a basket of some canned items, jar of local honey, a bottle of wine and a gift card to a local restaurant she likes. All things I know she would welcome versus something to clutter her living space. On an anniversary having a special dinner or other activity seems that the gift of time together is the best gift. I appreciate the small acts of love by my guy. Getting my back massaged, having him cook for me, comb and braid my hair and just coming up behind me and giving me a hug and kiss. So I agree the everyday gifts of love and attention are the best of all.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Too true! We’re also big fans of consumable gifts. A thoughtful, delicious, homemade something is perfect for us weirdos 🙂

  10. It has been hard for us to eliminate gift giving events. It is expected that everything comes with a gift. Easter and Valentines are the two that amaze me with kids. We have a $10 per basket limit for Easter, but I am always amazed at the photographs that I see of other kids Easter baskets filled with toys. And when did Valentines day become about Hot Wheels? While it has not been hard on our end we have struggled with family that shows their love with gifts. It has taken years to convince them that all the boys want is for them to play in the creek or bake cookies with them.
    For Hubs and I, birthdays and anniversaries come and go. No expectations. This has been easy.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Valentines day has gifts for kids now? Man, that’s an encroachment! I bet having kids, and the influence of their friends, does make this entire negotiation a bit more complicated. Then again, as a kid I was perfectly happy going over to my friend’s house to play NES since we didn’t have one at home.

  11. bev says:

    Yeah!!!! More people who feel like we do. We never felt the need to buy gifts for each other. No birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, etc. We show each other love every day by doing simple things for each other than money can’t buy. If either of us want or need something, we go buy it. I don’t know what tools he wants, he doesn’t know what boots I like. At most, if we feel like it, we’ll go to a favorite restaurant, just because we enjoy that occasionally. But we don’t feel the need to do something or anything. I applaud your post about removing the expectations around these events and just learning to love each other without having to spend. P.S. Hope you are feeling well these day.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      “If either of us want or need something, we go buy it.” Yep. If it’s essential, we don’t delay. And if it’s not, then we write it down and wait to see if we _really_ want it or just in the moment.

  12. Hubs and I are trying to get to gift free. We tried last year but he broke the rules. He bought me a movie that I quote frequently but don’t actually like. I couldn’t control my “this gift is horrible face.” Thankfully, the movie was only $1-2. We talked about it and I think he’s starting to learn that I’d rather have $X more to save this month than pretty much any gift he could get me. Perhaps he should just write me a check “Here’s $50 for your savings account sweetheart.” “Yessss! What I always wanted!”

    With all that said, I did mention to him last week that I want one of those terra cotta brown sugar savers for my birthday in September. Guess whose now the proud owner of soft brown sugar! 🙂 I’ve got my fingers crossed that he wraps up our brown sugar container and gives me that for my birthday! tee hee.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      A check, hah! I just looked up that brown sugar saver, looks pretty neat! I’ve heard of folks using a piece of bread to do something similar in the short term, but that looks like a nice long term solution.

  13. MandalayVA says:

    Mr. Mandalay and I stopped giving each other gifts a while ago–to be honest Christmas has been a long-time sore spot for us since both of our families are of the “it’s not the thought that counts but how much you spend on the thought” mindset. When you’re only making minimum wage but are still expected to buy hundreds of dollars worth of gifts and get nasty remarks when you can’t, that tends to screw up the holiday (both of us dealt with that). Like you guys we celebrate milestones with tasty food.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Oh man, sorry about the family situation. That sounds like no fun at all. Nice food is definitely our celebration medium of choice. Always enjoyed, and nothing left to clutter the house afterwards 🙂

  14. Darla Hansen says:

    Well, I’m twice your age & it took me almost twice the time to come to your conclusions about gift-giving! Bravo! I’m retired now & my gifts, as well, consist of banana bread, date squares or other goodies wrapped in a dollar store tin.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Thanks! And your gift choices sound scrumptious! We’re big fans of consumable gifts. Nothing like a tasty treat we wouldn’t necessarily make ourselves!

  15. Mrs. Budgets says:

    Mr. Budgets and I share your sentiment with gift giving. This is a hard concept for other people to understand outside of the frugal blogging arena, but like you said refer to your point #1 and don’t care what other people think.

  16. Kirsten says:

    We try to have “experiences” more than gifts, though we do usually exchange the token gift because, as you said, we feel like we should. We give each other lots of chocolate. But that’s ok 🙂 For our family, we try to find something that is useful and that they need, but we also frequently donate to charity in the names of the more financially established relatives. You know what? St. Jude’s will send them a card, even if you only donate $5, so you don’t have to go over the top with donations (not that I am suggesting being overly cheap either). I feel like most of us don’t “need” anything anymore, so gifts are usually things that end up trashed, donated, or regifted. What is really the point?

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Truth! Donating in the name of a person is a great option, and one that my mother does every year. It’s a very thoughtful gift!

  17. Nicki says:

    I agree with the adage of no expected gifts and definitely don’t want the stress it brings. However, this year for my birthday my husband unexpectedly got me Smashing Pumpkins tickets, after I mentioned I’d loved to go, in a passing conversation. This was a surprise as we don’t normally do gifts and I didn’t get him anything for his birthday 3 days before mine–yet, I loved it. My point being, if there is something your partner really wants, but may deny themselves in the spirit of frugality, every once in a while it is really nice to indulge and surprise them. No expectations to do so, but when it happens it can be a splendid surprise:)

  18. Julia says:

    I like Mikel’s idea of downplaying anniversaries etc. – so many expectations to battle for every special day!

    My husband & I stopped exchanging gifts early in our marriage, and it definitely improved our experience.

    We still have extended family who expect gifts for their kids at bdays & Xmas, and we do gifts for our own kids on those days too. But I also utilize reward points, gift cards, etc. for those times. Also antique shops can be fun gift sources. (And for my kids, thrift store and garage-sale purchases are just fine too. Not up to the extended family expectations though.)

    I also look at the expected gift-buying as a great opportunity to patronize local businesses I love. For instance, we just discovered an independent board game shop in our neighborhood where we can try out new games, or buy a little snack and just hang out and play games for fun. Our family loves going there but buying brand new board games is just not something we would ever do much of. So for my nephew’s upcoming bday, I’m planning to buy a game from that store. Makes me feel good to support their business, and he loves new games, so it’s spending I will enjoy more than usual!

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Good idea on the board games! They are such great community builders, and force us all to get off the internet once in a while and interact in person! 😉

  19. CincyCat says:

    I am also in the place where I could not care less about receiving a gift, but Mr. CincyCat’s love language is gifts. He takes gifts strongly to heart, and doesn’t understand sometimes why I don’t really care about receiving gifts. I have learned to make sure that at the very least, I get him a thoughtful card for his birthday, our anniversary, valentine’s day, etc., or his feelings are truly hurt. As for me, I prefer to receive “quality time”. I feel most loved when he has put aside distractions and spends time talking to me.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Some people take gift giving as an art-form. 🙂 Quality time is a big one with us. Life is so busy, sometimes the dearest gift we can give each other is an hour of uninterrupted attention.

  20. As we begin to venture into our more conscious spending and dig deeper into our money goals, my fiance & I are re-thinking the act of gift giving. It’s tough to change perspective on the act of gift giving when most of our lives we were exposed to Birthdays, holidays, and celebrations where it’s the “norm” to do so. When it comes to gift giving with our families, my fiance & I suggested a White Elephant Gift Exchange/Secret Santa event with both sides of our family last year – everyone gladly accepted! This allowed the flexibility to DIY/create a gift, re-gift an item from their household, or purchase an item if they desired (we implemented a $20 spending limit if this choice was made). It took the pressure off everyone & allowed for more time to spend with one another not centered around gift-giving. 🙂

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      I love white elephant gift exchanges! (up here we call them “Yankee Swaps”) We actually accumulate “perfect” swap gifts year round when we find them (side of the road, usually) and we’re known in my office for having hilarious choices every year.

  21. Kalie says:

    I also use gift cards to buy others’ gifts (or just re gift the card when appropriate). Glad I’m not the only one. I’m intrigued by the Amazon card rewards. I typically skip gifts other than for birthdays or Christmas with close family. However, this Father’s Day I’m getting my husband a gift of something he could really use. He’s been wanting a raincoat for his thrifty hobby, exercise, and transportation of biking. So the holiday is just a good excuse to give him something he might need to buy anyway.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Gift-card-reusers unite! A good raincoat is a great gift! I don’t think I’d have the patience of your husband to wait for one to be gifted though!

  22. Like others, we learned after a few years that it just wasn’t worth the hassle. We love each other everyday so why feel pressure to go out and spend money on something just because? We’ve moved largely to experiences, if we do spend the money at all. That memory we create is going to last much longer and bring us more joy than some item that’s likely only going to collect dust.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Whenever we feel “pressure” to do something, we always try to step back and reassess the source and validity of the feeling. Usually we end up feeling foolish for succumbing to society, and it always makes for good conversation! 🙂 Memories ftw!

  23. Laura says:

    Are you familiar with the five love languages? My husband and I read the book early on in our marriage, and I determined that my highest love language was actually receiving gifts. That means that I feel loved when I am given a gift. I really really selfish and consumerist for awhile after that, until I clarified mentally that it wasn’t so much WHAT the gift was but rather THAT the gift was that spoke love to me. Once, I kept a stick that my high school boyfriend had playfully handed me for YEARS. So, my husband has learned to embrace that I get love from gifts, and he’ll buy me small things like a bar of chocolate periodically. We are frugal together, but gifts matter to me. I love getting them, I love sharing lists of what I’d like with my family, and I love picking them out for other people! And, I love getting a bargain when I can! We also do try to share experiences as celebrations as well, but we definitely have not given up gifts.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Oh interesting! I’ll have to request that book from the library. I guess it makes sense, we all have different backgrounds and social teachings about what affection looks like.

  24. Well said. We pretty much don’t give gifts to each other because we buy whatever we want and need all the time. It’s all our money, so it isn’t like I’m really “giving” my wife anything when I buy her a present out of our joint funds. I’ll occasionally buy a $3-4 flower bouquet for gifty occasions (which are usually in the deep of winter, and hey, fresh colorful flowers for a few weeks when it’s dreary outside is a nice thing). Or spend a few bucks on fancy chocolates.

    Flowers and chocolates are both consumable which is great. No chance of unwanted junk lying around the house when the celebrated occasion is over.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      “we buy whatever we want and need all the time” Yep, that’s how we feel. If I need a particular tool to finish a project… I go buy it. If Mrs FW needs an organizational item for the basement, she buys it! That way we tend to avoid accumulating things that we “might” need or that could be useful “someday”. We have a basement of that kind of stuff already 😉

  25. As you are becoming a parent, be prepared for even more gift-giving holidays. I am always asked about what I received for Mother’s Day. With three children, I “deserve” some knick-knacks or jewelry . . . at least in their opinion. However, the handmade presents and being served pancakes in bed is more than enough for me. There’s also the push present. You earn something frivolous and expensive with your efforts during childbirth – because a healthy baby isn’t enough apparently.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Yeah, folks tell us to beware the societal expectations around gifts that come with having kids. We’re steeling ourselves, but I’m sure it will be a challenge!

      • Jane says:

        Birthday parties were such a problem when my daughter was little! Everyone was expected to invite all the kids in their class (never mind the fact that there are 20 + kids in the class). It was supposed to be at an expensive place, like a bouncy house place, or those giant gym play areas with foam pits and trampolines. You have to buy all the kids goody bags, get tons of matching decorations for the “theme”-yes you need a theme, cake, ice cream, drinks. Oh and don’t forget cutesy finger foods with adorable names like “princess pops” or “pirate juice”. We never bought into that, but we did spend $10-20 bucks on a gift, which I totally would not do now! My daughter got invited and went to these over the top parties, we just never had them. We would let her have 2 or 3 friends overnight. Rent movies, have pizza, cake and ice cream and let them hang out and have fun. Raise your kids to live and see the world around them, not through a screen! That is childhood, that is living. Frugal on! 🙂

        • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

          I feel exactly the same way! My birthday parties growing up were always at home and my parents would bake a cake, put in some frozen pizzas, and my girlfriends and I would have a slumber party. That was a birthday party to me! Babywoods will definitely not be having a party at an expensive place 😉

  26. Jeff says:

    Sorry, couldnt resist:
    *When Mr. FW read this, he noted that he wouldn’t want me to buy him a handsaw because I wouldn’t pick out the right one. And he’s totally correct! It would be pointless (not to mention a waste of money) for me to try and select a handsaw for a man who researches used handsaws for fun.

    I believe you mean it wouldnt be very sharp of you to buy him a handsaw if you’re going to pick out the wrong one! HA.

    I’ll show myself out.

  27. Anne says:

    Hi, my name is Anne and I’m REALLY into gift giving. Hahaha.
    That said, it’s a central tenant of mine that people NEVER overextend themselves, ever, for the sake of giving a gift. Gifts of time can be so huge and don’t have a monetary cost.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Hi Anne, you are safe here 😉 Also yummy consumable gifts! Some of the best gifts we have ever been given were delicious.

  28. Marcia says:

    These are very good points. We are much the same way.

    My spouse and I are heading quickly towards our 19th anniversary. We stopped giving gifts years ago – not just “because we should”. That doesn’t mean we don’t exchange gifts ever, just only when we feel like it. For Christmas he was going to get me a workout thing (like a Fitbit, different brand), but he asked first if I wanted one, and I said “no”. I mean, I’m into fitness, and I like the tracking idea (being type A and all), but I think it would drive me batty AND all the reviews show they tend to break after about a year. I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to spend $100+ on an electronic item, it had better last more than a year.

    For Christmas, we tend to go household. We joked that our Christmas gifts to each other the last few years were a new toilet, a new sink, a new washing machine to replace the 1987 version, and a new mattress (the old mattress dates back to 1994).

    Family though has been tougher. We have managed to get our families to cut way back too. Used to be that I’d put 10 books on my Amazon list to give people “choices” and my mom and sister might buy me one but my MIL and SIL would buy them ALL. Which – um, hello library?

    My birthday is next week. I asked my family what they are getting me (in jest of course). My almost 3 year old said “cupcakes!”

    For our anniversary (which is soon also), we will probably celebrate with a nice meal. We go out for our anniversary about every 5 years. I don’t think this is one of the years.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      I like the thinking of your 3 year old! And it’s funny, we also joke about gifts to each other being home maintenance items 🙂 It always makes for interesting office conversation…

  29. Devan says:

    My husband and I never buy each other birthday or anniversary presents because we learned a long time ago that it just means stress for the gift giver and neither of us wants to put that on the other person. Also, right before I met my husband, I dated a man who did all the right things according to our consumer culture – he gave me lots of gifts, arranged elaborate romantic gestures, basically made a big show out of his affection. But the relationship soon fizzled, as I learned that there was not much substance to back up all that “romance” that I had been culturally trained to believe equalled love. Then enter my husband, who might not have left roses on my doorstep, but who also did not run away when things got messy or complicated. And now we’ve been living an amazingly fulfilling, messy, complicated life together for 15 years! As you said, those “consistent acts of love” might not be something you can show off to others, but I truly believe that kind of quiet, steady commitment is at the heart of having a happy, lasting relationship.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Awww, what a sweet story! And we totally agree, it’s the messy, complicated, steady work that makes a relationship really blossom and last for the long term. It’s totally worth it!

  30. My hubby and I typically don’t exchange gifts, especially for Christmas and our birthdays, but every once in awhile we break that mold and do get each other a little something. I think you make a great point though, because we don’t get each other gifts just because we think we need to. It’s always because we are inspired by something, not because we feel like it’s out of obligation. So sometimes we’ll go over a year without giving gifts to each other, and other times we gift more frequently. We typically do either a nice homemade dinner at home or sometimes a dinner out to celebrate birthdays and our anniversary though. It really is the little things on a daily basis that show our appreciation for each other though 🙂 Like I really love when the hubs makes me even a simple cup of coffee in the morning after a long night up with the babe.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Giving without obligation definitely makes the gift more meaningful. I know we’ve experienced that same feeling as our gift giving to each other has ebbed, it makes the occasional small gesture seem like a big thing… which is great.

  31. The Roamer says:

    I really love your relationship posts. They make me smile and want to meet and hang out with you both.

    Though pople might not really care what other people get they sure do make it a point to vocalize stuff. Mr.Roamer has gotten flac on multiple occasions because he has not bought me anything or it was something small compared to norms.

    But we do still do gifts my objective is to reduce before eliminating. Or to make them meaningful useful items. I find that extended family is really problematic in this area. Giving gifts that just clutter… Especially for the kids….

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Come hang out anytime! Kids will certainly bring an interesting new dimension to this, I’m sure it’ll be a challenge 🙂

  32. I really need to get up the guts to have this conversation with some people in my life. I feel like we may all just be doing the gift thing because we feel like we should, but no one wants to be the one to bring it up. It’s really stressful buying gifts for my parents and I usually fall back on gift cards….

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      It’s an interesting question of who will speak up first. I’d also be prepared for people not to get it, which seems like the more common response. We’re already known as lovable weirdos though 🙂

  33. That was beautifully stated. We do the same, except that we also do not partake in gift giving with extended family members or friends. As soon as we told them that we don’t exchange gifts between ourselves, others happily jump on the bandwagon. I think most people want to stop the madness, they just need to know it’s okay to do so. Love that handsaw analogy. I sure do “get” that one. The hubmeister would be impossible to buy the right tools for. 🙂

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Thanks! I’m lucky that Mrs. FW doesn’t buy me random tools, but instead supports me buying for myself the tools needs to finish the job at hand. Makes life a lot easier 🙂

  34. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! Apparently my co-workers think they’re the gift police because they chastise me when I don’t have an extravagant gift for my wife. My wife and I aren’t like them though. However, I do think that my wife would like a token gift sometimes to show that I thought about her. So one time I made a video montage or got her a cute book, etc. Sometimes we do something to celebrate the occasion. And as for me, I honestly don’t want gifts!

  35. I don’t think we’ve EVER bought each anniversary gifts! Some years, we couldn’t afford to go out. We haven’t exchanged birthday or Christmas presents in several years, but Mr. FP did surprise me with concert tickets for my birthday this year. (Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant 50th Anniversary Tour! My kind of concert–started prompted at 7, assigned seats that people were actually sitting in, over by 9:30 pm. I’ve always been an old soul.)

    We just have tended to feel like (a) we don’t “need” anything or (b) we prefer to pick out our own widgets.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Hah, that sound exactly like the kind of concert we could handle 🙂 We’re old people when it comes to going out… just this weekend we decided against going to a place (to use a giftcard) because it was already 6pm and we’d need to wait a while for a table 🙂

  36. Anne says:

    So, you’re not getting a Push Gift!?! : )))) I totally agree and my husband & I have lived this way for many years. We’ll buy something we need/want like gas logs and that will be our Christmas gift, etc.

  37. Donna J Werstler says:

    I agree with Devan, about the “quiet, steady commitment is at the heart of having a happy, lasting relationship.” My wonderful husband of almost 30 years passed away a year ago and I’d give anything to again have those quiet, touching moments. Sometimes those are the best, though we did go out for birthdays and sometimes an overnighter for our anniversaries. We both enjoyed those intimate times away; plus, he especially knew I wasn’t fond of cooking (though I did serve “almost” gourmet meals), so a night off was always very much appreciated!

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Awww, sorry for your loss. Sounds like you have wonderful memories, and like he knew just what to do to make you smile.

  38. Kim from Philadelphia says:

    Acts of service are the only gifts I enjoy, in all honestly. For Mother’s Day my son made me a beautiful homade card, he and my husband took on a cleaning project I had been putting off, and they made a lovely dinner, which we ate outside- enjoying beautiful weather.

  39. Kim from Philadelphia says:

    Anne- I totally cracked up at “push gifts”. I’m not going to judge so I’ll keep my comments to

  40. I’m not a huge gift giver, because I’d rather spend time with people than exchange gifts that I or others will never use. I get small gifts for my immediate family around Christmas and birthdays and that’s it. If aunts and uncles and others want to give me something, that’s their prerogative and I’ll accept with a smile 🙂

  41. Cute pic of you and Mr. FW last weekend! Congrats on your anniversary. 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thanks! I was trying to show off the bump, but it kind of just looks like I’m clutching my stomach…. 😉

  42. May says:

    Happy anniversary! I don’t think hubby and I have ever exchanged anniversary gifts. We might go to dinner or spend some time together and we are both fine with that. If I find something I think he really wants or needs – I buy it. Personally, I wish it was socially acceptable to approach gift giving this way. Oh well.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I’m all about doing what’s not socially acceptable 😉 (within the confines of the law, of course 😉 )

  43. MS Barb says:

    Happy Anniversary! THANK YOU for your inspirational posts! I also thought Mr. FW would get a new bike helmet! I do not drink pop (the carbonated sugar laden drinks) but people at work & some relatives give me their coke rewards points, so I have used those points to get gift cards to Wal-Mart & products to use for gifts (ex: red hoodie for my daughter!) which helps w/ gift giving. Also, I am blessed to have many talents: ie: sewing, quilting, & card making, so most of my gifts are hand crafted! For my b-day this year, my oldest daughter asked what I wanted & jokingly I asked if she wanted a copy of my bucket list-sure! So, she planned a mystery trip & I got to see the ocean for the 1st time in my life (I’m 64) & fly in a helicopter over Destin Beach for the 1st time, which was my son’s mother’s day gift! I have a sister (& her family) who “defected” from MN last November to Ft. Walton Beach, FL, so we stayed w/ them for 3 days–It was a wonderful gift!!! When I think I want something, I write it down on my bucket list, & check it over each month–sometimes & end crossing things off because my priorities changed!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      What a wonderful gift from your daughter! Spending that time together is so much more valuable than stuff! I love that you’ve got a running bucket list–great idea. And, never fear, we did indeed buy Mr. FW a new helmet after the accident, but fortunately the other person’s insurance will pay for it.

  44. velvetanne says:

    Happy Anniversary!

  45. Happy Anniversary Frugalwoods! We expect it to be nothing but love. It sounds cheesy but reading most of your posts gives me this kind of idea. Hope you enjoyed it very much.

  46. We don’t do gifts at many occasions. Instead, we tend to do them as little surprises randomly scattered throughout the year. We used to do gifts at all the major milestones (anniversary, V day, birthday, Christmas) but since it’s all “our” money, it felt increasingly absurd to spend $ to surprise each other with stuff that the other might not even like.

    If it’s “the thought that counts” express it in other ways! It definitely helped us when we met some long married folks that openly never gave gifts to each other, and once we stopped the standard gift giving cycle, I think our acts of affection have gotten a lot more spontaneous and fun.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Totally agree! And, the “our” money thing was a clincher for us too–just didn’t make sense to be spending it individually. I’m a big fan of the random acts of affection mentality.

  47. Mrs. FI says:

    We also don’t care about gifts in the FI household. In our life and the things we currently own are already more than we could ask for. In fact, we’re “anti-clutter” so we’re always looking for things to get rid of and accumulating more trinkets just adds to the stuff we don’t need and the stress level of deciding on where things go (No, I’m not OCD…I don’t think haha). Gifts with the family are a given, so there’s not giving that up. Although this year for Christmas, I think we’re going to try Secret Santa and so everyone only has to buy one gift for one other person – eliminating stress and all the money that would otherwise be spent on several gifts. We’ll see how that goes 😉

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Haha, I’m exactly the same way about new stuff! Where will it go ;)??? Secret Santa with family is a great idea!

  48. Kate says:

    Back when we got married, guys were giving their wives expensive jewelry for wedding gifts, etc. DH gave me the $2300 I needed to pay off my credit card, and a lecture about how we’d eat bread and water for a month before we’d carry a balance on a credit card! Please do not get me started on Christmas gifts for the entire extended family. My in-loves give presents to all and sundry, and I find it a terrible waste, since we are all (or mostly) working adults who can buy whatever we want.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I love that your husband gave you the money to pay off your credit card! Now THAT’s the perfect gift :)!

  49. When I turned 40, my mom threw a big party, but I specifically had her put ‘no gifts please’ on the invitation. Like you said, the whole gift giving culture just doesn’t make sense to me. I would much rather just spend time with people instead of spending the time to find the right gift. Some people asked me if they could donate to a charity, so I gave a recommendation for that, but I don’t want people to feel any financial pressure to enjoy a celebration.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Agreed! I like how you phrased that–“feel any financial pressure to enjoy a celebration.” That’s perfectly articulated and I couldn’t agree more. The whole gift giving thing has gotten a bit out of control in my opinion. A donation to charity is a wonderful idea for a gift!

  50. Leah says:

    Only tangentially related: my cousin has a hobby of buying old handsaws at garage sales and reconditioning them. He’s done some amazing things. I think he does some sort of dip process, and he sands and refinishes handles. It’s pretty darn amazing.

  51. I prefer to do something for our anniversary, so we haven’t given gifts on that date. For my birthday, I also prefer to just do something. It keeps my husband from spending too much on me and from nagging me about what I want. It’s bad enough at Christmas. But he gets something on his birthday because it is meaningful to him.

    On Valentine’s Day, his gift to me was NOT buying me flowers. He saw my favorite flower and thought about picking some up. Then he saw the bouquet was sixty-friggin-dollars. I told him coming home without flowers was the perfect gift.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Agreed–I’d much rather have an experience together than buy a gift. Much more fun and memorable. Haha, I tell Mr. FW the exact same thing about flowers–that his gift is not wasting money on them for me ;)!

  52. Kristen says:

    Totally agree – we are working on doing more experiences than gifts. As my husband is not totally willing to give up gifts for say Christmas, he does my stocking that is mostly practical things I want/have asked for and it varies very little from year to year. I am slowly working on reducing this and trying to find ways to reduce it with friends and family too. My one solution for my husband’s upcoming bday is to make a photo book out of the pictures from his bday trip last year.

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