This is the first holiday that our family will be spending with our newfound look on life and consumerism. Let’s go back to a few weeks ago when the husband and I talked about our budget for the year. We’d just calculated our annual cost of living, which comes in at around $53,000 per year. We allocated $50 per month for a gift budget for spending on family and friends. One thing we didn’t include was the cost of spending on one another. We tend to spend thousands on holiday gifts for each other every year, so this needed to be talked about. And this would be a difficult conversation.
Gift giving is my love language. It has been since I was a little girl. I think it’s also my mom’s love language, and since people tend to show love to others in their own preferred language, this is how my love language came to be. Christmas was my favorite holiday because of the gifts. My mother and step-father would fill entire rooms with gifts for my sister and I. That’s how I knew I was loved. My parents worked hard, came home exhausted and stressed, and saved all year to shower us with gifts on holidays. We weren’t the family that ate meals together. We weren’t touchy-feely, we didn’t express our love and feelings with words. But we did give very thoughtful and sometimes pricey gifts. I believed in the power of gifts, spending hard earned money to show someone that I care.
My habit of spending money on gifts continued over the years, without analysis or disruption. When I wanted to show love, I purchased a gift. The more thoughtful, the better. If I’d heard someone mention an item once in a conversation several years ago, I could remember it and get it for them at the optimal time. I even know great gift ideas for someone before they do, I can sense the types of things those close to me like, and I am almost always right. I give great gifts, it’s a talent. This proved true for my relationship. In my head, I have a running list of things to surprise my husband with, when the time is right.
But after our conversation about spending, I’m rethinking everything. We’d figured out a budget for gifting our loved ones, but talking about spending on one another was conveniently left out of the conversation, until my husband asked “So what are we gonna do about gifts for each other? I spent so much money on you for Christmas”. My heart sank. I knew he was right. Less than two months ago, my husband purchased some of the most thoughtful gifts I’d ever received. Not only were they thoughtful, but some of them were expensive. My favorite gift was the most expensive, large diamond earrings. I loved them so much I cried when I saw them. They were beautiful. And yet, here we were…
Immediately I told him “Okay so let’s not buy gifts for one another this year. We know our goals, we can just do nice things instead of buying stuff”. He questioned how easy I made it all seem. From experience over the years, the husband has learned that the rule is ‘the pricier the better’ when it comes to me. Yikes. I’m the problem. I love gifts a little too much, I have issues not only giving but also receiving. Now that I know my issues, and have explored their origins, I can properly address them and choose to do something different.
What We Are Doing Different Now
1. Shared Financial Goals
Our holiday spending is going to feel different because we talk about money now, and not just while we’re spending it. We have goals. Our main goal is to retire by our projected date of financial independence (FI), in 10 years. We think about spending differently now because each purchase pushes our FI date back, whether it’s by a day or a few weeks. Are a pair of earrings worth two weeks of time still working and spending entire days away from our daughter? I see those earrings differently now.
2. Monthly Financial Meetings
Not only do we have goals, but now we have a system of accountability. If we do go over budget on unplanned purchases, it’s not going to feel good at the end of the month when we have our budget meeting. I try to keep this in mind when making purchases now. I know that each deviation from the budget will feel like a defeat when it’s time to analyze our spending.
3. Holiday Conversations
In preparation for Valentine’s Day we had a proactive conversation a week in advance. I reassured my husband that I did not want a gift, and wouldn’t feel disappointed when the day came. We planned a celebration in the form of food. My gift to him would be making a dessert, Red Velvet Cake Banana Pudding. This is a treat because we don’t make desserts except for holidays. His gift to me would be prime cut steak. This is also a treat because we eat mostly vegan, plant based diets. As I type this, the dessert is prepped and the steaks are marinating. We also got some kombucha to sip as we watch a movie later. I love this. We are taking advantage of our cooking skills, and using them to upgrade the necessity of food to a decadent celebration. The key will be to make sure we don’t go over our food budget for the month ($400).
4. Exploring Other Love Languages
Now that we are thinking of non-monetary ways to celebrate. I think my love language is quickly transforming to acts of service. For future holidays I want the garage organized, the yard landscaped, tree stumps removed, walls repainted, etc. We’ve also talked about planning low-cost holiday traditions, like planning an annual camping trip for my husband’s birthday, and going on the hike of my choosing for my birthday. These are some of our favorite things to do together, and no gift can compare to the joys of being in nature.
Ending here would be a nice neat reflection, packaged perfectly with a bow on top. But we live in the real world, we are real people, and are therefore imperfect. My husband still surprised me with roses for Valentine’s Day, even though it wasn’t in the plan! Usually I would be so happy with this deviation, but I am not. I was a little frustrated when I saw them. We’d agreed to a plan that we liked, and here we were, veering off plan. I appreciate the roses, but for now I do not want him buying me any more flowers (husband I know you’re reading this). I know that I am loved, I feel it everyday, shown through words and actions. I don’t need gifts to prove it. The things that matter most to me are people, and every moment with them is priceless, this reflects another love language, quality time. I am excited for my little family to explore the various ways we can go about showing affection to people who touch our souls without participating in mindless consumerism.
Enjoy Valentine’s Day, if you celebrate it, and if you don’t, good on you for rejecting a Roman holiday that glorified the beating of women in the name of romance!