Exchanging Gifts with Your Spouse

We did two things together yesterday that we have not done in years.  First, we held a spontaneous thumb war in the kitchen.  In the end, neither of us won, but we both cheated.

The second thing we did was a bit more significant.  We went shopping.  In an actual store.  And the store is called Wal-Mart.  If you know us well, you know that is a pretty big deal.  Here’s the picture to prove that it actually happened.  That’s right.  For the first time in over two years, the Team Made Family dropped a little cash at the ‘Mart.

marriage family values creative gift exchanges spirit of christmas

So what is the big deal with Wal-Mart?  Honestly, we really have no big gripe with the store itself, but with our own ability to maintain the $350 budget while wandering aimlessly up and down the aisles of massive big box stores.  We both realized something a long time ago.

We really struggle to avoid impulse purchases while shopping at places like Target and Wal-Mart.  Especially those really good deals in the clearance aisle.  As a general rule, we do better when we stick to online retailers, local merchants, and specialty shops.  Willpower is hard, right?

Yesterday was an exception, though.  And while we left the store with a little less money in our pockets, we had only purchased the items on our list.  You will not see the shopping trip show up in the $350 budget post this week.  The items we bought were for children’s activities and a foster care project we are working on.

So if we do not really frequent places like Wal-Mart and Target, how then do we holiday shop for one another?  Well, we have to be a little creative.  Sometimes that strategy pays off with really thoughtful and appropriate presents.  Other gifts are the product of good intentions gone wrong.

The following are our favorite ways to give Christmas (and birthday) gifts to one another:

1. Make it yourself.

Thoughtful: One year, Todd made a butcher block counter top for an awkwardly sized kitchen cabinet.  It spruced up the kitchen and was super useful.

Well-intentioned: Several years ago, Melissa authored (and illustrated) a biography of Todd’s past, present, and future.  We still have it, and Melissa claims it was remarkably prophetic.  Todd thinks perhaps it was a sneaky way to manipulate the future.  Either way, the kids enjoy looking at it now and then.

2. Be practical.

Thoughtful: Todd often receives clothing for gifts.  He despises shopping for clothes, but willingly sports new duds if others purchase them for him.

Well-intentioned: We have a neighborhood rabbit problem, and Melissa received a small animal live trap for Christmas last year.  In full disclosure, this gift was not from Todd.  He was a little sad he did not think of it, though, as it was funny and useful all at the same time.

3.  Call something you have to buy anyway a shared “Christmas” present.

Thoughtful: Our first Christmas, we needed a new computer in a bad way.  We were both college students and the computer labs that existed in those days were not practical options.  That computer was not top of the line, but it got us through two master’s theses successfully.

Well-intentioned: We got each other a deep freeze a couple of years ago.  We like the deep freeze, but we admit it might not be the most romantic gift ever bought.

4. Let the kids decide.

Thoughtful and well-intentioned: Gifts from kids can be described by both of these terms.  Todd has spent many hours helping the girls paint ceramic figurines, coffee mugs, and plates to give Melissa.  Melissa once spent way too much time in the grocery store’s produce section helping one of the girls select just the right orange to give Todd.  Yes, an orange.  We were all told it was delicious.

5. Don’t exchange gifts at all.

This year for Christmas we decided to not exchange gifts with each other.  Instead, we picked a charity and are giving to them instead.  It is not only rewarding to give to someone in need, but we have also received the gift of quality and enjoyable time together while shopping for someone else.

As you shop for Christmas gifts this Advent season, it is our hope that your list involves thoughtful and well-intentioned items.  May you enjoy the spirit of giving, receiving, and reminiscing for years to come.

What is the best gift you have given or received from your spouse?  Let us know in an email or comment below!