Exchanging gifts with joint finances

My husband’s birthday is this Saturday, and I’ve been struggling to come up with a special gift for him that won’t blow our budget. Exchanging gifts with joint finances is tricky.

Our birthdays are 2 weeks apart, and we’re taking a trip to Seattle the week in between, so we both agreed to a very small gift budget. We considered skipping gifts for each other all together, but that just didn’t feel right. We enjoy choosing gifts for one another and exchanging. Our solution is to limit our gifts to something small and thoughtful.

When we first opened our joint account, we decided to keep separate personal accounts with a bit of money in them specifically for this purpose. The idea was that the personal accounts would be used for discretionary personal spending and gifts for each other. We didn’t plan on the personal accounts getting lumped in with our regular money. That’s kind of what happened, though.

Now I’m faced with two dilemmas: he’s requested ideas for what I’d like for my birthday, but I’ve kind of shut off my “want” mode for the past year. It’s easier to live frugally if I’m not constantly wanting things. You would think I’d have a ton of ideas built up over time, but I don’t. Everything I think come up with just seems so frivolous. Is it completely terrible that receiving gifts used to be a lot more fun when they were coming out of someone else’s budget?

I also have to figure out what to get for him. The problem is, when it comes to gift giving, I still struggle with the urge to go overboard. All of the ideas I’ve come up with are out of our price range. In short, I don’t want him to spend anything on my gift, but if I had it my way I’d way overspend on him. Funny how that works, huh?

So I’m asking you: Do you exchange gifts with your partner? If so, what kind of budget rules do you set? And how do handle the joint finances issue?

As a newlywed, I’d love to know how all of you handle all of this stuff.


6 thoughts on “Exchanging gifts with joint finances

  1. Kacie

    Sounds like gift gifts might be one of your “love languages.”

    Don’t worry about the money he spends on you. Let him enjoy the act of giving. I’m sure he’ll be reasonable.

    Get the pots & pans that you wanted a few months ago! Maybe that could be a joint b-day present. Or, maybe just one pot.

    To answer your question, Shane and I aren’t big on gifts. It’s not our “love language” (btw, I’m referring to a book that we read during premarital counseling). Lately for birthdays and such, we’ll give each other a small thing that we know the other person wanted and go out to a really nice dinner or go to a live show or some other sort of experience that we share together.

  2. tiffanie

    in the past we’ve just sorta went and bought whatever we wanted for the other person, lol. now that we’re on a budget, we’re even talking about skipping on gift exchange for christmas this year since things are so tight. so yeah. i’m not much help, unfortunately. =(

  3. Ariel

    We typically do about $20-$30 simply because both sets of parents are quite generous. As for the joint account… we don’t have any personal accounts. However, my husband doesn’t check our bank account as frequently as I do so I can spend for his birthday and ask him not to look. Because we use a national bank without a local branch, we keep an account in one of the local banks.With a little cash in there, my husband has the cushion to shop and just reminds me not to pay attention to it until birthday or Christmas is over. It works well for us.

  4. Jessica

    I’m a (fairly) newlywed person myself, and we’ve struggled here too. When we were dating we both went overboard with gifts, him especially (he had a full time job and little to no expenses, so he just bought everything he saw that he thought I would like). Now that we’re on a budget, the way we’ve decided to handle it is to set a spending limit. That way we can each go to the ATM, get out that amount of cash and the other won’t know what we got. Another thing I’ve thought about trying is picking either Christmas, our birthdays or our anniversary and saying that we just make each other presents.

  5. Mary

    J tends to be the guy who doesn’t want anything, so we tend to lean toward gifts that aren’t purchased. We write things for one another, make things – the last two years for Jason’s birthday, I’ve taken photos of the kids, and made him a calendar to hang in his office. He uses it all year, and it means a lot to him. There’s more capacity for sentimentality in gifts like that, and also more capacity for romance. This past anniversary, I woke up to find little slips of paper scattered all over the house. On the table was a note that said “I love you for 100 reasons, see if you can find them all!” Throughout the day, I kept stumbling across more of them. Each slip listed one reason. I pasted them all into a little leather bound journal I had lying around, and it remains the best gift I’ve ever received.

    When we do spend money, it’s often less on gifts and more on time. We are trying to go away for a weekend together every summer now, and if we spend smaller amounts, we go out to a concert, a show, or dinner. For us, the time is more valuable than the gifts, but that’s because between 2 kids, a full time job and a growing business, time is in short supply.

    Good luck, and make sure to let us know what you get him!

  6. Anne

    I like Mary’s comment about spending less on gifts and more on time.

    I am also a newlywed but all of our money is in joint accounts. My husband’s birthday was Sept 2nd and I was stumped on what to do for him. Since we’re sharing money now, it felt like I was buying him gifts with his money??

    What we decided on was not very romantic or exciting but it seems to work. He made a small lists of things he wanted: a few new shirts for work, a bike part, etc and we shopped together. We got want he wanted and we spent a little quality time shopping together.

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