How much should I spend on a holiday gift for my significant other? This is a question for the ages and causes a great deal of anxiety. Most people are deathly afraid of seeming cheap if they spend too little or over-the-top if they spend too much.
The amount you should spend on a holiday present for your significant other can vary widely depending on your circumstances and the nature of your relationship. These are some factors to consider when determining an appropriate budget so you don’t go broke or get broken up with:
Relationship Stage: Consider how long you’ve been together and the seriousness of your relationship. If you have been dating for less than a year, it is appropriate to spend a maximum of $50. A budget of around $100 is standard for longer relationships. If you’re married, $100 is the median amount, and the top 25% of couples spend $300. Remember these are guidelines; you should not feel obligated to match these amounts if you’re under financial stress.
Personal Budget: Your budget must align with your financial situation. Under no circumstances should you incur debt to buy holiday gifts. Nerdwallet’s holiday shopping report shows around half of Americans (52%) incurred credit card debt when shopping last holiday season; among them, nearly a third (31%) have still not paid off these balances.
The rule is to spend no more than 1.5% of your gross annual income on presents, but only if you will not incur debt doing so. A smart way to avoid debt is to automatically sweep a certain amount of dollars from your bank account to a “holiday account” every month. This way, you will be saving money all year and will not feel the financial burden typically accompanied by the holidays. Buying gifts should never put you under financial strain.
Set proper expectations: Don’t be afraid to discuss gift-giving expectations with your significant other. Although it may seem awkward, it’s the best way to avoid any misunderstandings and ensure neither one of you overspends. Have a conversation about your financial circumstances and set a budget that is realistic and comfortable for both people.
DIY Gifts: If you’re on a shoestring budget, handmade gifts can be especially meaningful and don’t necessarily require excessive spending. Homemade cookie baskets, flavored olive oil, or making your significant other their favorite meal are examples of DIY gifts that won’t put you into debt. These gifts are typically well received because you can’t just go out and buy them. They also are a fruit of your labor, which is much more meaningful than a purchased gift.
Gift-giving is not obligatory: If you can’t afford to buy your significant other a gift, that’s perfectly acceptable. There is no shame in that game. If this is the case, have an open and honest conversation with your significant other. Although most feel uncomfortable with this conversation, a great starter is, “This year, due to x (but you don’t have to give a reason), I am prioritizing certain financial obligations and thus, am not able to participate in a gift exchange. However, I would love for us to spend quality time together doing the things we both enjoy.” There is no need to over-explain. Leave it at that, and the right partner will appreciate your honesty and will want to support you in making intelligent financial decisions.
In the end what matters most is the thought and effort you put into selecting a gift that shows your love and appreciation. It’s not about the price tag but rather the sentiment behind the present. So, consider your unique relationship and financial situation to determine an appropriate budget for your Christmas gift.