Your Christmas Money Plan

Wife giving husband sweaters as a Christmas present
For so many couples, Christmas and the gift-giving experience can move from feelings of anticipation to disappointment. The Palmers share ways to turn frustrating exchanges into opportunities.

For so many couples, Christmas and the gift-giving experience can quickly move from feelings of sweet anticipation to disappointment, even anger. As you shop during this holiday season, consider the following ways to turn potentially frustrating exchanges into opportunities to bless one another.

Understand your spouse’s money personality. You already know what makes your spouse special. That uniqueness extends to the way your spouse gives and receives gifts. It’s part of something we call a money personality — and everybody has one.

A money personality reflects the way an individual thinks about and deals with money. It influences everything from how much a person is willing to spend on a cup of coffee to how much control he or she likes to have over family finances. And it has an obvious impact on how a spouse feels about giving and receiving gifts.

The two money personalities are savers and spenders. Savers get anxious about money and worry about blowing the budget. Expensive diamond earrings would probably miss the mark in blessing a saver — especially if they were purchased with a credit card. Consider something like a gift certificate to her favorite restaurant or something useful for the home. Keeping it practical and within the budget shows that you respect your saver spouse.

Spenders, on the other hand, love the rush of shopping for something new and the thrill of extravagant gift giving. A rusty, secondhand circular saw would probably miss the mark in blessing a spender. For spenders, gifts are a way of showing generosity and love. Consider saving a little bit extra for that shiny new power tool, golf club or other nonessential item that will show your spender spouse he is more important than the budget.

Make a Christmas financial plan. A Christmas “money huddle” allows you and your spouse to get the holiday season off to a great start.

A money huddle is a time set aside, with no distractions, to be intentional about your Christmas spending. Start by asking each other what you want for Christmas. Keep your answers broad enough that there is still room for an element of surprise. At the same time, ask specific questions so you know what your spouse expects in a gift. Consider questions like:

  • Would you rather have one big gift or several small gifts?
  • How do you feel about buying new items versus getting a great deal on pre-owned items?
  • Do you like receiving practical gifts or would you rather get something you would never buy for yourself?

Once you’ve talked through your own preferences about gifts, determine your spending limits. So many disappointments can be avoided when couples take the time to discuss their expectations and then stick to the holiday budget they make together.

Be a gracious receiver. We’ve all been given gifts we don’t like. We might even feel a little insulted or angry when this happens. Even if your first instinct is to react negatively toward your spouse for either being cheap or blowing the budget, remember that choosing to receive a gift graciously can be a gift in itself. When you accept your spouse’s gift with true appreciation for the intention behind it, you are showing love to the one who wants to be a blessing. If you need to talk about the budget or a specific gift choice, save that for later when you’re alone with your spouse.

Modeling gracious receiving will also teach your children how to do the same. Your expressions of love and respect, through gift giving and receiving, will help to create a caring environment and sweet family memories for those you love.

Scott and Bethany Palmer, “The Money Couple,” are financial relationship experts and the authors of First Comes Love, Then Comes Money: A Couple’s Guide to Financial Communication.

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