My husband and I have tried all kinds of gift exchanging ideas. Just one gift each. Just stockings. A cap on spending. Spend under $25 and still get fun things. And we’ve had years without “rules” – this was before getting married – in the beginning – when no gift had already been “done too many times” (sweaters, scarves) and we had wish-list stuff (now, there isn’t a whole lot on my wish list that is buy-able -health, happiness, reduced stress- other than the “fantasy” items – fabulous travel, a housekeeper to manage the mess, you know, the typical mom fantasy stuff). And we did years where we didn’t bother with gifts for each other.
In fact, those no-gift years were what led us to the Gifting Game. We were trying to be realistic, since we had nothing much we truly wanted (we are so grateful to have nothing we need or want so much) and we would rather save for a vacation or something else. But as we weathered a rocky patch, we realized that little things, like caring enough to buy something thoughtful at Christmas, did matter to us. So, after really talking about it, we realized that we needed a new plan.:
1. The under $25 game didn’t work – we ended up with piles of little junky bits we are likely to pass-up or stuff we’d buy anyway if we had wanted it. Maybe we just both stink at this game, but it is the way it went for years.
2. If we want slippers or scarves or gloves or underwear or a sweater or… we really are not interested in what the other picks out – we like what we like and we’re not very good at finding what the other one would like. Also, these are boring gifts for us… when you’ve received your 12th pair of Dearfoam slippers in 15 years, it really just doesn’t feel like a lot of thought went into it (this was a go-to gift for both of us to the other – yes we’re really that dull and unimaginative).
3. Spending caps are good. We always knew this and we’ve never broken the caps set by any serious amount, but we really both like them so that we can be sure we’re not over (or under) and we can be sure we can do our usual pay-off-the-whole-credit-card-bill in January, just like every other month.
4. Fear of moving beyond the (dearfoam) box: We both felt it was hard to find something creative and different we thought the other would want. We both had felt some disappointment in the past when we thought we’d gotten the other a great gift, only to realize they didn’t really enjoy it (as in, never used it). We felt like we didn’t want to waste money on something we weren’t 100% sure the other would want, so we stuck to the dull (slippers) and neither one of us felt particularly great about the giving or receiving.
So, last year we started our Gifting Game. We set a limit of $100 to spend on the other (you can pick a cap that works for you). We then choose 3 to 4 categories. Last year they were “red,” “wood,” “travel,” and “1998.” We purposely left it very open for interpretation. It was way more fun to shop and see how we could connect our themes to our items. It was also fun on Christmas to open the gifts we got and find out the connections. We both bought things that were more interesting than in years past. I gave my husband a red picture frame with our kids’ photos in it for his work space, a very nice bottle of “double wood” whiskey, and a basket of food items to make Thai and Chinese meals topped with a print-out of all sorts of things we did in 1998 (which included an amazing trip to Hong Kong and Thailand, hence the food choice) and a travel book (off-the-beaten-path destinations) and a monogrammed leather luggage tag. I received a travel pouch for my camera strap, a red journal with pencils (paper is made from wood, as are pencils), and a handbag from a company that was founded in 1998.
We’re looking forward to doing this again this year, as we were surprised at the fun we had and also that we’re excited about Christmas shopping again. Some friends thought the Gifting Game sounded like fun, too, and are doing similar with their spouses this year, so I thought I’d share the idea with you.