I Use My Partner’s Money to Buy Him Gifts, Is That Awkward?

For Love & Money is a biweekly column from Insider answering your relationship and money questions.
This week, a reader wonders how to give her partner meaningful gifts when he’s the breadwinner.
Our columnist advises giving gifts that make him feel seen, or that he wouldn’t give himself.
Got a question for our columnist? Write to For Love & Money using this Google form.
Dear For Love & Money,How can I make Christmas and birthday gifts for my partner seem more special when he’s the one making all the money?Sincerely, 

Big heart, little budgetDear Big heart, little budget,If I had a nickel for every time my husband said all he wants for his birthday or Christmas is for me to not spend any money, well, I’d have at least enough nickels to buy him a real gift. In other words, I often find myself in your situation, and if your partner is anything like my husband, it may be hard to find a gift that will give him enough pleasure to outweigh the pain caused by watching the number in your joint bank account dwindle.If that’s your partner, I recommend you believe him when he says he doesn’t want money spent. While I personally would flee to my bedroom and cry if my birthday or Christmas went by without getting a token of my husband’s love in the form of material goods, not everyone is like me. Some people just aren’t into presents. However, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t get your partner anything. After all, the joy of gift-giving isn’t only meant for the recipient, in fact, there are few feelings as satisfying as knowing you really nailed gift-giving during the holidays. Not to mention, while not everyone is a “present person,” I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t feel loved by their partner’s meaningful gesture. This gesture doesn’t have to be an item wrapped under the Christmas tree, it can also be an experience, a service, or a loving affirmation. Find a gift that will make your partner feel seenTake a moment to figure out which form of gift will mean the most to your partner. If he is a service guy, you could organize his office for him or get the tires on his vehicle changed. If he lives for cool experiences, you might get him tickets to see his favorite band in concert or make his gift into an adventure by creating a scavenger hunt. If affirmations are the key to his heart, maybe he would feel most loved by receiving a letter that says everything you struggle to say but know he longs to hear. Or maybe, he loves a traditional gift.Whatever the case, if the gift you give him involves spending money, you can always go the O’Henry route and sell something of your own to feel better about who really bought the present. Regardless of what you give him or how you give it, there are two important elements to make your gift special: it should be highly personalized to who he is, and it should fulfill not just your holiday gifting requirements, but one of his deepest desires. Like I said before, my husband generally tells me the greatest gift of all is for me to not spend money. One year I took him at his word and gave him a coupon booklet. I know, I know, but let me explain why this gift wasn’t a cheesy waste of time. Unlike most coupon booklets,  I didn’t ask him to redeem them at will because I know my husband’s personality and I know he will never feel comfortable asking me to make his favorite meal for dinner, even if he’s holding my paper pledge to do so. Knowing this about him, I gave him one coupon for each month of the next year and then I made sure I fulfilled them without being reminded or waiting for him to ask.The coupons themselves were highly personalized to his favorite things. If you were to ask him, he would tell you this is his favorite gift I’ve ever given him; because by giving him a free present, I respected that we weren’t exactly loaded with money at the time and everything about that present showed my husband how well I knew him and how much I cared. Not to mention, it wasn’t just one gift at Christmas, it was a gift for every month of the year. In other words, I didn’t think through that one well at all.Give him a gift he wouldn’t give himselfWhile a coupon booklet is a classic “free gift,” other years, I went ahead and spent money on my husband because while I respect his wish not to spend, sometimes the man just needs a present. My husband rarely indulges himself, but this doesn’t mean he has no desires. I often see him googling concerts and pinning ideas to his tattoo board on Pinterest. When it comes down to it, he will always tell himself no, which means the nicest gift I can offer him is the permission he won’t grant himself.One year I scheduled a tattoo appointment and paid the deposit for him; another year I snuck onto our Amazon account and purchased all the things he had “saved for later.” When I do this, I always check our bank account and make sure that his self-denial is based on guilt and not on an actual lack of funds, and despite his protestations that he doesn’t want anything but my financial self-restraint, he has never once been anything but thrilled when I give him this gift of permission. For my part, this is one of the easiest gifts to give because finding out what items he’s been researching and talking about and dreaming about is as simple as paying attention throughout the year. I hope I have given you several ideas that will inspire your gift-giving this holiday season, but perhaps the most important recommendation I can offer is that in a relationship where you share finances, sharing is the keyword. So, while it may feel ridiculous to give your partner a gift you bought with his money, remember that it’s your money, too. And don’t forget we feel most loved when we feel seen, so whatever you give your partner this holiday season, give him the gift of feeling seen. Rooting for you both,For Love & Money

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