Putting a price on it

By Mir
August 23, 2006

I received what is probably my favorite question ever from Bonnie. Bonnie is pretty! And patient, because she sent this a while ago! Also, I think she raises a really important point.

Mir, I love your new site. Bargain hunting is a passion of mine but I must admit the internet is an area I have not honed the passion as much, as I am usually wary of shipping fees, inability to easily return, wanting to ‘touch’ things first and the such. Your site has taught me to take a second (and third, and fourth) look in this area.

Anyhoo… you are very pretty, not to mention nice and funny too! My question is not a bargain one so much as a philosophical one. My husband and I are polar opposites when it comes to shopping—he feels it is worth it to buy something full price at the first place he sees, as it makes the whole ‘shopping thing’ be over faster. So, when we are buying gifts for one another, what is ‘fair’? Often he will buy me a $150 gift and I will, in return, spend about $60 but get him a gift of equal value. Am I being cheap or practical? I know it’s not romantic to ‘compare’ but I don’t want to short change the guy, but I also don’t want to go overboard. I mean, nobody’s made of money here.

If your beloved is spending twice (or three or four times) as much, does that mean you’re cheap? When money is saved, do you then have some sort of obligation to spend more?

Anyone who knows me knows my answer to this question. Right? Everyone? Let’s break it down, though.

Saving money is about saving money, not about buying more. My number one concern in my bargaining ways is having more money in my bank account. Period. I have a bit of Chicken Little in me, what can I say. I like to know that if something happens and I need money, I will have it. My second concern is getting the stuff I really want—the good quality things, rather than settling for the crappier, more affordable stuff—within my budget. If I’m going to spend money, I want to get the most bang for my buck.

Gifts are about thought, not about money spent. That bears repeating. Your grandmother always said so, and guess what? Amongst anyone with class, it really is true. It’s the thought that counts. We all have a friend or a relative who consistently pounces upon a holiday to give something expensive but useless or just completely not our taste. Yuck. Likewise, we’ve all had a significant other who has the means to buy us a little something but instead gave a Hallmark card and saw The Look and said, “What? It’s the thought that counts!” Neither of these scenarios is about the giver thinking about what we would really enjoy.

Now. Back to the original question: Are you short-changing your husband because he spends more on you? Let’s see.

1) Are you buying him something you know he’ll genuinely enjoy?
2) Are you saving money in the process, money which (assumedly) goes back into your family budget, for the benefit of both of you?
3) Should he get twice as much as you receive simply because you’re smart with your money and he’s an impatient shopper, or somehow you are Bad?

I think the answer is clear. (And I think your husband needs some shopping lessons, but that’s another topic for another day.)

Here’s my suggestion: If it really bothers you (and it shouldn’t, but this can be a good idea, anyway), set a spending limit for gifts. You can continue to come in under the limit because you’re a Want Not devotee and will never again pay full price, but at least this way you won’t be feeling guilty about what your husband spends. Agree to maximum and then enjoy your shopping, enjoy your savings, and tell him to put a sock in it if he has a problem with it.

I put a lot of thought into gift buying, though as a rule I don’t spend very much. (There are a few notable exception to this rule—made possibly by my frugal ways on the other 95% of my purchases.) No one’s ever complained. Nor would they ever receive another gift from me, if they did.


  1. well said, Mir.

    if it’s worth it to Hubby to pay full price just to “have the shopping over with” then that’s fine — as long as he knows the price of his choices. Time is valuable, just like money, and if he can afford the extra money more than the extra time, and doesn’t like shopping, I don’t see anything wrong…. unless it’s causing family conflict.

    and yes, I completely agree – the worth of a gift is often different from the dollar value. It’s so hard not to compare gifts, even when we all know it’s “wrong” it’s still hard…. but if you must compare, then include the time you spent bargain-hunting on your mental pricetag.

  2. Just take the price tag off! He will never know that you saved so much money.

    My hubby is the same way. He always waits until the last minute (for every gift, every time) and then pays WAY too much for something. I used to complain, but now, I just try harder to save more on my end to try and absorb some of the cost from his end.

  3. Thanks MIR, for your thoughtful answer. I agree and will try to quell my guilt. As for taking the price tag off, I don’t bother since he knows enough to know I would NEVER pay the full price and I like him to know he is getting quality, even as he knows of my frugality. Usually I am so impressed with how much off I got it that I end up telling him anyway, just to brag. Which is how I get myself in these situations in the first place…

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