If you were to glimpse our Christmas gifts for each other, pre-exchanged, two stacks of gifts piled by the fireplace, a plethora of shimmering wrapping paper and a multitude of various sized packages, you would think that we were *slightly* excessive in our gift giving. Each gift is labeled 1-7 (yes, seven presents each), and even without looking at the labels, you’d be able to tell the difference between the two piles- whose is whose. My gifts for Mr. MaiFI are precariously splayed in a lopsided pile, the edges and creases of the wrapping paper puffing out at the sides against straining pieces of tape in a creatively colorful heap; in contrast, Mr. MaiFI’s gifts for me are placed in a color coordinated, precisely laid out display, the wrapping paper folded with sharp, symmetrical corner folds, tape crisply pressed on the edges. It’s almost metaphorical, this precious Christmas scene~ the two piles symbolic of our different personalities that have bent and molded to fit each other, filling in each other’s cracks and smoothing each other’s edges, to create in essence, one great pile of love. 

But back to the shocker part~ 7 presents each? That’s not very frugal, not very FI-minded of us…how did we manage that on a budget? Well, here’s some background. **Spoiler alert: My favorite gift exchanged the whole evening is not gift wrapped, cost $0, yet is priceless** 

First, my love language is gift giving. Thus, when it comes to gift giving to each other, Mr. MaiFI (under my influence…he isn’t naturally a gift giver as he has a different love language *again, more on those juicy details later*) and I have a history of going hardcore, i.e. birthday and Christmas present piles look like their was a mini party with at least a handful of gift-giving guests. 

So how does gift-giving and a frugal/FI lifestyle blend? Not easily… (I’ll share more on how I’m learning to navigate that in a later post!) What it looked like this year: we still bought the same quantity of presents (at least 6-7), but we limited it to one “nice” gift, and the others were either found for bargain prices, or they were small tradition items, small tokens, relatively inexpensive, that we gift a variation of to each other each year- gifts they we “expect” but are surprised to see what form they will take. (see below)

Our budget~ we set a $150 limit. That may seem extreme to some, but for us, it was a way to slowly adjust to a new frugal/ FI lifestyle without giving up on one of our favorite traditions. Our gift giving isn’t so much about getting *stuff.* It’s about the joy of watching the other’s face light up when they open a gift they love, or the look of surprise on their faces and glee when you *nailed it* and got them the perfect present. It’s a way of showing that I know you- I’ve been listening, watching, seeing what you want, what you need, and I want to show you I’ve noticed.  It’s an evening of intimate connection by the fireplace, a culmination of the year, our small token traditional gifts used to mark each year that has passed, and our “bigger” gift a celebration of the past year and new year to come.

Of course, there are other ways to get this message across that don’t require material gifts, but again- we’re in this for the long haul, making slow adjustments to a new lifestyle. So what did we get this year?? Check it out below! **Total of each set of gifts was $150 max**

My Favorite Item of the Gift Exchange (Cost $0, Value: Priceless) Handmade Christmas cards

The best and most meaningful tradition item: the handmade card. Here is where our true hearts are displayed to each other. We both craft a carefully handmade, homemade card, our art styles shining through on the front covers. While I’m a bit more of the visually creative one in the couple, Mr. MaiFI has his own budding art style! Each design is made with love. But it’s what is on the inside that we cherish the most. A handwritten letter to the other, starting off with a slight highlight reel of our past year, our fondest memories, and then diving into our dreams and hopes for the future year and *decade* this time, plus a heartfelt look into how our relationship  and our feelings have developed, changed and grown the past year. They are cards of our memories and our hopes and dreams for our life together. This is by far, the best part of Christmas Eve.

But on to the material gift part of the gift exchange!

From Mr. MaiFI to me:

Tradition Gifts:

  • Animal Mug: Llama (Each year Mr. MaiFI gifts me an animal mug- I have a whole collection, with at least 10 different animals now. As someone who isn’t a fan of drinking liquids in general- it makes meeting my water intake requirement a lot more fun to sip from a llama!)
  • Yankee Candle (vanilla cupcake scented. I love the sweet scents! Each year I get a new candle so I can imagine I live in a bakery)
  • Yu-Gi-Oh cards (a joke gift- I used to Love Yu-Gi-Oh when I was younger and would collect the cards to play with my brother)
  • Godiva chocolate box (My sweet treat of the year! I LOVE Chocolate- and this is my mini luxury gift- that if bought on sale is actually decently priced!)
  • Book “The Silent Patient” (Mr. MaiFI always chooses a book he thinks I would like. I enjoy psychological thrillers and this book definitely won’t disappoint. A woman who shoots her husband and then refuses to talk ever again?? Bound to be a page turner! My goal is to finish it this winter break before going back to school! Anyone else read it?)
  • Barnes and Nobles $15 gift card (So I can pick out either a book for my class or another for me 🙂 as you’ve noted- I love to read!)

“Big ticket item”

  • White Fluffy Coat from Free People (I have been drawn to anything fluffy and soft this past year. I’ve been on the hunt for a new furry, flowy coat, and Mr. MaiFI found the perfect one for me. Apparently it was the last one in the store and it just happened to be my size! And decently priced!)

From Me to Mr. MaiFI

Tradition Gifts:

  • Animal Print Shirt (Starting a couple years ago, I gave Mr. MaiFI a shirt with whales on it. Now he is usually a more conservative dresser, more muted and classic styles, so this was a hilarious gift at first. But since then I had gotten him a seahorse and flamingo shirt, and his students love them! He gets the most compliments when he wears them, and now loves receiving an animal shirt. This year I got him a parrot shirt at a great sale price from quicksilver at Macy’s! If you ever have suggestions for other stores that sell cool animal print shirts, please share! SOmetimes they are hard to find…)

Bargain Items:

  • New Pants (13.99- dark green from H&M. These pants fit him best and are super comfy! Pus, apparently green is the new “in” color!)
  • Baseball Bag (Mr. MaiFi had been carrying all of his baseball equipment in 4 separate grocery reusable bags- now he carries his equipment in style 🙂 
  • Baseball Impact balls (perfect for getting his beginning baseball players to hit the ball hit the perfect spot!)

Mini Gifts

  • Baseball coach Clipboard (According to amazon it is one of the top gifts for coaches! Mr. MaiFI likes it because it has a dry-erase baseball field layout on the back that he can use to map out plays for his players.)
  • Agility Ladder (Helps Mr. MaiFI get his exercise in as well- plus gives the kiddos a workout during baseball practice #ditchthegymmembership)

Big Ticket Item

  • New Jacket from J.Crew (We went to try on clothes and Mr. MaiFI fell in love with this jacket right away. It’s classy and stylish, without looking too formal. It can be dressed up or down, and is nicely padded to provide warmth without being too hot. Plus, he looks quite good in it 😉 – 40% off, plus I had a $30 gift card which brought the price to ~$60)

This was our first time gift-exchanging with a FI-lifestyle intent, and while we were both much more considerate of prices, some items are probably not necessary. The tradition items, will most likely stay, but the other smaller “filler fun” gifts can eventually go. Eventually, maybe we’ll make the total transition to an experience gift, with *maybe* a small material tradition gift. But for now, I’ll take my mini pile of presents, my handmade card, and an evening of generosity and love. 

Your Turn: What did your Christmas gift exchange look like this year? Any questions about our gifts?

Do you do material gifts or experiences?