I can say this today, because after almost a decade, several thousand dollars in debt, a couple of bailouts and lots and lots and lots of hard work, my husband is a pro at managing our money.
Still, things are tight for us right now, financially. I have two part-time jobs, and he has a full-time career, plus a part-time job. We pay our bills on time, we put gas in our cars and food on the table, but there's not a whole lot of wiggle room after payday.
Which is why I'm not asking my husband for a Christmas present for myself this year.
My husband is an excellent gift-giver. He consistently gives me things I've asked for, things I long for, and things I didn't even know I wanted. He has surprised me with perfect gifts every Christmas- from an ornament & a diamond ring marking our first holiday together, to a pair of deliciously fuzzy slippers that replaced an old raggedy pair, to- on two separate occasions- a new computer.
Our kids were at church choir practice tonight, and we had our once-a-week-for-one-hour alone time. I looked at him with my Bad News Face and told him we had to discuss Christmas presents. A couple of years ago, after our third baby was born, we adopted what has become my favorite gift-giving model:
Something they want,
Something they need,
Something to wear,
Something to read.
I forgot where I first heard that, but it's genius, I'm telling you.
It falls in line with my philosophy on bikinis for little girls- if I refuse to let my toddlers wear teeny triangle top bikinis, then that'll still be a rule for them as they grow up. There's no backsliding, "but I wore one when I was nine!" when they're teenagers.
If we buy them each four gifts every year, they'll never be disappointed when they have four presents down the road (or worse, expect more as they age).
And as I've learned with every hard-and-fast parenting rule, I'm certain it'll bend every now and then. I'm sure I'll agree to a tasteful monokini someday, just like I'm sure the gift list will eventually expand. But what I have to keep in mind is that these kids have three grandmothers and lots of people who love them who are all happy to shower them with presents.
Our showers on them will just be more like sprinkles.
A few minutes after our Christmas-for-the-kids talk, my husband asked me what I wanted. I fought the urge to give him a long list to choose from, like I have for the last ten Christmases, and instead said, "just a nice set of fancy sheets for you and me."
And I really meant it. (I may or may not have used the demure trick, "oh, just something small," when he knew I was lusting after a new laptop a few years ago.)
I will be a happy girl if I have just one gift under our tree.
This year, I want us to really focus on Christmas as a family. I want to buy decent, meaningful presents for my children. I want to get a gift for his mother and mine, even though they both swear we don't have to. I want to carry on our tradition of filling three Operation Christmas Child boxes, and filling one shopping cart with Christmas feast food to donate to a local women's home. I want to buy some bees from Heifer, and make sure each of our children buy one small, thoughtful gift for their siblings.
I don't want a thing. Well, that's not true. I want hundreds of things, but I don't want anything from my husband for Christmas, except a nice set of fancy sheets for the two of us.