My husband didn’t buy me a Christmas gift

My husband didn’t buy me a Christmas gift

Yup, you read that right – my husband didn’t buy me a Christmas gift.

You must be wondering why… I mean, it’s our first Christmas as husband and wife! Did he forget it was Christmas? Is he mad at me about something? Are we okay?????

Yes, don’t fret – everything’s okay! But, I’ve got to admit something, too – I didn’t buy my husband a Christmas gift, either.

*cue gasps*

Yes, it’s true – my husband and I didn’t buy Christmas gifts for each other.

Did we forget about Christmas? Nope, not a chance. As Catholics, we are very, very aware of when Christmas is.

Are we broke? – Eh… debatable. Yes, we’re in debt, but we made sure to include gift-giving for our families/close friends in our budget this year. Just not gift-giving to each other.

So, what’s the deal? As we were planning out our budget for the holiday season, we knew that we wanted to reign in the spending a little bit.

A new approach to Christmas gifts

As we went down our Christmas list, we knew a) we didn’t want to give up gift-giving altogether, and b) we didn’t want to spend an arm and a leg on the people we love. Not to say that our loved ones aren’t worth it! But we figured our friends/family would be upset if they knew that our gifts put us in a tight financial spot.

We started off as we normally do, by deciding on some spending limits for each person on our list. What we did differently this year was we didn’t treat these spending limits as “must-spend” numbers. If we found a fitting, practical gift for a particular person and it was under their spending “limit”, we didn’t go searching for any add-ons to make up the difference.

This is the complete opposite of how I would gift in seasons past. Before, we would spend all the way to the limit. For example, if my budget for a person was $50, I would find something s/he may really enjoy for $20, but I wouldn’t stop there. I would still find $30 worth of random gifts that were just plain fluff to make up for the difference.

This kind of gifting was focused solely on the dollar amount. This year, we wanted to shift away from the dollar amount and focus more on practical gifts the receiver will actually enjoy. If that meant spending less than what we originally allotted to their gift, then so be it! We really wanted to focus on meaningful gifting, not just gifting useless gifts for the sake of spending that money.

The popular Christmas gift mindset

As we were shopping for others with this new mindset, we eventually asked what the other wanted for Christmas (might I add, people were asking us first what we were getting each other before we even asked ourselves). Not that we weren’t on each others’ Christmas lists – we were!

I think we just found ourselves at a turning point. In years past, we would gift nice holiday things you’re supposed to give your significant other, like chocolate, purses, electronics, jewelry, etc. Fuzzy holiday commercials will tell you that all your wife wants is a new bracelet or necklace. And ads on buses and billboards will tell you that your husband would love that shiny new watch for Christmas.

Usually, we would fall for these tactics. It wasn’t long ago when I absolutely loved the Coach purse he got me years ago. And it wasn’t long ago when he gladly received a Playstation 4 (3? I don’t remember now…) for an engagement gift.

But this year was different. Maybe it’s the mutual debt we’re in. But I like to think that our new focus on gifting more meaningful gifts has something to do with it, too.

That’s it – no Christmas gifts for each other

As we started talking about what we wanted for Christmas, we began to realize that we didn’t want much. Sure, there are things that would be nice to have. But Juan and I are usually pretty good about buying these things on our own time (if it’s in the budget, of course ūüėČ)

Sure, there’s all the holiday fluff out in stores right now. Holiday themed candies, clothing, etc. But those are things we just don’t really want. They’re cute and all, but there’s no real purpose for those things in our lives.

Once we realized we both didn’t really want anything for Christmas, we both just looked at each other and said, “no gifts for each other this year?” And we both happily agreed.¬†Great minds, right?

As we both were very happy about this decision, others in our lives were taken aback. What do you mean no gifts? Is he lying to you?? Is this a trap???

No – he’s not lying! I know this because we’ve combined our finances now and I know whether he’s spending on something not agreed upon ūüėČ And no – it’s not a trap! We both legitimately don’t feel the need to get a Christmas present for each other this year.

Maybe it’ll change next year, maybe it’ll never change. But it’s something we both feel is right at this moment in our lives. There’s something empowering about going against the grain and realizing that although a Christmas gift would be nice, we don’t really need it.

A more meaningful Christmas gift

For me, I’m taking this new “no Christmas gift” rule and taking it a step further. Instead of buying a physical Christmas gift for my husband, I’m going to focus on being present with my husband – not just on Christmas, but all the time.

A purposeful gift is a great thing to give. But what is more meaningful is time and full attention with your loved ones. Once those things are given on a consistent basis through out the year, the want for a Christmas gift goes away. Instead, my husband and I can now focus on what Christmas really is about РJesus Christ coming to us a gift from God and celebrating that with those we love.

What do you focus on when you give gifts? Have you and your significant other agreed on no-gifts before?


Giving to the Homeless

I’ve said it time and time again – giving is an important part of my finances.

However, giving to the homeless is where it gets tricky for me. I admit, I was a bit sheltered growing up. Growing up in the nicer part of town and attending private school my entire life meant that I rarely saw homeless people, and whenever I did I was told to avert my eyes and to not engage.

When I first started living in San Francisco, homeless people became a usual sight to see. They wander the streets, gather in public parks, sleep by the entrances of BART stations, you get the picture.

I guess you can say it was a culture shock. From growing up, learning to not engage and not even look at homeless people to seeing them pretty much on every street was quite the change.

I’ve had my fair share of homeless people/beggars approaching me, asking me for food/money. Some look well-dressed, others not so much. Some are sober and well-spoken, others are drunken and can barely hold themselves up.

One thing is for sure: not everyone who is homeless fits into the “homeless” stereotype.

A struggling young man

A few years ago, when I first started college, my friend and I were walking the streets of San Francisco at night¬†(I honestly forgot why) when a guy approached us.¬†He started off by asking us for a minute of our time.¬†At first, I reverted to what I was told to do when I was younger – don’t look and don’t engage. However, what this guy had to say caught my attention.

After quick introductions, he got right into it – he was a struggling young man, trying to find a way home. He had lost everything, but he wasn’t asking us for money. He wasn’t even asking us for food. He was asking us to buy him some shampoo and soap so he can take a proper shower, which was something he hasn’t done in a long time. He said¬†he was staying at a local shelter temporarily, but they never had enough shampoo/soap¬†since the shelter was always full and crowded.

He went on, “I know how skeptic people can be when they’re being asked of their money. I know, I’ve been there. But this way, you know exactly where your money is going, you don’t have to worry if I’m just going to waste it on alcohol or anything like that. All I want is to feel clean for once, and to share with the other guys at the shelter.”

This guy was around our age, so he ended up being really easy to talk to – very relatable. Basically, he was trying to find his place in life. He wasn’t bitter about his situation. Instead, when we kept saying we were “sorry” for him, he told us not to be and simply stated that “everyone starts somewhere”.

A proper shower was something I took for granted. It was eye opening to see this man, who wasn’t too much older than me, begging on the street just for some shampoo. My friend and I went into the nearest Walgreens, grabbed him some soap and shampoo, and tossed a $20 bill into the bag before handing it to him and wishing him luck/our prayers.

When is it appropriate to give?

That situation completely changed my viewpoint on giving to the homeless.¬†I was taught to not even look at the homeless, let alone think about giving anything.¬†Yes, I was sheltered.¬†However, that doesn’t mean it’s okay to give in all cases.

Personally, I don’t give if they’re clearly disrespectful. I lived a few blocks from Haight street in San Francisco, which is basically known for having a lot of drunk homeless people around. I’ve been approached by too many people who were drunk out of their minds and called me and my friends inappropriate names before having the nerve to ask for money or booze (mostly booze).

On the flip side, if you feel like the person who is asking for help is being sincere and respectful, it is safe to give. Like the situation I mentioned above, the guy who approached me and my friend was super respectful and humble.

Basically,¬†follow your gut. If you don’t feel comfortable at all, then don’t give. Simply walk away and say “Sorry, I don’t have anything”.

What if you do feel comfortable giving? How can you help the homeless?

What you can give

From my experience, the number one thing I have been asked to give was money. If I’m walking out of a store, sometimes I’ll drop off my change to the nearest homeless guy on the block.

However, I personally prefer to give food. If I have leftovers that I probably won’t touch after, I’ll hand it to the next homeless person I see on the street. Sometimes, I grab an extra granola bar from work to hand to the guy who is always sitting right outside my BART station. Money is nice and all, but food sustains you.

But what if I don’t have any food or money? My friend used to work with a lot of homeless people in his line of work, and he told me that the best thing you can do is¬†look at them and smile. Being homeless does a number on one’s self confidence, and being ignored by many¬†people passing by has unfortunately become a usual part of their life. Offering someone a look and a smile shows that you acknowledge their presence, which can do wonders for someone’s day.

What do you think? Do you give to the homeless?


The Importance of Giving

If you recall from my most recent net worth update, I planned on beginning my tithe to my parish this month. In fact, tithing was really high up on my financial goals (number 4 to be exact). Well, I finally began my weekly donations yesterday! For those who don’t know, to tithe means to pay one tenth (or 10%) of your income to an organization – usually a church or other religious organization.

Four goals down!! Yay!!

Now, you’re probably wondering why tithing is such a priority to me. Why isn’t paying off my student loans or my car loan ¬†more important than giving to my church? Why give 10% when I can spend that 10% on clothes, food, entertainment?

Well, for me, giving is the number one reason why I want to be rich.

I want to be rich because I want to make sure that my money is going to the right places. And for me, that’s my parish. I can go on and on about how my parish plays a huge part in who I am, but I’ll save that for another day ūüôā But for right now, I want to share why the act of giving¬†– even if it’s not to a church – is so important and why we all¬†should give.

Now, chances are that if you’re able to read this (whether on a desktop, laptop, or mobile device), you are blessed. You most likely have a roof over your head, you have a nice hot meal 3 times a day, and/or you might have a $20 bill in your wallet at the moment. Every day you wake up, have a nice hot shower, try to decide what to wear out of all the clothes in your closet, go to work to earn a living, and drive back home in your car. You may be in consumer debt, you might owe thousands on your student loans or car loans, and you might be underwater on your mortgage, but the truth is you’re getting by.

Many people in the U.S. and all around the world struggle to even eat one meal a day. They walk around with no shoes, trying to earn a decent wage, but get treated terribly at their places of work – if they even have a job.

The truth is I’m not a millionaire, not even close. And you most likely aren’t one, either. But whether you’re a fellow thousandaire, millionaire, or even billionaire, you have a whole lot more than the majority of people in this world.

Many people believe that money is power. And to all my Spiderman fans out there, I’m thinking of the famous quote from Uncle Ben, “with great power comes great responsibility“. We have power (money) and now we have a responsibility to each other, especially to those who don’t have access to the things we take for granted – running water, food, work, etc.

And to all my Jesus fans out there – the above saying is only a variation of His words “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” (Luke 12:48)

So yes, I’m in tons of debt. Yes, my emergency fund is only at $1,000. But compared with many people all over the world, I’m blessed and I’m called to share what is my own. And so are you.