Don’t Penny Pinch the Romance Out of Your Marriage

by E. E. Kane
Don't Penny Pinch Romance Out of Marriage photo

If you are frugal, gift giving, as well as receiving, can be a source of frustration for you. But you don’t want your penny-pinching attitude to harm your relationship with your spouse. Learn how gift giving can fit into the frugal marriage.

A friend stopped by the other day and mentioned it was their anniversary. I asked if they were going out to celebrate, and she waved her hand as if ridding the air of a pesky bee. “It’s just another day,” she laughed. She mentioned a card her husband had left on the table that morning, and fussed about the money he spent on a piece of paper. I smiled and nodded, but I was dumbstruck. I used to be like her in my thoughts about gift giving, and it was a very lonely place to be.

Flowers, for instance, were a heartbreaking waste of money. My friend echoed these thoughts as well. “Fifty dollars for flowers that were just going to die in a few days! Think what I could have done with that money.” I couldn’t help but agree; cut flowers are beautiful, but when a family doesn’t have money for extravagance, a girl wants something that will last longer. My view on cut flowers hasn’t changed much per se, but as a lifelong spendthrift, I’ve mellowed a little toward extravagant gifts.

The Discussion You Probably Haven’t Had with Your Spouse

Every frugal spouse should have this discussion with his or her mate, especially if gift giving is causing frustration in the marriage. Gift giving should be present in a healthy relationship, but it doesn’t have to follow tradition.

Cutting the gifts to each other for a season might be necessary, but it’s not good to adopt this “it’s just another day” attitude long term. If that’s what you are hearing from your spouse, don’t believe it. Investigate!

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The Four Sides of Gift-Giving in Marriage

There are four sides to gift giving in a marriage. Each partner is blessed in some way by the act of giving and receiving. One may care more about the giving than receiving; my husband is like that. He claims he doesn’t need gifts to feel loved, but takes particular delight in surprising me.

I adore receiving gifts, but if I continually harped about the money he spent on me, that would effectively pop his gift-giving joy bubble. My husband is frugal, but he makes the exception for us, gallantly abstaining from spending on his hobby (acquiring expensive guns and knives), which he claims he’d rather choose himself anyway.

If I took his word for it and quit spending money buying him “love” gifts, I’d be missing a very important boat. He may be sincere about not needing tokens, but I’ve seen how his face lights up when I bake something just for him. Lemon pie goes straight to his heart, every time.

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Flash back to a couple, married about ten years, living on a foreign island and saturated with culture shock. My birthday arrived and my gift was a dozen red roses. I cried. Then I had to explain my behavior.

It didn’t go over very well.

He had driven all over town searching for something, anything, because most of the shops were closed that day. In my selfish, heartbroken soul, that argument didn’t appease my hurt very much. He could have shopped a little earlier. He could have put some thought into it. The most crushing thought was not that he spent money on flowers that would die, but that after all of those years, he still didn’t know me. It was a pivotal moment in a marriage that later fell apart.

If you are the frugal spouse, don’t wave gift giving away. Talk about it, be gracious, and count your blessings when you are truly cherished.

Reviewed June 2022

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