There's no easy answer: how much you should spend on your partner for the holidays depends on the stage you are in in your relationship. This is a tricky area because there are so many unknowns. We don't want to commit a gifting faux pas, be viewed as cheap or as extravagant, scaring him away or making him feel like a cheapskate. So... Rolls Royce or movie tickets?
It doesn't have to be that cut and dry. Everybody wants to be "known", whether they actually put language to it or not. Being thoughtful is one way to say to someone, "I know you." Everybody wants to feel special, and paying attention to details is the most profound form of love. You can treat your partner with love and respect by showing him that you notice the little details with gifts that mean a lot. But how does that translate into cost?
It's a little like playing detective when you are first dating someone: What do they like? What are their hobbies? What will make them laugh? Once you have those answers, getting a meaningful gift will be easier. No one has ever complained they got a thoughtful gift and it was only $14.99 instead of $149.00.
Gift giving in the "just-met-and-dating" category should be fun, light and clever, and not over $35. It need not be seriously personal. Think a gift card in a category he loves (coffee, movie tickets, golf balls, car racing miniatures, exotic chocolate, subscription to a magazine, lift tickets for skiing, a home made CD of his favorite songs, miniature bottles of hot sauce from around the world or tickets for go-kart racing so the two of you can do it together). You don't want to come on too strong, because that will put unnecessary pressure on both of you.
In the next stage, you've become more familiar, more intimate. The rules of thoughtfulness never change but the gifts can be more personal, and you can spend more money without seeming inappropriate. If you have become exclusive and you think he might be the "one", then the gift I always loved giving was "the coupon book". Yep, wash-the-car coupon, clean-the-golf-clubs coupon, handmaiden-for-a-day coupon, massage coupons, and, of course, sex coupon. These coupons (that may also come with sexy lingerie for you!) will keep his imagination cooking. The spending limit here is around $100. In this category, you can get him a few things and wrap them beautifully and individually... it's way more fun to open several things and a tidy gift wrapping job says that you took the time and care to do a good job.
The next stage — engaged, or looking like marriage is in the air — is exciting, too. If you've decided he is the one, but he has not exactly asked you quite yet, I'd recommend keeping the gift giving aligned with the rules of "dating and serious". Keep him tap dancing. After he's proposed you can spend more, and, by the way, this is a great time to start talking about your finances as a couple in general, and setting the limits for gift-giving.
One word of caution? Stay away form the proverbial tie unless he really, really loves ties. Underwear, unless it's sexy, is something his Mother can give him.
Stay on the clever road, don't overspend, and most of all, enjoy showing your beau how much you care!
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