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Today I am proud to present a guest post by Brock, who writes at Clever Dude, one of my favorite personal finance blogs. Brock has done a great job of writing about clever ways to save, spend, and budget, all while keeping a personal spin on his topics.  I hope you enjoy his post.

If you haven't seen one yet, I'm sure they'll be popping up during commercial breaks everywhere before you know it.  You know what I mean, those commercials where a person opens their front door to find a luxury SUV sitting in their driveway with a big red bow draped across the hood.  Or how about the scene where a woman holds a hand over her mouth in complete surprise as she opens a jewelry box to find a ring with a diamond big enough to use as a piece of sidewalk chalk?

Do these things really happen?

If I were the receiver of one of those gifts I would be absolutely livid because there's only a couple of ways that such a gift could have been paid for:

  • The giver just committed them to a hefty monthly payment for a significant amount of time.
  • The giver paid cash and drained a huge amount from the couple's savings
  • The giver somehow accumulated and hid a large amount of money

The realization of any of these scenarios would ruin any made for commercial moment, don't you think?

Couples who do their finances together, such as my wife and I, have to find an alternate way to accomplish holiday gift giving. We agree to a limit as to how much we can spend on each other for Christmas presents based upon our budget and the funds we have available.  It's never a huge sum of money, last year it was $100.  For us it's not about the amount of money spent, it's about how creatively we can use the amount designated.

Here's what my wife had waiting for her under the tree last year:

Electric blanket:  She LOVES to snuggle up under a blanket while watching TV.  She used to have one of these years ago, but it broke.  She mentioned on in passing on a cold November evening, so I picked one up for about $25.

Cooling Pillow:  We were walking through Costco and she saw a pillow that claimed to stay cool as you used it.  She thought it was the “coolest” thing ever.  I went back and got one for $20.

Head Phones:  Just prior to Thanksgiving we switched cell phone carriers and she got her iPhone.  She put her music library on it (she had an iPod touch previously) and began taking it to the gym.  She talks on her phone a lot while on the treadmill, so I bought her a new set of headphones with a built in microphone for $20.

Earrings:  My wife's Jewelry box is a complete disaster area.  I'm constantly untangling necklaces and looking for earring matches.  She eventually concluded she had lost the mate to her favorite medium sized hoop earrings.  A new pair added about $15 to the total.

mb-201311giftsThe rest of my funds were spent on little trinkets and her favorite chocolate to go into her stocking.

My gifts weren't as mindblowing as a brand new SUV parked in the driveway.  They weren't as romantic as a sparkling new diamond.  But they were things my wife wanted, AND the best part was that she had no idea that I had really noticed she had these things on her wish list.

Have YOU ever had a commercial worthy gift opening moment? How do you and your significant other handle holiday gift exchanges?

Editors Note: I agree 100% with Brock, and the ones that make me really shake my head are the ‘brand new car' gift commercials.  You know that most people who buy a car for a gift can afford a down payment at best, so it's likely a gift that comes with years of car payments.  No thanks!