Forget Holiday Gifts. Give Me A Lump Sum.

The Lump Sum was the best decision we’ve ever made as a couple.

Photos via Librestock.

Last year, I was planning a trip to Halloween Horror Nights and wondering how I was going to pay bills at the same time. Ah, the freelancer mambo.

Boyfriend: “You want me to help out?”

Me: “No. I am a financially independent adult, thank you very much.”

Boyfriend: “But I want to. Consider it a gift.”

Me: “A gift, you say?”

Thus began the best financial experiment I’ve ever conducted: The Holiday Lump Sum.

There are very few things in life I hate. One of them is gift shopping. Don’t get me wrong; I love buying gifts for people and thinking about what they might like. But the joy of this is immediately gone whenever I have to do it for a dozen people consecutively.

There’s no guarantee that they’ll like what you get them, too. It’s playing Russian roulette with your wallet. Your wallet and everyone’s emotions.

Add to this that I’m also a terrible person to shop for. I’m a diehard minimalist, which means any gift I receive has a 50/50 chance of being sold so that I can throw the money into the fiery pit that is my student loan debt. At that moment in time, I would have rather gone to Halloween Horror Nights without financial stress than any pile of books or digital cameras I would have received that year. I’m a real hoot.

So we crunched the numbers and settled it. For $666, my boyfriend would be off the hook for giving me presents for seven holidays: Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, our anniversary, my birthday, another Christmas, and another Valentine’s Day. All bought and paid for.

The number was completely arbitrary. It was Halloween, after all. Why not pick a spooky number? But it averaged out to about $90 per holiday.

That’s not always the dollar amount we spend on each other for holidays, but factoring in the labor of searching for the perfect gift it felt just right. (I’ve spent hours finding the right gift for a professional client that ended up being $25.)

The Lump Sum was the best decision we’ve ever made as a couple.

I went to Halloween Horror Nights and had an absolute ball. As the year progressed, I didn’t miss the ritual of receiving presents one bit.

The Lump Sum had truly felt like enough, at the time and later. It was an acknowledgement that only I knew what I truly wanted. It was permission to do whatever I wanted, with my significant other’s blessing. We plan to continue it once the “leasing” of this amount runs out.

Is this unromantic? Of course. But it’s an acknowledgement of the financial differences between my boyfriend and I. He works a conventional job, and has consistent money coming in. I freelance and have to hustle on the regular. I love it, but I can work with a conventional billing structure more easily than a huge payoff. Neither of us can imagine doing the other’s job. We each marvel at the other’s schedule.

No one tells you that when gifts are out of the picture, holidays actually become more enjoyable. Valentine’s Day becomes about spending time together than about “topping last year,” a phrase that now disgusts me. I now understand why, according to David Sedaris, Europeans don’t go crazy over presents every Christmas. That time of year is crazy enough. I’d rather focus on going to parties, watching movies and travel than hunching over a calculator wondering how on earth I’m going to afford buying presents for everyone. I’d rather be one and done.

If budgeting permits, I’ll be taking the Lump Sum approach this in my boyfriend’s direction this year. Maybe even for a few family members, too. I’m over giving gifts at this point. The feeling of helping the people in my life get exactly what they want is more exciting to me than the hunt to find out what they want.

I don’t recommend the Lump Sum approach to everyone. For it to work, you have to love money more than tradition. Though that may be more of us than we care to admit.

Brit McGinnis is a copywriter and author of several books. Her work has appeared on XOJane, SparkNotes and anywhere fine stories are sold. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

Support The Billfold

The Billfold continues to exist thanks to support from our readers. Help us continue to do our work by making a monthly pledge on Patreon or a one-time-only contribution through PayPal.