Husband vs. Wife: Give Gifts or Get Them?


Lori and Marek Fuchs have never fought in their 16 years of marriage — except over money. In this column, Mr. and Mrs. Fuchs, a real-life married couple with three kids (ages 12, 8 and 5), articulate their very different approaches to personal finance.

This week, the Fuchs talk about doing charity for the holidays instead of giving gifts. He claims it’ll teach a lesson and save a buck. She thinks he is letting his cheapness show and going overboard. Who will win?

Mr. Fuchs: I have a great plan for holiday gift-giving for the kids.

Mrs. Fuchs: Uh-oh.

Mr. Fuchs: Seriously, it’ll merge money and morals. No gifts this year. Instead, we’ll perform good deeds with the kids. Go work at a soup kitchen. Wrap presents for the poor. Dig a well for a village with our own hands. The upshot is we’ll help others out while teaching our kids that you can have a good, more meaningful holiday without busting your own budget. Plus, we’ll save money. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving...

Mrs. Fuchs: Are you trying to make our kids hate us?

Mr. Fuchs: I’m just trying to teach them to value the dollar. And to think of the holidays as more than a bender of gifts.

Mrs. Fuchs: While there is value in the idea — if a bit of self-interest, Mr. Cheapo, don’t you think that a no-gift-at-all edict is a bit over-the-top and, well, how should I put it, MEAN?

Mr. Fuchs: But how do you combat the over-the-top consumerism of the holiday season and teach financial responsibility without going a bit over-the-top?

Mrs. Fuchs: Why do I always have to remind you about moderation? If we get them a few items that they really want —

Mr. Fuchs: Moderation? Isn’t that a tool of the devil? In all seriousness, this is a season of opulent excess. How do you fight back — especially when it comes to kids, who you don’t want to grow up materialistic and entitled — unless...

Mrs. Fuchs: If you deny the kids everything they want and only give to others, this is going to be the season of resentment and rage. If all we do is preach self-denial, we’ll get a backlash of the gimmes. They are kids, not monks. Don’t you think that if we give them a few things that are meaningful to them, then go out and perform some charity as a family (that means you too, Mr. Do-Good), we’ll make the point without beating it to death?

Mr. Fuchs: And I’ll save some money, if not quite as much as I’d want. Eh, I guess it's just holiday, not heaven. I should lower my expectations.

Mrs. Fuchs: And open your wallet — at least a bit. But cutting down on gifts and mixing in charity at a homeless shelter, the local ambulance core and the nearest ASPCA might just get us closer to heaven.

Mr. Fuchs: These days, teaching kids that getting isn’t everything and saving a few bucks along the way is heaven enough.

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