Picking out gifts is one of my favorite things. And really the only child in my life is my 2-year-old nephew, who I’m obsessed with. I love this little guy and wish I had the money to shower him in squeaky toys, stuffed animals and adorable designer shoes. Before his 2nd birthday party, I stopped at a kids store, one of the nice ones with wooden stoves and intricately painted pretend food. I saw so many things I wanted to get him. I could picture us playing with a dollhouse and giggling about shiny, pop-up storybooks. Oh the fun we’d have, bonding over all the stuff I bought him.
Shopping for him was exciting and addictive, a lot like shopping for myself. I’ve accumulated thousands of dollars in credit card debt from self-gifting. Knowing those bills were waiting on me at home made it tough for me to justify buying more stuff, even if it was for my precious nephew.
I left the store without a gift, and arrived at his two-year bash empty-handed. Ashamed, I sat on my hands during the present-opening and felt a pang of regret when his face lit up at a new train set. I wished that I was the one who had gotten it for him, this beloved new treasure that would surely bring him endless hours of entertainment and perhaps even plant the seeds for a career as a conductor. Then, an amazing thing happened: my young nephew put the gift box on his head like a hat and danced around with equal delight. That’s when I decided that this gift-free approach would be my new norm.
I will not buy him presents: not for his birthdays, not for Christmas, not just because. Buying stuff didn’t make me happy. And I’m willing to guess that me buying him stuff won’t make either of us happy. Instead, I’ve named a savings account for him and after that party, I made the first deposit. Last week when I was tempted by the cutest pint-sized puffy vest, I made another. On my limited budget, I’d rather play the long game with that money than buy something he might love for a minute…or might not.
I’m saving for him instead of spending on him, something I’ve never done for myself. I look forward to one day transferring the account to him. Until then, I’ll remain the only one at the party sitting on my hands, but no longer ashamed.
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