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.

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.

If you liked this article you might like

Energy Audits: Wasteful or Worth It?

Energy Audits: Wasteful or Worth It?

Husband vs. Wife: The Season of Found Money

Husband vs. Wife: The Season of Found Money

Recession Question: Tell the Kids?

Recession Question: Tell the Kids?

Home Inventory: From Insurance to Insulation

Home Inventory: From Insurance to Insulation

Marriage-Saving Money Tips: The Worst of '09

Marriage-Saving Money Tips: The Worst of '09