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A Holiday Dating Gift Guide: How Much Should You Spend on Presents?

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So, you’re looking through all those holiday shopping advertisements in the newspaper (just kidding, we know it’s on your phone) and you realize you have no idea what you should get bae for Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Winter Solstice/Festivus. Well, we can’t help you on that one (when in doubt, go Star Wars?), but we can tell you how much to spend on your significant other. Here’s a quick and simple guide. Obviously, if you’re flat broke or rolling in dough, these numbers won’t apply to you. If you happen to be the latter, feel free to send a little bit our way.

0 to 4 Months: Whatever you want
Let’s be honest, the first few months of a relationship are exciting, but they’re ultimately meaningless. Anyone can hide their flaws from a significant other for four months. So you probably don’t even know who you’re really dating yet. If you want to go all out and buy them an iPad Pro, go ahead and do that. But if you didn’t know them when it was too hot to comfortably go outside for more than an hour, they should be perfectly fine with something relatively cheap and heartfelt. Think: a book, an item of clothing, their favorite movie, one of the random obnoxious drinkware sets they have at a place like Urban Outfitters. You wouldn’t buy the super deluxe Blu-Ray pack of a movie just based on the trailer, would you?

5 to 8 Months: $100-150
This is the formative period of your relationship, and thus the hardest to give gifts during. You feel like you should know what they want by now, but you probably weren’t around them until well after last year’s holiday extravaganzas to see which gifts they actually liked (unless y’all were friends or something and now you’re dating). Go ahead and get them something nice but without breaking the bank. Find a small tech item, some jewelry, overpriced homegoods or clothing, that sort of thing. Also, don’t tell them upfront, but keep the receipt in case you can tell they really don’t like whatever you picked out for them. It’s only $100, but that’s still $100 you could spend on something they’d actually enjoy.

9 to 12 Months: $150-200
We commend anyone who begins a relationship toward the beginning of the year, because not only did you get out of spending a ridiculous amount on Valentine’s Day (as the cost of Valentine’s Day is directly connected to the length of a relationship until kids get involved), but you’ll be in a really good place by the time the holidays roll around. By this point, your friends and family have already realized that your significant other is for real (and not just some random fling), and they’re excited to have both of you at as many holiday gatherings as you can attend. If either of you gets excited by the holiday or red cups at Starbucks season, it’ll be even more magical to spend the first holiday with the new-ish boo. We’d recommend going with a few $50 to $100 priced items (see: the five to eight month ideas) unless there’s one more expensive thing you know they really want — like the Sphero BB-8 droid that everyone should want. If you put the effort in, you shouldn’t get chastised too heavily for picking the wrong gifts, since it is your first Christmas (or whatever you celebrate) together.

1 to 3 Years: $200-300
The two to three holiday seasons in this range are basically the danger zone of relationship gift-giving. A lot of free passes are given out for the first holiday season of a relationship, as you can make up for a terrible gift with a nice date or two. Unfortunately, two years in a row of poor present-picking isn’t nearly as forgivable, and it can put a serious crater in your blossoming relationship. Feel free to go above the price range to pick out the exact watch/fancy kitchen device/tablet/TV they want (an extra $100 is totally worth your significant other not hating you), but generally shoot for around the $200 mark on a bigger item. The main gift should either match up with their passions or be something they’ve specifically pointed out to you before, and use the rest of your budget to either get accessories for the big purchase or the random little things you’ve seen over the year that you think they might like.

3 to 5 Years - $300-500
At this point, if you don’t have an idea of what you want to get them by roughly Thanksgiving, you’ve fallen behind. After dating someone for three years, you should know what they’re into and therefore be able to pick out a pretty awesome gift for them. You also probably know their friends or family well enough to ask them for help, should you need it. Engagement rings make for expensive Christmas presents, but if you’re going to propose soon anyway, you can save some money on that iPad or whatever else you were going to buy.

5-Plus Years: Whatever they want
Seriously, you can figure things out on your own once you’ve been seeing someone for that long.

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