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Holiday Money & Finances

How to Combine Gifts for Multiple Occasions

If a bunch of important occasions in a loved one’s life happen within a few days of each other, getting an individual gift for each would be really annoying.

We see it all the time. First it’s a Christmas present. Two weeks later it’s your spouse’s birthday. A week after that, it’s the anniversary of your first date. And before you know it, it’s Valentine’s Day. That’s four different occurrences in a span of only 45 or so days, and you’re expected to come through with a separate jaw-dropping gift for each one. No offense, but you’re probably not thoughtful enough to come up with something really unique that symbolizes your love for someone that many times in such a short span of time. Why not just give one larger or more expensive gift that could cover all of the occasions? Can it really be done without upsetting the other person?

An example of giving one gift for three occasions

Despite having been married for 14 years, Jim had no clue what to get his wife for her birthday. To make matters worse, Mother’s Day was right around the corner, followed by the anniversary of their first date. He can’t usually come up with one good gift, let alone three in a span of a few weeks.

Finally, after searching high and low, Jim discovered one of Anna’s favorite music artists, Bon Jovi, was coming to town in a few months. If he could score really good seats, the cost would no doubt cover what he would have spent on three normal gifts.

On Anna’s birthday, Jim presented her with the tickets, enclosed in a thoughtful card. “Oh my God, Jim, these are 11th row floor seats! I can’t wait!” Of course, the concert wasn’t for six months, so there was really nothing for her to enjoy at the moment, but that was fine. The excitement of the upcoming concert was enough.

Ten days later was Mother’s Day. Jim normally would buy a couple things and say they were from their young children. Not this year. “Well, honey, the kids and I kinda figured the Bon Jovi tickets were such an extravagant gift that they’d be sufficient for both your birthday and Mother’s Day. They were $187.50 per seat, plus all those bullshit Ticketmaster service fees.” Anna was a good sport about it, but Jim sensed a little disappointment.

Did these tickets have any mileage left in them? He was about to find out, because six short days later was the big dating anniversary.

After the anniversary dinner, Anna unveiled her very thoughtful gift of a custom-made wooden beer cap map of the country for Jim. Jim, on the other hand, again noted the Bon Jovi tickets. “Again, babe, you know… I just thought that the concert tickets would kinda cover all the bases here, what with so many special days in a row and all.”

Though she felt a little unappreciated, Anna didn’t make a public fuss about it. After all, the tickets were expensive, and yes, there were a lot of special dates that fell in pretty tight sequence. She wasn’t really sure what she was hoping to receive, but it was clear she was hoping for some sort of acknowledgment on each of the three days.

Jim also sensed that his method of gifting one item for three occasions could have been a little smoother. Perhaps he should have announced upfront that this gift was going to cover all three occasions, or maybe he could have saved the tickets for the last event to let it build up over time.

In the end, though, the two went to the Bon Jovi concert that fall and honestly, they both had forgotten what the occasion for the tickets was in the first place.

How to pull off the old one-gift-for-three-things

  • Most importantly, the important occasions do in fact need to fall fairly closely together. A rough guide might be two events in a span of a few weeks, three events in two months, or four events in three months.
  • Second most importantly, the gift really does need to have some sort of “wow” factor that can justify skipping gifts for one or more events. Such gifts may include luxuries like jewelry, event tickets, a vacation, or perhaps even a car; a homemade gift like an oil painting or handcrafted cabinet that is taking you every spare minute of your free time for months; or something useful for your home like a new refrigerator or air conditioner.
  • You may want to test the waters before actually moving forward with the plan. “Honey, what would you say if I combined your birthday, Christmas, and anniversary gifts into one? I have something really extravagant.” If she says no, abort!
  • You need to decide which of the occasions to present the gift. If you give it up-front, you’re risking it being old news by the end. If you give it at the end, you’re risking overselling it. “Oh. Tickets to the ballet. I was kinda expecting, like, a car or something.”
  • You might consider supplementing the other occasions with small gifts, just to ease any potential disappointment. “I know I said the Maui trip was for all six occasions, but here’s a board game I thought you’d like.”
  • Perhaps include yourself in the multi-occasion gift. Not only could a new pony be just your significant other’s gift, but throw yourself in there too. “I figured this would be our Christmas and anniversary presents to ourselves since it cost $3900.” He or she is now off the hook for getting you anything for these occasions as well, creating less guilt on your end.
  • Giving one gift for multiple holidays is also great for the forgetful individual. Several less things to remember!
  • You might also look at the situation in reverse… if you drop an exorbitant amount of money on a gift for a single holiday and later realize how over-the-top it was, you could then decide to use the “this covers multiples occasions” line.

What about you? Have you ever rolled several holidays together and presented someone with a single gift? Share it in the comments and it just may be read on the How To Do That podcast!

My Hot Take

In theory I think I’d like to use this tactic more often, but I’ve never even been able to think of that one good big gift that could potentially cover several occasions, nor have I necessarily had the funds available to get that one big thing.

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