Should I have bought my wife a Christmas Present?
Well yes of course, and that's exactly what my heart said.
My head, however, was full of facts.
We're both doing okay. We have enough stuff, and isn't Christmas a time for giving to those less fortunate? Even if it isn't officially, it feels like it should be. There are so many people who need presents more than I do, or she does.
What I'd really like to do is give her a present and not have to deal with the stress of getting anything in return. Unwrapping it, pretending I like it, then making an effort to use it is all too much stress for me.
Much better to give something, and leave the other person to deal with the stress of pretending that they like it, need it and have a use for it.
So I definitely want to get her a present, but I don't want one back.
If I get her something though, she'll want to give me one in return, because that's how presents work.
I suppose it's one of those situations that I just have to put up with. Similar to the whole pretending you're interested in other people's conversation at dinner parties, then watching as they pretend to be interested in me, while the whole time we're all hoping and waiting that someone will interrupt with a story about how they humiliated themselves in public. Or they will humiliate themselves right there at dinner, thus providing both amazing entertainment and a great story for the next dinner party.
With presents, it's also tempting to opt for the whole charity gift thing. Which is the perfect example of something that your head says is a spectacular idea, and your heart says is oh so wrong.
Here, I bought you some school supplies for a bunch of kids in Uzbekistan. Enjoy.
A few years ago I was temping in an office, and instead of getting everyone a gift, the boss bought cows for African villages.
We all knew they needed cows more than we needed a cheap bottle of wine, but we all still thought it was a dick move.
At a bar afterwards we all complained about how tight he was, then later complained about how shallow we all were for not caring more about villages in Africa than we did about ourselves.
This Christmas was the first with my new wife, and one of the toughest because whatever happened this year, it was going to set up the precedent for years to come.
So what did I do? I went with the option that I'm quickly finding out is always the best - you do both, so you can't get it wrong.
So I adopted an elephant for her, provided school supplies for some Indian children, and bought her earrings made from guilt-free precious stones.
Then I realized the only real reason I wanted to do one or the other but not both - to save money. After the money was gone though, I didn't miss it and so what if it's dumplings and soup for lunch every day for the next month? At least I didn't mess up Christmas.
By the way, I did some research into the whole wanting to give presents but not receive them thing, and it turns out there's some psychological reasoning and science behind it.
Studies have shown that our money can buy us happiness, and that it comes in three very different amounts.
Level one delivers the smallest amount of happiness, and comes with spending our money on things for ourselves.
Level two is a medium level of happiness, and is reached by using our money for experiences. Traveling, eating out, going to a show, you get the idea, and is improved if we pay for others as well. Instead of purchasing things, you're purchasing memories. Level two is also proves why sharing Christmas with friends and family is more important than the gifts you bring. Meaning that our presence, is more important than the presents.
Level three is the highest level of happiness that our money can get us, and it is only attained by spending it on someone else. That's right, money can buy happiness, but only if we spend it on anyone but ourselves.
Now I know this runs contrary to everything we're told by advertising and capitalism and brand names and the rest of it, but who are you going to believe? Scientists, or the people trying to sell you stuff?
We do feel good after buying stuff for ourselves, there's no denying it, but be honest - those feelings are fleeting, aren't they? Spend your money on someone else though, and that's a feeling that really lasts.
Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian.