This was how we rolled for the last few years since our incomes began to rise after college/university. We would talk about trying to keep spending under control for the occasion, but that was really just a means to make the 'surprise' even better. Under promise over deliver! We started YNAB last year after both of our birthdays were over, and we decided to budget $100 each for our birthday spend. That $100 was supposed to included dinner out for 2 as well.
So my wife's birthday rolls around, dinner out will be about $50 so I have $50 to spend. $50 doesn't get me to the benchmark for last year, not even close. Already I'm feeling like blowing the top off this thing and buying some kind of techno gadget or other extravagance to one up my last years performance. Instead, I remember how she likes lots of little things. At Christmas she really like opening the stocking and unwrapping the little gifts. I don't know why because they are always crap - chocolate bar, pack of gum, magazine .... I once got twine. We give each other wish lists, but with a $100 cap on birthday spending (including dining out) and the newly minted view of our money as a limited resource, the lists seemed more like shopping lists for items no one wanted to buy using their 'spending money' or for items where we ran out of planned money in that category. Garden shovel, garden gloves, garden hose quick disconnect for the wife; BBQ brush, socks, staple gun/hammer for me.
So this year went well for budgeted gifts. I was under in gifts and over in dinning out but by a small margin, and for my birthday she was over in gifts and under in dining out. I count this as win, a new benchmark has been set and this one is much more healthy for us in the long run. We both had let our coworkers in on our birthday plans, presents ect for our spouses. So while the coworkers got a kick out of the lists - "Who asks for 'that' for a Birthday Present"? They did like the imposed spending limit as they often find they spend too much money trying to impress each other, and then pay the price later either incurring debt or reducing cash flow for something else they wanted.
Some overspending 'gift' items of past - all unbudgeted and funded with CC:
iPod Touch with the most memory you could get x2
42" Flat screen TV
Extravagant or costly gifts only detract from funds that could be used elsewhere, and these gifts ^^^ were for the most part under appreciated. Perhaps once we get caught up we will plan for larger expenditures on gifts, but right now we have other plans for our money.
- X-box was sold
X-box 360 hasn't been used in 19+ months (should probably sell it but its the only thing that can play DVD's on our TV currently)
iPod touch's are only used on the occasional car trip & flights instead of carrying CD's.
TV? We don't have cable, in 10+ years we have probably had cable for ~2 years total.
Mountain bike - I washed it this year, does that count? I used it about a dozen times last year.