"Dear Expie" is a semi-weekly, anonymous column answering student questions on relationship troubles, family woes and more. This week, Expie answers questions about Christmas gift-giving.

If you’ve got a question for Expie, email ExponentOpinion@montana.edu. All submissions remain anonymous.


Dear Expie,

I started dating this guy right after Halloween. Since it’s only been a few months, am I supposed to get him a Christmas present? I don’t want to not get him one, and then feel bad if he hands me something. What do I do?

- Love and Other Gifts


Now that we’re deep in the throes of cuffing season, you might be finding yourself asking that age-old question: am I supposed to get my boo a Christmas present?

While cuffing season (thankfully) ends just after Valentine’s Day, Christmas is right in the middle. You’re still enjoying this person’s company (and cuddles), so you don’t want to break it off, but you’re not totally sure what you are as a couple and what kind of Christmas presents you’re expected to get, if any.

Well, there’s an easy, albeit sometimes awkward, solution: talk to them. That’s right, put the question out there as to whether or not you want to get each other presents and, if so, what price range and sentimentality you should expect. My suggestion? If you’re not serious, don’t bother with presents — gift-giving can be really meaningful to some people, and you don’t want to send a message that you’re more interested than you are if this is truly a temporary thing. If you can see things moving forward with this person, or even just really value them in a way that makes you want to express it with gifts, than set a price point. If you haven’t been dating long, don’t go over $25 for your gift — keep it simple, and take some of the pressure off yourself and the person you’re seeing.

Another really easy option is to gift each other an experience. Decide on going skiing together, taking each other out to dinner and then to the Christmas Stroll downtown or go see a show together at the Ellen. This makes it so that you have a really fun moment together, and eliminates another object you’d just have to get rid of if you’re not serious about this person and things don’t work out. If you are serious, this is even more perfect — you’re building memories together during quality couple time, and nobody in a committed relationship is ever going to say, “ugh, I just wish we’d spent less time together.”

Ultimately, though, it’s up to the two of you as a couple to decide what kind of Christmas expectations you have for each other. This also brings up a natural opportunity to define the relationship — while discussing price points and options, you can easily ask where you see this relationship going, and can get clear expectations out there if you haven’t already.

Communication is vital in any kind of relationship, so when questions like this come up, the best solution will always be talking with your partner and deciding together.


Dear Expie,

I’m paying for my own school next semester, and I’m trying to save money. With Christmas coming up, I don’t want to spend too much, but my friends and I have exchanged gifts every year up until now. What can I do without making it weird?

- Potential Klepto


Now that you’re in college, one thing is almost definitely certain: money is tight. Paying for tuition, rent, food, etc. can be a struggle for a lot of people during this season, and what makes it even harder is trying to decide how, or even if, you can afford presents for the people in your life you normally gift things to for Christmas.

Chances are, though, these people are in the same boat as you. If you’re worried about finances and buying gifts for your friends, shoot a group text with some alternative options — nobody is ever going to turn down a money-saving opportunity, especially not broke college kids. Here are some easy ways you can save money in your friend group or among family members this Christmas:

Suggest a White Elephant gift exchange. A lot of people think of these as joke gifts, but it doesn’t have to be. In a white elephant party, a price limit is set (say $15) and everyone shows up with a general gift to give. People draw gifts and can choose to trade or keep based on what they pick. At the end of the day, everyone has a gift they’re happy with, and nobody spent more than $15.

Suggest a Secret Santa gift exchange. Like a white elephant party, everyone only buys one present with a set price point. What sets this idea apart is that gifts can be more personalized — everyone makes a list of stuff they like, and then draws names. Your role would be to buy your giftee something based on their list — it’s fun and sentimental, and again, everyone walks away with full pockets and happy hearts.

Suggest skipping presents altogether and go with an experience instead. You don’t have to spend money to celebrate Christmas with the people you care about — you could go to the Christmas Stroll downtown, decorate a tree together or host a gingerbread house decorating competition. This still gives you celebratory time with your people without draining your bank account.