Mrs. Money Mustache Receives Many Gifts for Her Birthday

Eliminating Lady Temptations: Step 2   (see Step 1)
by Mrs. Money Mustache


I recently celebrated my birthday.  I turned 37.  The day started off lying in bed with my little boy, who turned his sweet face to me and gave me a morning hug and kiss and then wished me a happy birthday.  Perfect already.  Shortly thereafter, I received a call from my brother who sweetly reminded me that I am now officially in my late 30s.  Luckily, I’ve always loved birthdays and turning one year older.  I feel young, healthy, and happier than ever.  I know myself better, I feel a little bit wiser (mostly thanks to my gray hairs), and I’m learning what’s really important in life.  In the MMM family, we celebrate birthdays for at least a week, because well… why not?  Of course, the celebrating isn’t full of unwrapping and surprises, as is typical of many birthdays.  It’s about a lot more.

Over the years, I’ve heard many women complain that their spouse forgot their birthday or they didn’t receive the special necklace or diamond encrusted love ring that they were hoping for. “Where’s my $150 dinner at the fancy restaurant and my day at the spa… How could my sweetheart forget my Birthday Gift!?”

Stop doing this, ladies!  First of all, if you’re married or in a committed relationship, your financial futures are joined – so he’s spending YOUR money on the gift anyway.  Second, a gift doesn’t mean much if you have to ask for it.  Third, channel your Inner Lioness and give yourself the POWER to make your own birthday or holiday plans.  Why rely on someone else for your happiness?

I’m pretty outspoken about my birthday. If I want to receive any attention, I announce it like a countdown and if I determine that gifts are in order, I get them myself.  It’s more fun that way.  That’s how the Mother’s Day Garden Project began, as well as my annual birthday haircut.  Even the Mister decides he deserves a birthday gift from time to time.

Being married to MMM means that the gifts are different, but they are actually much, much better.  Over the last 17 years I’ve received: a big handmade wooden heart with a poem on the back, a Rock Shox suspension seat post for my mountain bike, handwritten letters and notes, a latte every single morning for the last 5+ years, equally shared parenting, garden boxes, various renovation projects done to my specifications, incredibly funny e-mails, a hike to the spot we were married every year on our wedding anniversary, and candlelit dinners (and even breakfasts!) every single day.

This year, the gifts were plentiful once again:

– waking up next to my sweet little boy’s sleeping face
– listening to my child’s awesome story of his dream within a dream
– a delicious morning cup of coffee and run (I mean an actual run, as in running) to the store to get milk just for me from MMM
– an amazing birthday breakfast from my mom (asparagus was involved)
– talking to my brother on the phone
– a luxury morning shower
– a cool after-rain walk with MMM to get my gluten-free birthday cake mix
– listening to my mom and son secretly making me a birthday cake
– a handmade birthday book and several cards from Little MM
– spending quality time at my parents’ beautiful cottage with family that we hardly ever get to see
– laying tile and chatting side by side with MMM, while Little MM enjoyed a paddleboat ride with his grandparents
– an impromptu birthday song mid-day
– looking though my baby photo albums with my dad
– sore muscles from my hardcore workout at Crossfit O-Town’s free Saturday morning class

It couldn’t have been any better.  So, if you’re expecting a birthday this year, make a list of what you’d like to do.  It could be a walk with the family, a trip to the library, time to write a list of goals, a hike with a friend, a dinner with cake at home, or a day all alone.  Start a birthday tradition.  Bake your birthday cake with your kids.  Do something that has meaning for you but doesn’t cost anything.  Or, if you’re feeling competitive, try a birthday challenge and get a group of friends or your family to partake.  At a recent extended family dinner, we discussed some great physical challenges for past and upcoming birthdays.  Excellent idea!

What do you want for your birthday?

  • Madge August 3, 2011, 7:49 am

    i love the gifts you got! in 2010 my fiancee and i visited his family in scotland around christmas/my birthday (5 days apart) and by far the best gift was hanging around having a few drinks and laughing till our faces hurt. ooh, and the roast potatoes done up in duck fat weren’t bad either.

    this year i think i’d like a little party at home. friends, dinner, wine, hilarity. hmm, i’m sensing a theme here …

  • Oskar August 3, 2011, 8:44 am

    I really liked this post! Good to hear from the mrs as well.

    I think the important part is to make the day special. Some times that can cost some money (fancy dinner, gift) and sometimes it costs little or nothing (at home movie night, home cooked snackfoods, a bottle of wine).

    Its important that birthdays are days a little different than other days, so you get a memory to hold on to. After the birthday you should say…all my days are very good but this one was great!!!

  • Des August 3, 2011, 10:13 am

    Hmm…I must run in a different sort of social circle – I don’t know any lady that would complain about not getting a diamond-encrusted whose-y-whats-it, and I don’t know any guys that forgot their SOs birthday. Does this really happen, or is it just a straw man stereotype?

    For our birthdays, DH and I have “me” days, and it is always so nice. So, for mine I got to sleep in while he tended to the farm animals (my chore), he cooked breakfast, and cleaned it up. I got to pick what we ate for each meal, and what we watched at night. No need for gifts – a day off from responsibility is way better.

    • Mrs. Money Mustache August 4, 2011, 11:14 am

      Lucky you!

      I’ve heard almost every woman I know complain about a missed birthday or not getting flowers for Valentines day, or the like. In fact, I used to complain about such things myself (not about the size of a gift, but the forgetting of a particular day). So, yes, it does really happen — often.

      I’ve also heard many women gloat of having received wonderful gifts and on Mother’s Day, facebook was inundated with pictures of all kinds of jewelry that was received by very deserving mothers.

      I agree that “me” days are the best kind of present. There are many ways to make a day special, particularly if the recipient has the right perspective!

  • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple August 3, 2011, 11:25 am

    I celebrated my 41st birthday camping at the Grand Canyon with my family. True, I woke UP in a hotel in Kingman – but got a birthday song and a kiss from my 5 year old son. We had breakfast and spent some time in the hotel pool before heading off to the Grand Canyon.

    My birthday DINNER was a little wine, hot dogs, rice and veggies on a picnic table next to our tent. Ah, that was the life! Tomorrow is my husband’s birthday. He doesn’t get QUITE the same treatment, but he’s taking 1/2 day off work and going to hang out with our son after camp.

  • Sarah August 3, 2011, 11:40 am

    Happy Birthday to you! What a wonderful way to spend your birthday!

  • Bakari August 3, 2011, 11:56 am

    One year, we had both been out of work for weeks and were especially poor.
    We were never much into gifts anyway, but we decided it would be fun to exchange gifts for Christmas.
    We went to the 2 story super 99 cent store in the city, and set a $10 limit each (after tax).
    We got over a dozen gifts each (some stuff is actually less than a dollar!)!!!

    And the funny thing is, while the marriage didn’t last, the 99 cent house slippers I got about 6 years ago are still keeping my toes warm, at this very moment!

    • Bakari August 3, 2011, 11:57 am


      Happy Birthday Ms. MM!!

    • Mrs. Money Mustache August 4, 2011, 11:22 am

      Sounds like those were high quality 99 cent slippers! MMM might argue that you want to stay away from those 99 cent items (I have a xmas stocking story that I might share in one of my future posts), but I definitely see the fun in that.

      Similarly, we did a library book exchange one Christmas. Each of us went to the library and picked out books we thought the others might enjoy and wrapped them up (with used wrapping paper, which I’m sure we’ll never run out of). Turns out 2 out of my 3 books for MMM would have been the wrong ones to buy, so it’s a good think I didn’t actually purchase them! It was fun to see what we picked out for each other.

      • Rebecca September 23, 2013, 12:46 pm

        That is a fun idea for free gifts! Might become a future family tradition.

      • Jane F February 19, 2015, 2:01 pm

        Love this idea!!

        Also I love your blog posts and really resonate with your writing style!

  • Kevin M August 3, 2011, 12:53 pm

    Great gifts, your best gift is being able to appreciate all those things instead of falling for the consumerist trap.

    Happy birthday from a not-quite 37 year old!

  • melissa August 3, 2011, 2:14 pm

    Happy birthday!!! My 33.3 birthday is coming up next month (my actual birthday date was too hectic, and come on, 33 by itself is a boring number), and if I have it my way, we will have some freshly butchered pigs for a potluck BBQ (if the mosquitoes will let us) and you will come with MMM so we can compare notes on frugality!

    • Mr. Frugal Toque August 3, 2011, 4:45 pm

      33 isn’t boring!

      It’s the last number that’s a palindrome in decimal *and* binary until you reach 99!

      /sheldon cooper mode off

    • Mrs. Money Mustache August 4, 2011, 11:16 am

      Splendid! I will definitely be there. Do I have to bring a gift? ;)

  • Mark August 3, 2011, 2:32 pm

    oh yah, experiences are far more lasting and better gifts than something in a box

  • Frugal Vegan Mom August 3, 2011, 5:41 pm

    I love birthdays too. Parties are better than presents, and don’t cost anything, especially if you have awesome friends who show up with good liquor!

    I turn 29 in two weeks and my gift this year is finally, finally quitting my soul sucking corporate job. I never had the courage or a good excuse before, but now I get to stay home with my little babe…

    • Mrs. Money Mustache August 4, 2011, 11:17 am

      Now, that is definitely the best gift ever. I bet you’ll feel quite relieved to finally have that soul sucking vacuum cleaner unplugged. Let us know how it goes!

  • Nicole August 3, 2011, 7:06 pm

    Happy birthday to a woman who is beautiful inside and out. What a sweet post, you clearly are blessed with a wonderful family and a wonderful perspective!

  • melissa August 5, 2011, 8:56 pm

    @ Mr. Frugal Toque… I stand corrected! <3 nerds @Mrs. MMM, of course not, your presence is my present!

  • Jenny August 8, 2011, 9:40 am

    Sounds like an amazing birthday! We did a big charity event for my birthday this year and it was great!

  • Sam August 14, 2011, 11:37 pm

    Full body massage and sex is a pretty damn good gift from my husband =)

    • MMM August 15, 2011, 1:13 am

      Wow, things are heating up on this blog – excellent! :-)

  • hands2work September 17, 2012, 3:10 pm

    I stated years ago that I wanted memories not things for my birthday and xmas. I immediately stopped buying gifts for anyone. I still get some though, some people are so determined to spend their hard earned cash on crap I don’t want or need…but it’s the thought.

    For my bf’s son’s 11th birthday last week his mother, father, sisters and brother all gave him gifts. I took him to the zoo which was free and we parked a mile or so away so that was free too. He loved the zoo and said it was his best birthday ever.

  • Cajun Mom (Barb) May 15, 2013, 11:59 am

    I LOVED this! What a wonderful birthday! This has always been my (our) style. So preferred.

    We went this route just this last weekend for Mom’s day. I asked for a round of Gluten Free pizzas made to everyones’ tastes (I made them; it was fun) and a movie (from Netflix or our collection). We watched one we all agreed on (Matrix Reloaded) and ate til we all fell over. I had a wonderful weekend. Just what I wanted – lots of hugs and I was declared the “queen of everything” and loved it.

  • Rebecca September 23, 2013, 12:53 pm

    The birthday gifts Mrs. MM received on her birthday actually made me tear up. Sounds like a beautiful and well appreciated birthday. It’s so wonderful that you focus on and appreciate the happy beautiful moments. I am favoriting this post and come aniversary time, Christmas, and birthday, I will remember to ask friends and loved ones for experiences rather than gifts and I will remember to cherish those memories and know how blessed I am.

    Thank you for sharing your family’s love with us all

  • BD October 9, 2013, 8:39 am

    Reminds me of my family’s rather new christmas tradition: we cook together instead of giving gifts. We are not going cheap on this, but we neither spend a lot of money. We both love to cook and since we do everything ourselves, this will be a five-star four course meal for the price of a fast food menu.. well, probably plus some wine :)

    So we will spend a really nice evening together with candlelight, good wine and do things we love!

  • bwall February 8, 2014, 9:58 am


    Thank you for listing the gifts you received–it is a very powerful statement. I think that any woman who can appreciate those items is rich already and is 3/4 of the way to ‘incredibly sexy’!

  • Kira July 15, 2014, 2:54 pm

    Love this double feature post!
    Part 1: Grab the bull by the horns scolding/empowerment pep talk
    Part 2: Poetic celebration of life’s simple gifts

  • Len August 8, 2014, 7:25 am

    My hubbie and I rarely buy each other gifts, for anything: Christmas, birthday, mother/father day. Usually go out to dinner for a birthday at a restaurant that gives the birthday person a free meal. We do not need special gifts to remember we were born! Hugs, kisses and well wishes are good enough! :-)

  • Rachel February 26, 2015, 7:42 am

    I recently discovered the MMM blog, and have been wondering how the womanly needs fit into the vision — thanks for the post about clothing, and this one. I am about to turn 45, and am planning on asking my family for a Shabbat off. (We are Orthodox Jews, and Shabbat together is terrific, it’s just a lot of preparation and a fair amount of work on the day itself.) I figure between my husband and teenage daughter, they can do the cooking in advance, and the big kids can take turns setting and clearing the table (some of this is their regular chores anyway)…we don’t have any room in our house for more stuff. My husband is generous with jewelry, but I just got a new pair of earrings for Chanukah. I can’t really think of any Thing I want, but some being treated like a queen would go over just fine. :)

  • Nilay April 25, 2015, 1:50 am

    Thank you Mrs. MM for this wonderful article. I have been reading this website since few weeks now and on my way to become a hardcore Mustachian!! This is my first comment though and incidentally on your post rather than MMM. Hehe.

    Thanks to this article since i kinda know now how i want my birthday to be. One of the things I planned is an early morning Walk to a nearby National Park and wacth the sunrise over a hill top, with my girl and few close friends. (Thus developing a habit of rising early). 10 days to go for my Bday to develop the habit. I am excited to spend my birthday in a meaningful & special way rather than just going out to a fancy pub/Lounge and throwing a party for my friends like every year.

    Thanks a ton. Keep writing. God Bless you & your lovely family and friends.

    Ps: Add one more Mustachian to the total count, from Mumbai, India.

  • Jimmy July 31, 2015, 11:12 am

    My wife and I are 44 years old and been together for 25 years. We thought we were the most unusual people out there until I read this post.

  • Rachel May August 9, 2015, 9:57 am

    I’m really late to this post (reading through the archives and starting my mustache now), but this really resonated with me. Last year I was thinking after my birthday, that my SO didn’t really do much for me, and I was feeling a little bummed. Then a friend of mine pointed out, “I can’t believe he made you a cake for your birthday – FROM SCRATCH. I’ve never seen a guy do that.” I didn’t even realize it. Or appreciate it. And that comment really brought it to light (even though I should have recognized it myself). Anyhow, this year he asked me if I wanted him to make me a cake (of course!)…and I was so excited. That’s become my favorite part of my birthday. It says so much more than something you can pick up at the store.

  • LinLan August 13, 2015, 1:39 pm

    In defense of the “Where’s my Bday gift?” women, sometimes it’s just a matter of wanting the men in your life to acknowledge your birthday. My brothers have been terrible in the past. I think it’s a matter of asking for the things that are important to you. This year, I reminded my brothers days ahead of time, and they “remembered” my birthday beautifully– no gifts, just great emails and phone calls.

    I did a similar thing with my boyfriend and my graduation. “Hey, I’m graduating next week, after a year of very hard work, and I would like you to make a big deal out of it.” I didn’t need him to spend money, but he did remember and congratulated me very heartily :) Just what I wanted!

    Another gift that I love is planning a day for someone. Just get them to give you a chunk of time and don’t tell them what you’ll be doing. Then choose where you go, preferably a museum/park/part of the city where they haven’t been. I did this once and it would have been a beautiful free afternoon, but I had to pay for museum tickets because all of the free ones were closed (thanks, Federal Government Shutdown). It was still cheap, though, and we biked and walked all over the place!

    I was also confused by the bit about women “expecting” spa days/diamond stuff on their birthdays. I don’t think I can think of a single time I heard a female friend say something like this. But I’m mostly rolling with a broke crowd at this point, so maybe it’ll become more of a thing once my peer group changes.

  • Sam March 14, 2016, 2:51 pm

    Hi! I was wondering if you had any advice on how to keep the spending down on wedding, baby shower, wedding shower, bachelorette/bachelor gifts? It just seems that inevitably I get 4-5 invites to these sort of events a year and the gift costs really can add up. Especially if the wedding involves traveling and staying in a hotel. I try to politely decline invitations if the wedding will be really expensive but inevitably I end up going to one or two a year and either way, I usually feel obligated to spend $50-$75 on a present.

    • Ryan Anderson March 14, 2018, 11:49 am

      I’ve struggled with this too. Finally I’ve looked at the big picture, even if you spend $1000 on gifts each year its not going to effect things long term. If you need $1M to retire, then $50k over a lifetime in gifts is not going to make or break you. Its just the cost of having friends and family. At least thats what I tell myself.

      • Renee July 12, 2019, 7:52 am

        I don’t know about that… as per MMM, even $10 is an important building block to your precious $1M that you shouldn’t treat as petty cash.

        Perhaps rethink obligation? I know that if I had friends that couldn’t make it to my destination wedding because of cost, then I would understand. I would still want to see them though. Perhaps plan on visiting them at their newlywed home afterwards when you’re financially able to! Send them a very heartfelt letter to their wedding, writing about your times and memories together, and how excited and happy you are for them. I know for me, that would mean the world to me.

        • Renee July 12, 2019, 7:59 am

          Also, for keeping costs down on gifts: I’ve had ideas for handmaking their gifts. I love making candles and scrapbooks, and this has worked as good alternatives for really pricy stuff. Also, “eco-friendly” or handmade specialty stuff on Etsy is usually great.

          I also love to peruse artisan/local shops to see if anything sparks an interest. If it’s really expensive, obviously no, but I’ve once found these cute rabbit socks as gifts that were $10 or so each, and they were a massive hit.

          Just experiment with less-expensive, more-thoughtful, handmade taste.

  • Rosie June 22, 2016, 11:59 pm

    CAKE MIX?!?! Nooooo!!! (Also doesn’t seem very mustachian… It’s just a mix of other items found in the baking aisle with a pretty picture on the box)

    Other than that, sounds like an absolutely fanastic birthday :)

  • Dividend Family Guy August 26, 2016, 10:25 am

    My wife’s birthday was last week. She was upset when the kids didn’t say happy birthday to her first thing in the morning. I said they are just kids (they did all have handmade cards and my older kids bought her a gift with their own money.) Eventually they all said it on their own time. I bought my wife a DVD set of an old show that is hard to find. I forgot to make her a card. She asked where the card was. In retrospect she probably would have been happier with just a handmade card from me. Lessons learned.

  • Raegan March 14, 2017, 1:53 pm

    Challenge accepted. My husband’s birthday is the 19th and I started on the 1st with candlelit breakfast. He has received something everyday. I’ve made meals (he usually does the cooking), woke up early and helped him get out the door when his alarm failed, gave him a massage, drew him an Epsom salt bath, made him shaving cream. It has been challenging for me. He feels like a big deal. I feel like for him this works especially well because his love language (The five love languages by Gary Chapman [great book a little heavy on the Christianity for my taste]) is acts of service. This has been a very fulfilling experience for both of us.

  • BC Kowalski March 14, 2018, 11:21 am

    My new ladyfriend hates gifts and values quality time and acts of service above all else. On our anniversary I sent her a message saying “Happy anniversary! I didn’t get you a damned thing.” She responded “thanks honey – you know EXACTLY what I want!” Instead I find ways to go out of my way to do things for her. That’s her version of presents. You could say “presence” is her “presents.” #DadJoke

  • Wolfgang September 5, 2018, 4:39 pm

    Mrs. MM you rock. Thanks for the words

  • Giselle September 20, 2019, 5:09 am

    This is so beautiful- thanks for sharing


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