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This already seems like selfish post, but I'm wondering how I could bring up the topic of my birthday gift to my girlfriend. For back story, we live together and I pay for most stuff. She shares some bills like when we go out to eat, but I pay for things that would basically stay the same whether we lived together or not. These are things like rent and electricity. The reason I do this is so that she can save for school.

Now several months ago was her birthday and I bought her an expensive tech toy. It was around $400-500. She picked it out, even before I said how much I'd be willing to spend. Regardless, I can afford it so it wasn't a big deal. Now my birthday is coming up and she asked what I wanted. It'd be nice if I could get something on a similar scale as her gift, but I also know that she's saving.

How can I bring this topic up to her and judge what would be fair?

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    You said that she asked you what you wanted. Is there a reason you feel you can't use that to "bring this topic up to her and judge what would be fair?" It sounds like she's already trying to have exactly the conversation you want to have! Can you elaborate on why you believe having this conversation will be difficult? – scohe001 Jun 25 at 15:49
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    Like @scohe001 said, it sounds like you already have the answer for what you asked: She brought it up already. Why do you need help with that, then? As it stands, this question sounds more like you are looking for a place to mildly vent about having to provide for your girlfriend. Perhaps you can rework your question to better fit what you are actually trying to ask. – Reubens4Dinner Jun 25 at 15:53
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    As I read this question, it seems like the main issue is choosing a gift that fits in your girlfriend's budget, but you're not sure what that budget is or should be because she: (a) is saving for school, and (b) does not contribute money towards her basic cost of living. Is that interpretation correct? – Upper_Case Jun 25 at 16:28
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It's not a selfish post at all; just an honest question! The fact that she has already asked what you wanted means that the topic is open for discussion, and you can feel free to bring it up simply by relating it back to the initial conversation, e.g.

Hey, remember when you were asking about what I wanted for my birthday? Well I have been thinking about it and...

I am unfamiliar with the specific details of your relationship, but open and honest conversations about what is or is not financially doable, approached with realistic expectations, are important if not always the most comfortable. This may actually be a good way to "test the waters" and segue into talking about such things. You can try asking for this item in a way that conveys it as more of a "wish-list" gift without directly mentioning money, and have something else that's less expensive in mind just in case it seems like she might be uncomfortable with the idea. For example some version of,

I have had my eye on 'x' for a while now; does that sound alright? It's totally fine if not, there's this other thing I was looking at too.

If you are less committed to the item in question you can also give her a few things you are interested in to choose one from, and she may organically choose the one that is around the ceiling of what she feels she can afford.
I hope this is helpful, and though I have already mentioned it I highly encourage putting yourself out there into having more open discussions about money. It's not at all romantic, but as your life together progresses having the topic available and not set aside as taboo could help alleviate potential pressure points. Good luck, and happy birthday!

Citation: I have personally experienced similar situations in relationships before wherein the topic of money, especially in the context of people who make different salaries, can make open conversation and planning about gifts, travel, meals, and the like more difficult. Such situations have always been best resolved through transparent and practical conversation.

  • @avazula Thank you for the information; I hope that my added citation will be sufficient! Is there a style guide of any sort, or will adding a citation "section" such as I did work alright? I must admit that creating a scientific reference for an interpersonal relationship question feels strange, but I see the value of StackExchange as a hard-and-fast reference versus an advice board. – neveroddoreven Jul 1 at 18:48
  • Thank you for editing your answer! Regarding potential guidelines on how to provide backup, I'd say that as long as you explain why your suggestion would work (as this is something you already tried in a similar situation) it's perfect. Whether it's an introduction to your answer or a bottom line disclaimer, that is up to you. Feel free to reach me if you have further questions! – avazula Jul 1 at 18:52

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