The Ingham's are friends of ours that are the perfect example of how to have a solid marriage after 20 years and many challenges. We both look up to them as marriage inspiration and I love hearing about their traditions and the way they solved common marriage problems. When I heard about the Mystery Gift Challenge, we immediately adopted it.
Here are the Instructions:
1. Take two white envelopes and label them (either with your names or with #1 and #2). You can actually keep these and just re-use them every time you do the challenge.
2. Take two pieces of card stock that are envelope size (or cut them to envelope size) and label them with the The Mystery Gift Challenge. Then write out the rules and regulations. They are as follows:
A. You may buy as many or as few gifts as you would like, but you must not spend more than you are given. You can also add the clause that you must spend every cent that you are given. This is much more difficult and will likely need much more than an hour.
B. You have exactly one hour to meet back at the store closest to the entrance that you used to come in. You can change the time allotment as well, if you would like.
C. First Come, First Serve. If you enter a store and see your partner already there, you must leave the store and try again later. This keeps purchases a surprise, so you can't check out what the other is doing.
D. All Purchases must be kept secret until the big reveal at lunch.
E. All purchases must be made with your partner in mind. For example, Rowy may not buy Jon a scrapbook album.
3. Include the set amount of cash in each envelope and give one envelope to each person. The cash limit should be between $5.00 and $40.00, depending on your budget. This makes the date night cheaper than if you wanted to go to a movie, or go out for dinner.
4. Pack an awesome lunch into a back pack. You can use the soft cooler for anything that needs to stay cold and stuff that into the backpack too.
5. Grab two large gift bags from your gift bag stash and tons of tissue paper. Make sure each person has one gift bag and an assortment of tissue paper. It's easiest if the guy carries the book bag so he can stash his gift bag in it, since girls can fit that into their purse. I mean, seriously, what can't we fit into our purse?
6. Head out to your local mall. Start at a store closest to the entrance and set your watches. Happy hunting!
7. When your time is up, meet back and find an aesthetically pleasing part of the mall (like a fountain) or head out to a close park, trail, or waterfall to have your picnic and exchange gifts.
The first time we did this, my stomach hurt from laughing so hard. We have a large mall, and the idea of covering what you needed to cover in an hour is laughable. I was running full speed through the mall trying to get where I needed to go when we had about 10 minutes left. I turned the corner, and of course, Jon was in the store I was headed for, so I ran full speed back to the other side of the mall to get to my second choice. It was one of the best work outs ever. It's really an adrenaline rush, though when you stop to think about it, it's kind of funny that you feel like your trying to disarm a bomb before it blows, when all you're really trying to do is spend $20.00 in an hour.
I found that the more sales people you tell about what you're doing the better. They know all the deepest discounts and can quickly give you your best options for your budget. A Target saleslady told me about a $9.00 blueray sale they had going, and a Macy's employee filled a 3 month sample spray bottle of Eternity for Men cologne for free to sweeten his gift bag. When I had $1.06 left, a Hallmark employee found $.99 Superman Silly Bands for me and used the “take a penny” jar to make up the tax difference. Even the Mrs. Field's employee threw in a free mini cookie.
If you have a larger family, you can adapt this by creating as many cards as you have family members and marking each with a name. Have everyone pull a card. If someone gets a card with his or her name, they can choose a person to switch with until everyone has a name that isn't theirs. I suspect the little guys will have their money spent in a few minutes on some rather interesting gifts, leaving the older family members time to get their gifts.
Other variations would be a Christmas Mystery Gift Challenge, a Double Date Mystery Gift Challenge (you can pick names as in the larger family variation above), or a “Buy for yourself” Gift Challenge.
Here are the examples of what we got on our first challenge:
Jon got me a revolving waffle iron (on a great sale!), and a chip that goes into my new sneakers that links to my iPhone to send information on how far and fast I walk, run etc.
I got Jon an American Psycho Blueray (He thinks Christian Bale is the greatest actor of all time), an 8GB thumb drive (he had lost his), a bag of mini cookies from Mrs. Field's, a chapstick (he always steals mine), “The Cool Fix” aftershave lotion, and superman silly bandz.
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