Never do this.

The cold weather is always better when you’re snuggled up with your honey under the tree… until she unexpectedly hands you a Christmas gift and croons “Surprise!” Yeah, surprise is right. You were certain the two of you weren’t exchanging Christmas gifts this year. Now, you look like a fool and have absolutely no Christmas gift ideas for your lady.

Gift-giving in relationships can be extremely stressful. How much will the other person spend on me? What if I spend too little and look cheap? What if I spend too much and he gets the wrong idea?

To help, we’ve come up with a general spending guideline for different stages of your relationship. Of course, it varies from couple to couple, but if you’re stuck, abide by these rules and your sweetie will be smiling under the mistletoe come Christmas.

Gone on a few dates

You like this person enough to consider getting serious with them. But you want to make sure your gift isn’t overly romantic; it could come off as creepy. Buying her a $300 necklace after a handful of dates will make her run – and not into your arms.

Simple works best here. If she guzzles Starbucks, a new coffee mug is appropriate. If he likes jogging, get him a cool Sigg water bottle. Food – like cupcakes from her favorite bakery or a box of chocolates from a shop in his hometown – is always a winner. Everyone likes treats.

Alternatively, you can suggest going out for a holiday dinner date, and spend a few extra dollars than you normally would.

Spending range: $15-$40

Had “the talk”

You’re officially in a committed relationship with someone, but it’s at the early states. This gift has to be personalized and romantic. You’ve been dating for a few months and (hopefully) know each other well enough to move beyond a generic winter scarf.

Chances are, your boyfriend has been talking your ear off about his favorite Celtics’ player or your girlfriend has been gushing over her best friend’s cute bracelet for weeks. If you were paying attention you’ll have plenty of clues for what they will like.

Jewelry is appropriate at this stage, but unless she’s been eying a certain Tiffany’s necklace for months, generic jewelry can come off as, “I didn’t know what else to get you and girls like jewelry, right?”

Personally, I’m all about the experience gifts. If he’s a Patriots fan, try to snag tickets to an upcoming game. If she likes comedy, check out which comedians are coming to the Hub in 2013. It shows you put thought into thinking about what your significant other would enjoy, and it’s also a guaranteed date night for you two as well.

Spending range: $50-$100

In a long-term relationship

You’ve been dating for a year or more and know each other very well. You’ll have added insight into what they want to find under the tree on Christmas morning. You also know what they need, even if they don’t know it themselves. Gifts in this stage of the relationship can stray from romance and air on the side of practicality.

Is your boyfriend constantly asking you for the time? A nice wristwatch is sufficient. Does your girlfriend’s phone look like it’s from 1997? Upgrade her to the iPhone 5. These gifts are just as, if not more, thoughtful than jewelry, because you know your boo will actually use it.

Spending range: $100-$500

Have been together more than five years

She’s expecting a ring, bro. You better deliver or you could be facing a lonely New Year’s.

Spending range: Three months’ paycheck

Just broke up

Sending your ex-girlfriend a mixtape of all “your” songs and the 8th in a 20-part series of hand-written notes expressing your undying love for her won’t win her back. And ladies, sending him a box of the books, DVDs, sweatshirts, boxers and toothbrush he left at your apartment when you broke up is just plain crazy. Hold onto your dignity here, people.

Spending range: $0, not counting the cost of your therapy sessions

What are your guidelines for gift-giving in a relationship?

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