Q: We just started dating. Do I get her a Christmas gift? And if so, how much do I spend?

A: I know you’re dreading this whole holiday gift debacle. Want to know what, though? We are dreading it just as much.

That’s right, boys. We’d rather you didn’t spend any more money on us at the start of the relationship. Don’t think we aren’t fully aware that you’ve been picking up the dinner check and paying for everything from post-dinner Starbucks to concert tickets—because it’s all up in our heads right now.

But want to know the only thought worse than you giving us a gift? The thought that you might not. Yes, even if we insist you don’t need to get us anything for Christmas, you do. (Stick with me here.) If you don’t, we’re going to assume you’re on the fence about us, or just don’t care that much. It’s hard for an early relationship to recover from that, so don’t blow this, dude.

The magical key to gifting success is to go super-sweet, but not super-expensive. We want to see time and thought, not a ginormous price tag. Here’s what to do: “First step is to start with a card, and write at least four sentences,” says Match.com dating expert Whitney Casey. Keep it cute. Be personal. Inside jokes are great. Hint at the gift before she opens it

Now, onto that gift. Can you riff on something she’s said? “Think about something she has talked about that is special, something that has come up in conversation, like her favorite candy from her childhood, favorite board game or book,” says Casey. “Make a cool Spotify playlist (for free!), take her to a lecture or book reading of her favorite author, take her to an art exhibit or gallery or concert. Something that she clearly likes and it isn't clear that you would. Again, think thoughtfully!”

Did the season inspire her to mention that she loved the Nutcracker Ballet when she was a kid? OK. Do you know how much her heart will melt if you get tickets, even to just a little, local production? A) You paid attention, and remembered something small she said, and B) she knows you don’t like ballet—but you’re there, and you’re there for her.

Um, yeah. Swoon.

About the Hot Girl: Claire Austen is a 20-something freelance writer, sports enthusiast, and polka-dot-lovin’ everygirl trying to bridge the gap between what men know about women and what women wish men knew. She gives smart, super-honest advice about your biggest dating and relationship conundrums.