It is Christmas time, and Jim and Della are searching for Christmas presents for each other. The problem is they do not have any excess money to buy presents. They are on a tight budget.
“Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim’s gold watch that had been his father’s and his grandfather’s. The other was Della’s hair.” (pg 1)
Jim wants to buy Della some beautiful tortoise shell combs that she has admired in a store window on Broadway.
“….Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jeweled rims ---“(pg 2)
They were the perfect shade for her beautiful hair, and she really wanted them. Since he had no extra money, Jim sold the only thing he had of value, his watch. The ironic thing is that Della sells her beautiful hair to buy Jim a chain for his watch, and Jim sells his watch to get the combs for her beautiful hair. So neither of them ends up with a Christmas present.