"The Gift of the Magi" presents the example of a universal dilemna for all times and locations in human history.
Whenever there have been people in love, there has been the desire to demonstrate that deep affection by presenting gifts intended to reflect the devotion being experienced. Della wanted to find a gift for Jim that would be "Something fine and rare and sterling - something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honour of being owned by Jim."
However, another universal human predicament for many persons is poverty. Lack of financial means can complicate the purchasing of any gift at all, let alone attempting to buy something that can measure up to a profound commitment and love. The conflict in the story revolves around Della's search for a way to overcome this obstacle. As Della tells Jim,
It's sold, I tell you - sold and gone, too....Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered...but nobody could ever count my love for you.