All Della wanted was to buy her husband a Christmas present, but she was only able to save $1.87. She was so upset. "There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it."
As Della stood in front of the window she suddenly came up with an idea as to how she could get more money to buy her husband, Jim, a present. "Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds."
Della went out to cut and sell her hair, which was one of her family's most prized possessions. The other prized possession was Jim's watch. "Will you buy my hair?" asked Della. "I buy hair," said Madame. "Take yer hat off and let's have a sight at the looks of it."
With her newly chopped hair, Della waited worriedly for Jim to come home. When he arrived and saw his wife his expression was quite peculiar. "Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her."
Jim and Della exchanged the gifts they had bought for one another, and they realized that they had given up their most prized possessions. Jim got Della a set of beautiful combs that Della wanted for her hair, but she cut and sold her hair to get Jim a present. Della got Jim a fancy chain for his watch, but Jim sold his watch to buy Della the combs.
In the end of the story, Jim and Della come to the conclusion that they should just ignore the presents for a while. "'Dell," said he, "let's put our Christmas presents away and keep 'em a while. They're too nice to use just at present.'"