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Christmas gifts: She's opted out

Blogger's wallet -- and sanity -- thank her.

By Karen Datko Oct 10, 2009 6:55PM

Jennifer Derrick had the guts to bring this up with her extended family: Let's not exchange gifts this year. If her window had been open, we suspect she would have heard the collective sigh of relief.


Jennifer is not a scrooge. But she did think about how meaningless -- and how stressful --the commercial aspect of the holiday had become to her. In an excellent post at Saving Advice called "The totally free (or nearly) Christmas," she explains how her thinking evolved:

Everyone tends to buy what they need and want throughout the year, leaving little left for Christmas except an exchange of gift cards. (Which is kind of pointless, if you ask me. Why spend money to give someone cash and then receive cash. Why not just call it even, wish them a merry Christmas, have a great meal together and be done with it?)

Then there is always holiday pressure to give to extended family, bosses, very good clients, office gift swaps, neighbors and other friends. These people are next to impossible to buy for because I never know what they have or need.

Last year I finally reached my limit.

We're seeing much more of this sentiment -- children are generally immune -- than we have in past years. When gifts are given, they're more often consumable and/or homemade or useful. Perhaps the economy is causing people to cut back, but the relief people feel in ending gift exchanges suggests it's even more than that. 

Many echo what Jennifer wrote and say they give gifts because of a sense of obligation. "Maybe your neighbor brings over a small gift and you feel the need to reciprocate," says Ashley in a post about holiday budget-busters at Wide Open Wallet.


Here's how other people have handled the issue:

  • A friend of ours (inspired by Tip No. 18 in Ramit Sethi's Save $1,000 in 30 Days Challenge) sent an e-mail to co-workers suggesting no office gift giving. Most responded enthusiastically. Only one said she'd ignore the suggestion. (In such situations, Jennifer advises, "If someone gives me something, I will accept with good grace and move on.")

  • No Impact Man had a present-free Christmas for the first time last year and called it the best ever. "It was all the upside without the downside," he wrote.

  • Stephanie at Life is for Living, Right? used Ramit's No Christmas Gifts This Year Web site to put friends on notice that they'll be getting the gift of time, not things. "My free time has really become more precious this year and spending it with people I love is much more important that having more stuff," she wrote.

Related articles:

The 13 worst holiday spending blunders

15 worst holiday gift ideas

Gift cards are not gifts

Published Dec. 18, 2008
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