How do you tell people you won’t be buying them Christmas gifts this year? For your news to be well-received, you need to address both the practical and the emotional side of giving presents. You’ll find seven how-tos below for graciously telling others you won’t be giving them a gift this holiday season without anyone thinking for even a moment that you’re Mr. or Ms. Scrooge.
Christmas Season begins earlier and earlier every few years. A generation ago, it started the day after Thanksgiving. A generation before that, our great-grandparents celebrated the 12 Days of Christmas. And go back about 100 years or so, and most people put up their Christmas tree on Christmas Eve for a two-day celebration.
But now, as soon as a pumpkin spice anything is back on the menu at Starbucks, you know that stores are decorating for the holidays, and Christmas sales are being touted as “Pre-Pre-Black Friday Bonus Days.”
If your budget requires you to cut back on holiday spending, or you want a less gift-focused Christmas, and you plan to buy people fewer gifts or no gifts this year, the best time to tell them is NOW.
But why tell someone as early as possible about your change in gift-giving plans?
It’s easier for people to accept the change in your annual gift-giving tradition before an early sale item catches their eye as the perfect gift for you than after they’ve put a bow on their box!
How do you get others to agree not to exchange gifts this year?
What do you say if someone gives you a gift after promising not to?
You know store-bought items count as gifts, but is it OK to give something you’ve made even if you’ve agreed not to exchange gifts?
No need to fret. There’s a gracious way to spread the word that this Christmas you’ll be showing your glad tidings with things not bought in a store!
How to Tell People You Won’t Be Buying Them Christmas Gifts This Year, and Other Gift-Giving Dilemmas
Let Others Know ASAP You Won’t Be Buying Them Gifts
Today would actually be the perfect day! As already mentioned, unlike in past generations, the Christmas season now starts long before Thanksgiving Day.
Your relatives might already know what they plan to buy you. There’s even a chance they’ve already bought your gift. Either way, they’ll be less likely to be receptive to your idea of not exchanging gifts with one another.
The conversation is best made by talking in person, or on a video call, or by phone. That’s because an email, a text message, or worse yet, a group text with friends or family doesn’t give you the bandwidth you need to share your reason(s) for changing your tradition of giving with the other person(s). By hearing your voice, they’ll have a lot less room for misunderstanding.
Mention the Benefits for Everyone Involved in Buying Fewer (or No) Christmas Gifts This Year
When you broach the subject, if you talk about how you don’t have money to buy everyone a gift, the focus is on what this is doing for you, but not for them. Plus, if they have less money than you (or they think they do), but they still plan to buy as much this year as last, they may well think of you as Scrooge. And, of course, that’s not who you are at all.
What’s the solution? Tell them the truth about why you don’t want to exchange gifts. The conversation might feel awkward, but honesty is always the solution unless it will purposefully hurt the other person.
Let the other person know what prompted your decision. When people you know understand your heart, they should be much more open to the change in gift-giving tradition.
Grace Note: Be sure to let them know this has nothing to do with how you feel about them. You want to let them know the relationship is secure. Assure them it’s due to whatever your particular reason(s) may be and nothing more.
Suggest an Alternative to Exchanging Gifts
Just because gifts aren’t being exchanged, and you might not be able to travel to see each other this holiday season, it doesn’t mean you’re going to cancel Christmas!
As proof positive, start making your holiday plans with others when you talk about not exchanging gifts. If you can’t meet in person this holiday season, you can kick things up a notch by arranging to make your virtual meeting an active one! All of the following can be done via a video call:
Eating dinner “together,” each at your own home.
Going on a walk “together,” each in your own neighborhood.
Decorating gingerbread houses, each “together” on your own kitchen counter.
Decorating the Christmas Tree, each “together” in your own living room.
The possibilities are endless!
And if you can meet in person, fantastic! You can suggest an activity that takes the place of exchanging gifts. Making fun memories together is usually a better gift than anything found in a box with a bow.
If they’re not open to the changes, well, at least you know you shared from your heart. There is nothing more you need to do or that you can do.
Gather Your Supporters First — Other People in the Family or Among Your Friends Who Will Be Open to Not Exchanging Gifts This Year
Who in your family or among your friends will be most receptive to the idea, and who will be the least? Contact the most receptive members first. Then, when you discuss it with the less receptive members, mention the others who are already on board!
“Aunt Janet, I was talking to Mom, Grandma, and Jordan, and we’re thinking it would be a nice change to just focus on buying gifts for the kids and teens.” Then go on to share what you discussed with the others and everyone’s reasons for the change.
Keep Your Word If You’ve Agreed Not to Give Someone a Christmas Gift
No falling off the no-gifts wagon once you’ve agreed not to give gifts!
I received an email from a woman who couldn’t understand why her sister-in-law didn’t accept her gift graciously. They had agreed not to exchange Christmas gifts, but the woman who wrote me was much better off financially than her newlywed younger brother and his wife.
The young couple was about to move into their first home. Knowing they needed lots of things for the house, she gave them a $500 gift card. She wrote to me, “Christmas is all about giving. It gave me joy to share with them.”
Do you recognize the problem with her reasoning?
The gift the young couple wanted most of all was “no gift.” She let her desire to “give” override the promise she had made. The good feeling she got from giving was her real motivation.
If her motivation had been to make them happy, she wouldn’t have broken her agreement and given them the gift – at least not at that time.
Grace Note: If you find something great for a relative, friend, or coworker, go ahead and buy it. Then wait and give it at a time when a gift in return isn’t expected! Save it for a birthday or anniversary, or make it an I’m-thinking-about-you-today gift that you give in a few months.
What to Say When You Unexpectedly Receive a Christmas Gift from Someone Who Agreed Not to Give You a Present
When someone surprises you with a gift, even though the two of you had agreed not to exchange them, accept it graciously. As you hold the gift, nicely say, “I’m surprised by your present. We agreed not to exchange gifts, so I don’t have one for you in return.” Then you can open the gift and thank the other person. “This sweater is gorgeous, Kiley! Thank you!” (It’s sometimes hard knowing the best thing to say while opening a gift. Here are Five Things to Say When Opening Christmas Gifts, and the Number 1 Don’t.)
Now you’re free to drop the subject.
Make sure not to buy the person a gift in return. Your word is your word; be true to it.
Perhaps next year, or the year after, the other person will get the hint when you continue to keep your word.
How to Let Coworkers Know You’d Rather Not Exchange Christmas Gifts This Year
Agree that this year, you both would rather make someone else’s Christmas special instead of exchanging gifts with one another.
If your office usually exchanges Secret Santa gifts or participates in any gift-exchanging games, you could suggest that you change things up this year, and instead, everyone pitch in to give gifts to needy children or families. Toys for Tots, The Salvation Army, and Angel Tree are three great places to start if you aren’t sure whom to contact within your area.
You could also arrange a time to meet up for a meal, event, or activity where all pay their own way. By doing this, your gift to one another is making memories together.
Grace Note: If you’ve made your thoughts about exchanging gifts known at work, but you’ve been overruled, don’t be the odd person out. Make sure to participate. You don’t want to be thought of as the office Scrooge.
How to Get Other Parents to Agree Not to Exchange Christmas Gifts Among Your Children’s Friends
Use the same method as number 5 above: plan a play-date of making cookies, building simple gingerbread houses, or crafting a gift for a family member. Or have everyone bring a gift for a child in need and have a gift-wrapping party. (When talking with other parents while at the play-date, here are The Five Manners of Great Christmas Party Conversations.)
When Agreeing Not to Exchange Gifts, What Counts and What Doesn’t Count as a Christmas Gift?
If you’ve agreed not to give gifts, then everything counts, including Christmas ornaments and decorations, potted plants and flowers, small items, handmade crafts, etc.
What Can You Give as a Gift to Someone When You’ve Agreed Not to Exchange Gifts?
Home-baked treats or anything made with love in your kitchen is great option. As you give the goodies, you can say: “I was in the kitchen making these and thought of you. Consider it a home-baked Christmas card!” In this case, you can attach a Christmas card to the baked goods or place a card in the mail, but only if you typically send cards. An actual card isn’t required.
Also, you can make plans together for the holiday season or afterward where you each pay your own way. Or you can invite the person(s) to join you at your house for anything from coffee to a formal dinner.
What to Do If Someone Refuses to Stop Exchanging Gifts with You
If the other person(s) aren’t open to not exchanging gifts even after you shared your reasons for not wanting to do so, there is nothing more you need to do or that you can do. When given your gift, accept it kindly, and thank them for it. You do not “owe” them a gift in exchange, and there’s no reason to feel angry or uncomfortable.
Yes, they should have respected your wishes. But consider it your gift to them this holiday that you’re giving them the benefit of the doubt that they gave a gift to you in the spirit of Christmas and for no other reason.
Please don’t let receiving or not receiving a Christmas present be the start of ill feelings. Always take the high road. The view is nicer and the air is cleaner!
Until next time, do what only you can do. Bless the world around you by being you at your authentic best!