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Why We Aren’t Buying Gifts this Christmas

We aren’t doing Christmas gifts this year and I refuse to feel guilty about it. In fact, I feel liberated. Our anti-Christmas gift stance actually arose for a variety of reasons. 
First of all, last year was a super expensive pain in our butts. We tried to be very reasonable. We did. We set a budget of around $25-$40 a person. But between my family, Adam’s family, and a few of our closest friends, we easily exceeded the $500 without blinking an eye. And that didn’t even include gifts for each other! Because costs added up so fast, I found myself constantly worried about expenses. Sure, we could load $300 worth of gifts in the car but we might not be able to afford gas for the trip to visit the people who they belong too. So basically, it was just too much money. That’s the reason that nearly everyone (who doesn’t have limitless funds) can relate to.
Second, gifts had gotten too competitive. Instead of feeling great about picking up a great gift that really reminded me of someone, I was worried about the gift being either too big or too small. Family members were constantly calling to ask what “else” we wanted because they had exceeded a budget for one person meaning that in turn, our own budget was going to increased out of guilt. (What?!) Gift exchanges became a type of competition for who could give the gift that would get the best reception. And of course, when a gift didn’t get that a warm reception or if there weren’t enough “ooohs” and “ahhhs”, suddenly, feelings were hurt. So basically, it was just too many hurt feelings waiting to happen.
Third, gifts had really lost the meaning of the season. To me, Christmas will always be, in part, about childlike innocence. I can vividly recall insisting I saw Santa’s sleigh fly over our house. I remember waking up early and running outside to see if Santa’s reindeer had eaten the “reindeer food” my third grade teacher handed out. (It was birdseed fyi. In case you were curious.)I fondly recall baking cookies to set out for Santa and willing myself to fall asleep so that all the magic could begin. Those Christmas memories are golden. But as of late, Christmas became 8+ adults sitting around a room opening gifts in turn. There were no special baked cookies for Santa, no reindeer food, and no sleigh sightings. Without the gift of seeing Christmas through a child’s eyes, it seemed silly to sit around and exchange gift cards of equal value. So basically, without a sense of childlike wonderment, Christmas gifts just fell flat for me.
Finally, Adam graduates this December with his PhD. While I’m over the moon excited for him, it also means that his job at the university is over. Soon, Adam will be on the hunt for something else to keep him busy from 8-5 and provide income for our family. With so many unknown factors, it didn’t seem practical to spend a lot of time and effort on gift giving. So basically, we had bigger fish to fry and gifting just didn’t make the cut.
I have to say, as sad as it was to break the news to our families that we weren’t doing gifts this year, I feel so good about our decision. Adam and I are going to be able to stick money back into our savings account in December to help prepare for the unknown future after his graduation. We also don’t have to fight crowds and lines or stress over budgets and lists. I’m looking forward to a Christmas holiday spent, as I think they should be — focused on what really matters. What really matters to us, isn’t gifts under the treat or stuffed stockings. For us, what matters is time with people that we love, creating memories and laughs that carry us through darker times. 
So this year, Adam and I will watch Christmas movies, sing Christmas carols, eat way too much delicious food, and sip hot beverages in front of fireplaces with those we love. But we’ll do all of it without gifts under our tree. And you know, that doesn’t bother me one little bit.
Would you ever consider a giftless Christmas?

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  • Reply Cassie Lee @ Sage the Blog

    I'm so on board with your decision! We have really cut back on gifts since getting married and it really takes a lot of the stress off! So excited for Adam to get his PhD! What an accomplishment!!!

    December 4, 2014 at 1:25 pm
  • Reply Nancy @ Sincerely and Sarcastically

    The past few years my sisters and brother decided not to exchange gifts with each other since it's so expensive. There are 5 of us kids.. so it is just too much. I would love to do a no gift Christmas with everyone including my fiancé's families but I feel like I'll have to suggest that a year in advance with them since I know they shop year round for gifts.

    December 4, 2014 at 1:44 pm
  • Reply Kate Mitchell

    That makes complete and total sense – and definitely sounds less stressful. Enjoy the holiday season without that extra stress!

    December 4, 2014 at 1:53 pm
  • Reply Brittany Fry @ The 26th of August

    This is something my husband and I have discussed greatly. Him coming from a family that was not very well to do growing up (single mom with 5 kids) and then me with parents who spoiled us to no end when it was Christmas time it is something I struggle with, the not gifting part. Last year we spent way too much money on everyone's gifts and we found ourselves strapped through the month of December and even January because we had went way overboard. We are considering only gifting to our parents this year and just enjoying friends and family company during our Holiday travels.

    December 4, 2014 at 2:15 pm
  • Reply Kate @ Another Clean Slate

    This sounds very tempting! I tend to go overboard with gifts every year. My mom mentioned maybe doing a family trip next year instead of gifts which I would totally love!

    December 4, 2014 at 2:34 pm
  • Reply Nina W

    Maybe I need to consider a giftless Christmas because I am too poor for this Christmas, especially because all my friends are getting married right now. Weddings are so expensive. Why do they need 3 gifts?! My aunt is doing a giftless Christmas but I don't see anything wrong with it. I think giftless Christmases are a great way to refocus on family during the holiday season.

    December 4, 2014 at 3:07 pm
  • Reply Notes from a Newlywed

    Interesting! So, is the rest of your family on board, or were they hurt by your decision? Or did they decide to do the same in support? I wish we could totally forego gifts, but I don't have the guts for that yet. Instead this year I'm making a lot of them to get the budget down at least. It's a start. And for the gifts from Cal and I to each other, instead of real "gifts," we're just giving each other things that we both really need. He desperately needs some new shirts since he has holes in almost all his current ones, and my flour sifter broke, so that seems practical enough. Nothing too fancy, and that's OK.

    December 4, 2014 at 3:55 pm
  • Reply Cece

    Our family has done a secret santa thing for years. Everyone who wants to participate goes into the hat and you only have one person to buy for with a $50 limit. I usually have one family gift and one (or a few) husband gifts. That's it. Totally doable. We are adults. We don't need tons of presents.

    December 4, 2014 at 4:02 pm
  • Reply Rebecca Jo

    I beg people for a giftless Christmas… Our gifts ends up costing THOUSANDS… that I would rather put on something important… I love you are doing this. I am going to share this post. I think this needs to happen more often!

    December 4, 2014 at 4:08 pm
  • Reply Amanda Nicole

    Wo don't do gifts much either. Unless I can make them, they are a super inexpensive (read: dollar store) gag gift, or they really really need it, we don't buy gifts. It's such a relief to us and to them.

    December 4, 2014 at 4:54 pm
  • Reply Christina at

    I think this is an excellent idea. Especially with so many new 'holidays' popping up requiring gifts be given to everyone for every possible reason.

    December 4, 2014 at 5:04 pm
  • Reply Life with Amberly

    Totally logical! I've started to like giving experiences and time rather than gifts. For the last two years, we've printed out a little gift certificate on Word for Joe's grandma that just says she's entitled to a weekend of manual labor, dinner on us and good company. And then we pick three days to go down south to visit her, Joe takes care of the yard, we hang out, and we take her to dinner. It's her favorite gift, and it's more of a memory than an item!

    December 4, 2014 at 7:02 pm
  • Reply Amber Thomas

    I wish we were mature enough to go and make this choice. And yet, we aren't, and here we are budgeting and being frustrated by all the people we feel we have to "worry" about gifting to. It's tiring, really, but there will be something wonderful in seeing them open their gifts and being joyful about them. 🙂

    December 4, 2014 at 7:21 pm
  • Reply chelsea @ the new wifestyle

    wow – that's great you were able to let your whole family know this! we don't do gifts anymore on my side of the family but my in-laws still insist on a secret santa so at least it's only one gift but with a limit of $150 it's still more money than i want to spend! my hubs and i are all about saving up our money for experiences – post on that soon- because it lasts longer and is way more exciting to us! thanks for sharing this and good job you two!

    December 4, 2014 at 7:51 pm
  • Reply Anonymous

    I decided to make handmade gifts this year. It takes some time and creativity but it doesn't have to be expensive. And I personally appreciate something that's thoughtful. I think you have to come to the place where there's no guilt about gifts – size, worth, etc. It's the thoughts that count. I have a post coming on my blog tomorrow about gift ideas that are CHEAP but special.

    December 4, 2014 at 8:28 pm
  • Reply Anonymous

    I could not agree with you more on all three points. Gifting to everyone and their dog is just too much in every sense.

    I so wish my family would let me make this decision, but I just don't see it possible to even suggest a giftless Christmas without a lot of name-calling and hurt feelings. A lot of people I know associate money/material things with affection, and I never have, so gifting as a way to say "I love you" makes NO sense to me. I don't want my love for my family members to appear tied up in a dollar amount on a price tag for an item that they may not want or need.

    Since I can't go totally giftless, this year I really reevaluated who I would gift to and decided that I would only buy gifts for friends who show kindness, generosity, and compassion all year. The friends who I can see something and *know* they will enjoy it or get plenty of use out of it or smile when they see it. Same for family gifts. And I removed some people from my gift list because it shouldn't be an obligation. I'm giving gifts to say "thank you, now take some pampering/spoiling for yourself for a change." And for those who I cannot afford to buy gifts this year, I will send a card with my love and wishes and, hopefully spend some quality time. I've made a firm "one item only" rule this year and it's helping to keep things under control.

    December 4, 2014 at 8:55 pm
  • Reply Kristyn

    While we are still buying gifts for people, we kept the budget in check. And we aren't doing gifts for each other. We adopted a 2 year old girl from the Salvation Army Angel Tree and spent enough money on her to make me happy. We also aren't buying gifts for ourselves. We are going back to our wedding venue this weekend and that is our "gift" to each other. I love that!

    December 4, 2014 at 11:32 pm
  • Reply Valerie Darling

    Definitely agree with your points. I've been trying to convince my parents to do a Secret Santa kind of thing so that there's still presents and the joy of giving and receiving but without breaking the bank.

    December 5, 2014 at 12:47 am
  • Reply Blush and Barbells

    I stopped giving Christmas gifts years ago. I don't want to spend money on more crap someone will just throw in the back of the closet. I bake instead, and only if I'm going to someone's house. No one has ever disliked my Christmas cookies!

    December 5, 2014 at 1:39 am
  • Reply Jenny Padilla

    My family only gives gifts to the "younger" kids or grand kids. All the adults don't really buy gifts for each other, although I still buy things for my parents. I set a limit to $50/person for my immediate family, and gifts for cousins are usually a joint effort. Gifts/material goods have never really been significant in my family, so I don't really feel guilty about not giving too much since they've never been that important! Growing up, my mom made us wait until the very end of the night to open gifts on Christmas, so that we'd spend all day with family- the most important part. I hated this at the time, but completely appreciate it now 🙂

    From the Desk of J

    December 5, 2014 at 3:10 am
  • Reply Kay R.

    Good for you! I love that you two take a stance and stick to it. Honestly I wont be buying many gifts this year either for similar reasons. Im buying for family and for the gift exchanges like at work that Im committed to. I cant be bothered with all the extra this year and it is very liberating!

    December 5, 2014 at 4:23 am
  • Reply Anonymous

    This is actually a great idea! I've thought about not buying gifts this year, but I felt a little guilty. Maybe next year since I've already finished my shopping this year.

    December 5, 2014 at 5:16 am
  • Reply Rachel

    That's no fun when gift-giving becomes tit-for-tat. Gifts have always been rather sporadic in my family, since we usually don't see our families for Christmas, we don't give them presents, either, because international shipping is NOT worth it. Last year we did see my family in december so we took the whole family to an arcade for Christmas–cost about $40 for my family of 9 to play tons of quarter games that most of my little sisters had never seen before–that was a blast, and 100% worth the financial outlay for the fun memories with my family.
    I think it's ridiculous when people give gifts they can't afford. I do think no presents at all for Christmas would make me a little sad, but if it was needed, of course I'd do it. But I'd miss my annual Christmas candy. I never buy candy for myself, ever, so I look forward to my Christmas candy immensely.

    December 5, 2014 at 5:57 am
  • Reply nancygrayce

    How liberating is that????? I am always saying we are not buying gifts "next year" and I think I may send out a New Year's letter saying that very thing. So thanks!!!

    December 5, 2014 at 5:32 pm
  • Reply Tracy

    I'm really curious how you brought this up to your families and how they reacted? At this point my husband and I are thinking about doing the same, mainly because it's uh, December 5 and we haven't even thought about gifts for a single second. The only reason we would buy any at this point is, like you said, out of guilt, which seems to go against the very point of buying gifts in the first place. I'm not opposed to buying something if I find something I think the person will truly like, but I have no time, money, or interest in purchasing gifts just because I'm "supposed" to.

    December 5, 2014 at 8:45 pm
  • Reply Lisa @ Two Martinis

    I am REALLY trying to figure out how to eliminate gift giving this year. I think it gets out of control and people in our families make lists of things they want and ask for our wish-lists and I just don't know why everyone doesn't just go out and shop for their own stuff! Sorry, mini-rant there. My question is, how did people in your family take the idea of you guys not doing gifts this year? And what are you planning to do when everyone else is opening their gifts? I know that if Tim and I said we weren't going to buy gifts, people would still buy us gifts and that seems a bit awkward… I'd love to hear more of your thoughts on this!

    December 9, 2014 at 1:35 am
  • Reply ANNIE M

    This makes complete sense actually. I only really buy for my hubs, 2 sisters & 3 BFFs. No one else really. Keep it simple & meaningful…& not too expensive is our motto 😛

    December 12, 2014 at 4:02 am
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