Christmas Spending – How to Stop Christmas Gift Giving Exchanges


Christmas spending predictions for the 2010 Christmas holiday season says 43 percent of American shoppers plan to spend less money this year than they did in ‘09, while only 11 percent plan to spend more, according to America’s Research Group. Founder and CEO of America’s Research, C. Britt Beemer, says “Pessimism among Americans about the upcoming Christmas season is off the charts”.

Consumers responding to the research group’s polled survey gave political, financial and personal reasons as to why their Christmas spending habits this holiday season will be less this year than previous years. Reasons given include massive government debt and unhappiness with the direction the country is heading with current political leaders, while many families continue to struggle just to make ends meet.

Home foreclosures, job loss, difficulty in finding gainful employment to sustain basic needs of life, credit card debt, Christmas commercialism and materialism, holiday stress, unrealistic expectations and depression are just some of the reasons why many families are searching for ways to put a stop to the Christmas gift-giving exchanges they no longer want to be a part of. For years now people have been asking at what age do you stop buying and giving Christmas gifts to nieces and nephews, cousins, in-laws, grown children, parents or grandparents and other extended family members.

Is there an age when giving Christmas gifts should be stopped? If so, what is an appropriate age? Is it 15 years old, 18 years old, 21 years old, 25? Some attach an age to when they decide to stop giving Christmas gifts to older children and adults, while others base their decision on not giving gifts to those they are no longer close to or rarely if ever spend time with. Should you buy Christmas presents for the holidays or just stop Christmas gift exchanges for adults, aunts, uncles, siblings, bosses, co-workers and others on xmas gift lists from previous years? Many husbands and wives have chosen to stop giving each other Christmas gifts too, to forge ahead in their debt reduction program, save money for a special trip or family vacation, or out of desire towards a more simplified, frugal lifestyle.

For many people the Christmas holiday season means overspending, increased debt, over-consumption and stress over buying gifts for everyone on their gift list. When and how does the gift-giving madness stop? Large families and blended-families in particular have difficulty being able to afford buying and giving Christmas gifts for everyone, but small to medium-sized families are feeling the financial crunch as well and are wanting to stop participating in Christmas gift exchanges, with the commercialism and materialism so prominent in society. No Christmas gifts? None.

Call it what you choose but many Americans are opting for a “No Christmas Gifts” holiday, and the movement called “Buy Nothing Christmas” started several years ago by the Mennonites has grown in popularity. More and more people are reevaluating their spending habits during the Christmas holiday frenzy, rethinking how they spend their money, time and energy throughout the holiday season. Many people want and plan to focus their time and energies on the real meaning of Christmas, the true spirit of the holiday season, by showing love and friendship towards family and friends gathered together without the added stress of giving gifts.

Call it a down-to-earth Christmas. A Christmas celebration filled with love, kindness, fun, laughter, acceptance and tolerance, but no gifts given or received, except perhaps for the gift of experiences and building of happy memories. Christmas donations of all kinds to charitable organizations, adopting a needy family during the holiday season, volunteering in food pantries and soup kitchens for the homeless and abused, really focusing on what truly matters and what the real meaning of Christmas is all about. Not more stuff.

Families enjoying quality time together, sharing personal religious beliefs, expressing what the Christmas holiday means to each person through prayer and giving of thanks, playing games, attending holiday church services, singing Christmas carols, enjoying a holiday meal together as a family and many other Christmas traditions.

Some prefer a more alternative Christmas style holiday, where only homemade gifts are exchanged or inexpensive gifts are bought at secondhand thrift stores, fleas markets and garage sales, a white elephant gift exchange, or simply cutting back on the amount of gifts purchased and given as gifts during gift exchanges. Drawing names out of a bowl or hat at Thanksgiving works well for some families, while other families only buy Christmas gifts for young children or grandkids, but no gift giving amongst adults or spouses.

After years of overindulgence and spending money on Christmas gifts, many people and families are returning to the basics of spending time with family and friends rather than spending money on gifts. We stopped the Christmas gift-giving madness for adults as well, with gifts being given only to the very young children/grandkids, and it’s been a Godsend and substantial savings. If you want to stop the Christmas gift-giving craziness and over-spending during the holidays, you don’t need anyone’s permission to stop. Give yourself permission to stop, even if people are not pleased by the idea, and stick to your guns.

If you want to stop participating in some or all Christmas gift exchanges, then stop. If you want to scale back on the gift-giving to whatever degree, then do that. The decision is yours and yours alone to make, as married couples, parents, single persons, whatever. You make the personal choice and then tell everyone of your decision, and kindly request that they not buy you Christmas gifts either, but that you do want to spend time together just enjoying each others company. How you go about telling everyone of the no Christmas gifts rule is up to you. Some pass the news amongst family and friends by calling on the phone, while others do it by email, instant message, Skype chat, Facebook and so on.

Start new family traditions during the Christmas holiday season, perhaps implement and discuss amongst family and/or friends the concept of experience gifts. Plan and arrange for a group to take a Christmas holiday vacation trip together somewhere exciting and fun, even if it’s not until next Christmas. Find group rates for lakeside cabins that sleep up to 8, 10, 12 people or more, and enjoy the relaxed and joyous holiday lights and atmosphere with those you are closest to. No pressure about giving gifts, or keeping up with the Joneses, but a Christmas holiday filled with love, warmth, family togetherness, and pure and simple joy. And don’t forget about roasting marshmallows.

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4 Responses to “Christmas Spending – How to Stop Christmas Gift Giving Exchanges”

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  1. Marie says:

    Despite the poll..I think that its all rubbish. We have the intention of not spending as much as we did the year before but I think many people feel guilt if they don’t spend a certain amount or don’t buy everyone a present. Some people just love shopping too despite being poor. For me though, I think that is why the movements for buying nothing for christmas are awesome.

    I stopped buying christmas presents a few years back. My son is 3 and we intend to DO things with him as opposed to buy him things. Of course though others do buy him stuff but we try to limit it as we don’t want our some to become materialistic and feel he has missed out because he hasn’t got the latest gadget etc.

    Christmas to me has ALWAYS been about family anyway…and food of course..never about presents. So I think that buying nothing is awesome and more people should do it.

  2. What I’ve heard is that people will not spend the money on the office gifts or gifts for those people who aren’t family or dear, dear friends. The days of the casual, “have-a-coffee-mug-for-Christmas” are gone, for the time being anyway.

    Regarding kids (nieces/nephews), I think that once they are around the age of 11-13, you shouldn’t have to give them gifts anymore. Sadly, my 2 sisters and I still exchange gifts and we’re in our 40’s. I’ve tried to tell them to stop, but they won’t. That means I can’t stop either. Forced giving kind of takes the cheeriness out of the holiday.

  3. Sally P says:

    I find that most people feel the same when it comes to forced giving, and if you ask them about it or tell them you want to stop you are just as likely to find that they will gladly agree, and to top it off you will have a better Christmas for it!!!

    Another suggestion is to plan a fun day, to a beach or a park somewhere and agree between the adults to split the cost of that in place of gift giving.

  4. Jenny Gore says:

    We just do a single gift swap these days, everyone gets one nice gift as opposed to loads of cheaper ones. We then do a £5 “naff gift” swap game to add a bit more fun to the day!