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Is It Time to Stop Giving Christmas Gifts?

Brian and I began changing our gift giving habits years ago. We started with limiting the dollar amount, then moved to stockings only, then a couples gift. Our daughter jumped on board as well. We hate waste and the idea of buying things just to buy them. As the years went on, it became increasingly difficult to choose gifts even with these limitations. So this year, we decided it is time to stop buying Christmas gifts.

Why might it be time to stop buying Christmas gifts?

For us it was a pretty easy decision. I couldn’t think of anything to get Brian for a gift. I picked up a few things he might need, a robe and some slippers, some pretzels & craft mustard for his stocking. Then I was stuck. He bought me a very thoughtful gift my birthday last month – a new camera, yeah!! – but couldn’t come up with ideas for Christmas.

Then it dawned on us…. If we have no idea what to buy the other person, haven’t we therefore moved into the realm of buying things just to buy them?

This realization hit us one morning when we were driving around running errands.

We decided to just stop the madness.

Should I continue to buy gifts for others?

Buying gifts doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach. My family does an adult grab which we will still participate in. We’ll continue to buy gifts for our nieces and nephews and our grandson.

Interestingly, my daughter came to the same decision this year, completely independent from us. She asked me to please not buy her things just to buy them.

While it feels weird to think about not buying gifts for our only daughter, I love to see her independent strength. Like me, she hates waste and sees how the commercialization of Christmas has in some ways ruined the holiday. She doesn’t want to accumulate stuff at Christmas. She wants to enjoy time with her family and her son.

This is what really matters.

What are other ways to simplify Christmas gift giving?

If you don’t want to stop giving gifts all together, there are other ways to reduce the chaos and simplify gift giving. Here are a few:

  • Start a family grab. Put the names of everyone over 18 in a hat and pick one name. Be sure to set a price limit and make a plan for how to label the gifts and how to give them at Christmas. The exchange can become a fun addition to your family tradition.
  • Do a Yankee Swap. Brian’s family has done this as long as I’ve known him. I found this very stressful when I first started participating because I pick terrible Yankee Swap gifts! Mine is always the one that no one ones. But, I’ve grown to really enjoy it over the years because I’ve learned to laugh at myself and just keep trying!
  • Start a joke gift tradition. Pick a name from a family list and give funny or made for TV gifts. This tradition is sure to add some laughter to your celebration.
  • Use the 5 Gift Rule for Christmas. In this tradition, you buy your loved ones something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read, and somewhere to be (an experience rather than a gift). I like this idea because it gives a structure that includes utility and fun.
  • Buy a couples gift for you and your significant other. Brian and I loved this option for years. We bought ourselves a TV one year, a vacation another. Sometimes we chose large gifts, sometimes small. Part of the fun was thinking about what we would choose each year. It’s a tradition to look forward to and one your can enjoy planning together.
  • Give experiences instead of stuff. Buy tickets to a show, a weekend away, a picnic in the park, trips to the zoo or aquarium, a baseball game, or any other fun experience. The list of options is almost limitless.
  • Plan a dinner and get together with friends and family. Make it a special event and a new tradition during the holiday season. Your loved ones will look forward to it! (post pandemic, of course)
time to stop giving Christmas gifts

Benefits of Simplifying Christmas Gift Giving

You might wonder if reducing the number of gifts you buy, or even eliminating gifts, ruins the holidays. But it doesn’t. For us, each time we further simplified our gift giving, our holidays improved.

It reduces the stress of trying to find a perfect gift, when maybe one doesn’t even exist. We save money and we save time. We’re freed up to focus on what really matters which is our family & friends. We don’t spend so much time running around from store to store trying to find something to buy, anything.

And we don’t end up accumulating a bunch of wasted stuff just to throw it all away later.

How to get started simplifying your Christmas gift giving

The first important step is to talk to your family about changes to holiday traditions. Set new expectations before you make any decisions. Do what works for your and your loved ones. Explain why you want to make the change and which traditions you’re not willing to sacrifice.

We, for example, will not stop buying gifts for the kids. I love the joy of seeing a child beaming while opening presents. I’m not willing to give that up.

But, we will exercise self-control. While I think it would be fun to spoil the children rotten and buy them piles of presents, we’re not going to do that. Doing so would be putting them on the same gift giving hamster wheel that we have struggled to step off of. Instead, we’ll give them thoughtful gifts at the holidays when they’re young and fun experiences when they’re a bit older.

We want to be a part of developing more meaningful traditions for them.


I hope you found this post helpful. Reducing gift giving has transformed our holidays from the most stressful time of the year to one of the most enjoyable times. Now I’m thinking about other ways to simplify the holidays.

This year, due to the pandemic, we are not having our large family over for Christmas Eve. My immediate family plus significant others and children has grown to 31 people. But this year it will be just Brian and I.

We’re not going to make an elaborate Christmas dinner, put out the tree, or give gifts. Instead, I’m going to make baked macaroni and cheese – with the good cheeses! – and we’re going to hang out in our comfy clothes and enjoy the day off. I can’t wait!!!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:

Enjoy the Holidays Safely During the Pandemic

How to Enjoy the Holidays with Adult Children

7 Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress

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