When I tell people that we don’t exchange Christmas gifts, I get mixed reactions, ranging from “Really?!?”, usually partnered with a sneer, or “How did you get your family to agree to that?”, the latter partnered with a glimmer of hope. Two kinds of people, right?
I was recently at a store and the cashier was trying to make small talk. “Are these for yourself or are they presents?” I laughed and replied, “For myself.” Continuing to attempt the small talk, she asked me, “Have you done your Christmas shopping yet?” First of all, this was the week before Thanksgiving, am I really supposed to be finished with Christmas shopping? But I replied, “We don’t really do presents.” “Really?!?” she asked. (I told you it was always one reaction or the other.) “Well, there are no kids in our family so the adults just agreed to do no presents.” “Oh, ok,” the cashier girl replied, but she sounded sort of glum about it.
Seeing as this is a personal finance blog, I thought it would be a good place to discuss our lack of gift buying, to further explain to those people who ask how we manage to get away without exchanging gifts and to explain my rationale to those who think we are nuts.
We’ve never been big gift people. If you’re familiar with the Five Love Languages, gift giving is not one of mine; I don’t feel especially loved nor do I express my love through gifts. For me, gift giving is a source of stress and I always feel slightly uncomfortable expecting gifts and accepting them. Davin is similar, but for him his gift aversion skews toward his sense of utility. He’s the kind of guy who would rather go buy a tile saw or put money into his investments than be given a cheesy tie or buy somebody a scarf.
Since we’ve been together, we’ve slowly gone down the slope of no gifts. Our first birthdays together he gave me a card and I gave him a $6.99 DVD to replace one of his favorites that had stopped playing. We exchanged presents our first Christmas out of obligation, but the kind of gift giving where the person picks out what they want anyways. So after that pointless endeavor we abandoned gift giving and in fact, we insisted on no gifts at our wedding.
Although we had agreed amongst ourselves to stop gift giving, we hadn’t yet stopped the tradition with the family, nor had we really considered the idea. Then last Christmas we went to Target to do some Christmas shopping. As we wandered the aisles, we realized that we had absolutely no plan of what we were buying or for whom. I feel like that’s what retail commercials make you do; give you this vague obligation that you should buy something just to buy something for Christmas. So as we wandered the aisles, we finally looked at each other and said, “What are we doing?” So we called up our families, asked to do no presents and everybody quickly agreed, both to my surprise and pleasure. Then we went on to buy board games which were on sale and had a blast paying said games with the family on Christmas.
For us, skipping the gift giving tradition isn’t about the money, although that’s a nice perk. It’s about removing the stress and the pressure of holiday shopping and instead enjoying the day with your loved ones. I absolutely cast no judgment on people who express their love through gift giving, and if there were kids in our family I would buy some presents for them, although probably not to the extreme. However, if the idea of holiday shopping fills you with anxiety and dread, don’t feel obligated to do it! You’d be surprised how easy it is to get your family to agree and to escape the gift giving tradition.