New research finds that one in three of us wish we could bypass gift-giving altogether in order to save money. Here’s how to do that without pissing anyone off.
Many of us dream of being a bit of a Grinch, according to a survey of more than 1,100 Americans conducted by YouGov on behalf of mortgage servicer Mr. Cooper.
Indeed, one in three people (33%) say that they wish they could skip the holiday season rather than spend money on gifts. And about 35% of millennials say they want to skip the holidays this year and spend money on something other than gifts.
This comes after data released by the Kimberly-Clark Corp. in mid-November found that one in four millennials — 25% — report that they’d prefer to receive households essentials (the basics like toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, and feminine hygiene products) as gifts, so that they could save the money on purchasing these themselves.
But, despite these warnings signs, research found that, in 2016, shoppers shelled out an average of $929 on presents. That’s the first time that individual holiday spending has risen above the $900 marker since 2006.
Some people have had enough. South Florida attorney Isabelle Ager decided a few years ago that gift-giving between her social circle was overrated and led to excess anxiety, so she and her girlfriends elected to change up their routine.
“I [still] do it for the kids,” Ager told Moneyish, but when it came to friends, she felt she was “losing the spirit of it. It was a task to be done,” rather than a joyful activity to go out and shop for everyone on her list, she explained.
“In lieu of that, we have a holiday celebration. One day we did a cooking class, we’ve done pottery class, we’ve done foot massages, we’ve done outings, we’ve done shows,” and many other fun get-togethers to celebrate the holidays as a group. Rather than coming across like Scrooge, Ager says this recent tradition has only brought her closer to her friends during this celebratory time of year.
Connecticut etiquette expert Karen Thomas — who has also given up gift-giving to friends — says it’s fair game to do away with gifting for almost anyone in your life.
“As long as you include everyone in the plan,” you’re safe, Thomas added, noting that the best way to initiate a group dialogue about doing away with gift-giving is to come right out and say it: If you’re saving this year, tell you’re friends you’re sticking to a budget and, rather than exchanging gifts, you’d prefer to do something experiential that everyone can partake in and enjoy.
“Never be forced to live up to everyone else,” Thomas cautioned. “You stay true to yourself and your budget and that way you don’t get into trouble. You’re respected more for doing so rather than putting yourself in a bad position.”
Once the initial awkwardness of discussing why you’re taking a reprieve from gift-giving is out of the way, Thomas says it’s smooth-sailing. Put your group on an email chain or joint text message, and sort out fun ideas of what you can do together so that they don’t feel like missing out on a gift means that they’re unimportant to you.
What happens if this gifting quagmire hits a little closer to home, though — your kids, per se? Is it ever acceptable to forego gift-giving to them entirely, especially while they’re young?
“Depending on your situation, yes, it’s acceptable not to give to your kids… but I wouldn’t suggest that you cut them off,” Thomas counseled. “If it’s a huge financial burden or tragedy,” all you’ve got to say is, “This year [we’re] cutting back, we’re not able to be as extravagant, so we’re going to cut out gifts for Christmas. We hope you understand.”
However, alternatives to physical gifts, like a family game night or family movie night, can be “even better,” Thomas added, so counterbalance by planning a special, more cost-effective activity instead.
On that note, should you adopt this trend with everyone? “It can apply to anybody… there’s nothing wrong with it,” Thomas concluded, adding that it’s a “personal preference” if you want to continue giving gifts to your other friends’ kids, but by late teenage years, it’s time to disband.
In Ager’s case, there are still those in her life to whom she gives holiday gifts.
“For my secretary that’s fun… One year I did a wallet,” as a gift, “and in the wallet I did all sorts of different gift cards for my lead paralegal.”
“That’s the fun of it, being able to say, ‘What are we going to do to be able to celebrate friendship?'”
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