How to have the no-gifts talk

Christmas shopping can be expensive and let’s be honest, most of us don’t stay on budget. I try my hardest but I slip, trust me. So what do you do if you don’t want to give gifts for whatever reason that works for you?

I wrote this last year for AOL and considering shopping has ramped up, thought it would be perfect to revisit.

How to Have the ‘No Gifts’ Talk with Family


My brother and I were having lunch recently when the talk turned to the holidays.
Over bowls of soup we discussed our current financial situations and mutually decided that we won’t buy each other presents this year. Instead, we decided we’d rather focus on different goals – saving to buy a house and growing a new business.

For us, it was a simple conversation and it wasn’t awkward because we both had already individually come to the same conclusion. However, it’s not the easiest conversation to have with other family members or even friends. So if you’ve decided not to go the gift route this year, how do you break the news to your family and friends? Psychologist Dr. Michal Regev suggests that before you have the discussion with friends and family, you have the discussion with yourself. She says, “Is it coming from a ‘poor me’ perspective or is it coming from a different perspective? Before opening up the discussion with others, you need to clarify how you feel about not giving gifts.”

Instead of coming from the angle of not being able to afford gifts, Regev suggests approaching the decision positively. “Change in life can be taken as a crisis or an opportunity,” she says. “Tell yourself that this is an opportunity to do something different.”

However, Regev does point out that not buying gifts and not doing anything in its place doesn’t work. “People need to do something. You need that alternative gesture. Have an open discussion and find out another way to show your care and love.” For example, a patient of hers who was a single mother had moved five years ago and couldn’t afford gifts. Instead, she went and volunteered at a soup kitchen. She got certificates from the soup kitchen saying she had volunteered for her family. The family was so touched it has become an annual tradition.

Regev isn’t suggesting you volunteer at a soup kitchen, but she does suggest that you consider alternative gifts that don’t cost money. She says, “Do a beautiful card where you tell them how much they mean to you. Go over a day early and ask what they need help with. You should do something else that’s meaningful.”

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