Gift giving at Christmas - how do you approach it?

So for the past few years I’ve tried to suggest to family that we either forgo Christmas gifts altogether, or we set a spending cap and only buy what people really want/need. I’m trying to avoid random gifts that end up being binned/donated/forgotten at the back of the cupboard. I hate waste and every year I end up with random stuff that I don’t know what to do with. I appreciate that the sentiment behind it is lovely, I’ve sort of managed to convince people to make lists with direct links etc. so we buy specific stuff that everyone wants but someone always goes off-piste and I’ll end up with a plastic penguin or an Amazon dupe of something  :| 

I have a no gifts pact with my friends which we’ve had for years now and it’s great, we’ll get together for some food/drinks and maybe send each other a nice card but nobody gets upset if the cards are forgotten and nobody stresses over presents. My partner and I usually have a nice day out together as a gift to each other. We’re buying our first house at the moment too so we’re trying really hard to limit our spending. I guess we could join forces and ask for stuff we need for the house but we have nowhere to put it until the sale has completed (we live with his family and it’s cramped for space at the moment)!

How do you approach this with your families/friends? If you like gifting at Christmas what’s your take on it? I’ve debated sticking to my guns and not buying anyone anything this year but I know for a fact I’ll end up getting presents and I’ll feel very awkward about that. But perhaps that’ll install the message for next year?


  • Will the family do a secret santa, or some of them at least? I do it with my siblings. We all make suggestions, it means we only  have to buy one present, and we have fun with it. 

    If that's not a flyer you could suggest food gifts, home made gifts, vouchers for shops that sell household goods specifically for when you move. Tickets/vouchers for theatre or cinema. 

    In the end you can only control your own behaviour, don't be made to feel bad. If you want to make a gingerbread house and take it along to a family do as a gift there is no reason why you shouldn't. Stick to your guns. If someone chooses to ignore your perfectly reasonable request that's on them, not you. 
    Just make sure and explain ahead of time what you are doing so that no-one can claim they didn't know. 
  • edited 26 November 2021 at 3:55PM
    london21london21 Forumite
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    edited 26 November 2021 at 3:55PM
    You can do secret Santa and set an amount.
    You can ask each other what you would like to avoid buying things not needed/wanted 
    You can give money or vouchers then people can buy what they want.

    What we do is we buy the little ones toys or give them money.
    We do not get ourselves worked up with Christmas gifts but spend quality time together and bond as a family.

    A lot of people spend so much during Christmas buying gifts getting themselves worked up even in debt.
    After Christmas so many stuff are sold off and given away. 

    Do what works for you and do not stress yourself too much. 

  • pickledonionspaceraiderpickledonionspaceraider Forumite
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    How do you approach this with your families/friends? If you like gifting at Christmas what’s your take on it? I’ve debated sticking to my guns and not buying anyone anything this year but I know for a fact I’ll end up getting presents and I’ll feel very awkward about that. But perhaps that’ll install the message for next year?
    I had this situation with my family a number of years ago.  I don't like Christmas anyway, and my husband and I had both been made redundant - so had no money for presents.  I simply asked everyone not to buy us gifts as we wouldn't be buying them gifts. 

    My mum and one sister were not happy saying "Christmas is for giving, not receiving" to which I replied that I refused to be made to feel guilty if they insisted on buying for us as I had been completely open an honest with them well in advance. It took a couple of years but we stuck to our guns and, finally, they got the message.  This has been totally liberating!!  When folk are rushing around like headless chickens trying to buy all sorts, I can just sit back and relax.

    Good luck!
    Exactly our story too
    With love, POSR <3
  • mamanmaman Forumite
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    We've got a 'no gifts for adults' policy in our family. DD1 started it a few years ago as she just hates 'stuff'. We just give generous gifts to grandchildren and money to some other children in the extended family (previously toys or books or clothes with advice from parents). DD2 was disappointed as she loves shopping but she can indulge her in-laws and friends so goes along with it. 

    Our DDs have birthdays near Christmas. We're generous then, usually money unless they ask for something specific. 

    DH and I rarely exchange gifts for birthdays or Christmas as we don't need anything. We go out to eat at a favourite restaurant for birthdays and often a mini break.

    We have one group of friends where we exchange small tokens over a pre Christmas lunch. One year I bought Lidl stollen for everyone to demonstrate how delicious they are and how they were missing out by not shopping at the discounters!🤣

  • SpendlessSpendless Forumite
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    I love Christmas and gift giving. My DD turned 18 earlier this year, she is the youngest on both sides of the family so we now have an all adult family. We're actually top heavy with pensioners and have been for a number of years, with 2 in their 90s and 3 in their 70s. I've never stopped buying for them since I started to earn my own money as a teenager and will continue to do so until they are no longer with us. For my own DS and DD, the closer relatives such as Grandparents, Great Grandparents still buy whereas the not as direct  family/friends such as Aunts  and Godparents have mostly stopped.  

    I  have 1 side of the family that is very good at gift giving, always something thoughtful, appreciated and gets used. The other side not so much, nothing to do with the amount they spend,they're  just not great at selecting items.  Maybe it's the way I'm reading your post but to me it sounds like you have the latter within your own family set up, which is why you want to gear them towards making 'better' choices or not to bother. I think that could be a tough one.

    If this is the first year you've made specific suggestions, why not see if that works first before deciding on the next way forward. 

  • edited 26 November 2021 at 7:21PM
    elsienelsien Forumite
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    edited 26 November 2021 at 7:21PM
    I like giving and getting prezzies. Sibling doesn’t. 
    We have an agreement that there is no obligation to get me anything (although a bottle and a bit of chocolate won’t go amiss) and I  spend under a fiver on him so he’s got something to open when his kids open theirs. Chocolate, a book I know he’ll like from the chazza, and some jokey things from Poundland that I know will make him laugh. 
    Works for us. 
    All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

    Pedant alert - it's could have, not could of.
  • kimwpkimwp Forumite
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    We've been doing family secret Santa for several years, but have now agreed no presents at Christmas, between the adults at least - I think parents and grandparents are buying for their offspring.
    I've opted out of my friend secret Santa this year. I feel like a Scrooge, but I just can't align it with reducing waste and consumption for the climate crisis- if a quarter of presents given are tat/not needed, that's (I'm guessing) over a billion bits of rubbish, not to mention the wrapping paper and energy to make and transport it all.
  • yksiyksi Forumite
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    Like others, it has taken a bit of time to get my message across. My in-law side of the family has been great, we realised that every year we are sort of told that the "nephews don't need anything and would appreciate money towards (whatever item they are hoping to buy)" so we agreed to do that, and it opened the conversation about the adults. I said that I always appreciate gifts that get used up or eaten or experienced, because they don't leave me with more "stuff" to find a place for. That year, I received lovely things I could use or eat, without a single piece of tat or any nick-knacks in sight. The year after that we all chatted about how lovely it was not to be stuck with ornaments, and how the day should be about spending time together not spending money, and let's just buy for the kids from now on - so we no longer gift among the adults.

    My mother is overseas and I've thanked her for the constant gifts - at first I tried reminding her that she was making the postman rich and she switched to sending money. I'm always very grateful and I do try to tell her not to send it, but that's a losing battle. I always buy her a charity donation in return, among the things I have bought are 50 meals for the homeless in her country and a goat for a person in a third-world country. They seem to have gone down well with her. The amount is dropping as she starts to understand that I'm serious about not needing the money and that I'm also serious about not needing more "stuff". I won't take away her obvious pleasure in gifting xx but I will make sure that she isn't hurting herself financially to give me gifts.

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