Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Scaling back for Christmas

Before you read any further, I will eventually post some ideas about certain homemade gifts you can make.  But this post is a rambly one about actually scaling back on who you give to and how much you give, because sometimes, you just don't have the time or the inclination to make inexpensive gifts, especially when you're not sure if the recipient will like them or use them.

Christmas really stresses me out.  I prefer to exchange with my immediate family only.  Even then, I keep it simple (my sister and I agreed that we were a little old to be buying each other gifts all the time, and gave each other a pass for Christmas, though she still gets me things because I get things for her kids.  Well, no kidding! I like being an aunt, and she's the only sibling I have.  She's also in no danger of having 17 more kids, so I think I can swing this).  I would rather not exchange with everyone within a 100 mile radius of me.  I remember hearing someone on TV talk about getting a bunch of small things that she could throw together and create a gift  if someone brought her something and she didn't have anything for them (I think it was tea light candles and small voitive holders).  I shook my head at this.  Anyone who knows me in real life, please know this: I don't want anything but your friendship and your company.  I'm not just saying that. 

When I was a kid, my sister and I each got one major thing we wanted, and some smaller, filler gifts.  Think newsprint pads and colored pencils or crayons, Pick Up Sticks, a Barrel of Monkeys, things like that.  My parents didn't go wild, though they did want us to have a good day and to be happy with what we got.  (They also wanted us to learn to sleep in after one year when we got them up at 4:30 in the morning because we just couldn't wait.  After that, they instituted a rule that we had to wait until 7:00 a.m. before we could get them up and start on the presents.  Once we were teenagers, they were lucky if we roused ourselves by 10:00.  Okay, enough off-topic rambling. . .)

Around this time of year you see a lot of articles and blog posts about great homemade gifts to give, or inexpensive ways to give, or alternatives, etc. I am going to suggest that you may want to really scale back on who you give to, and that you start saying something now.  (In fact, I probably should have written this a few months ago, so if you find it's not going to work for you, start suggesting this after the holiday rush is over with.  At the very least, start talking about it several months before Christmas.)

Now, granted, some people love to give gifts.  There is a lot of pressure to give gifts, whether or not you're Christian, whether or not you are flush with cash and time, and whether or not you really want to.  And sometimes, if you want to scale things back, you'll find that friends and family members get very upset at this.

Here's the thing: most of us are not exactly flush with money, these days especially.  So if there's any time to scale back, it's now. You kind of have a built-in excuse. And I don't know about you all, but I have a smallish place and cannot store everything I have gotten from well-meaning friends and acquaintances over the years.  A lot of that stuff ended up being re-gifted or donated.  I'd rather that people save their money.

So, if you want to say something, I suggest being nice but blunt.  "Look, I can't afford to buy everyone outside of my immediate family gifts, so can we please not exchange?  I really don't need or want anything, and don't have the room to store more stuff.  Instead of buying each other gifts, how about we meet up at my place/your place for dinner and dessert/zombie apocalypse movie night?  Or we have a day out somewhere?"

I think things get more difficult if your spouse is not onboard with this (which makes things especially tricky if you have kids).   But one thing you can do (my parents did this) is to say "You can get one major thing you want for Christmas, and then a few smaller gifts.  So choose wisely."  But I'm not going to pretend to be the expert on this one, as I don't have children or a spouse.  (For good reason.  They'd never have Christmas if it was left up to me, because I get tired and crabby and grouchy during the season and all I really want to do is nap.)

So I will leave that to the experts out there who do have kids and spouses--chime in.  How did you/do you/will you scale back?   (Or will you?)


  1. Haha, I used to buy a "spare" gift in case someone got me something and I didn't have anything in return!! In fact a lot of this post sounds like my family - my parents institued a rule when we were kids and ended up getting us up one year when we were teens!

    It's definitely a good idea to tell kids they'll only get one main present! That's what we used to get because you only ever end up playing with one anyway!

    When I first said that I was going to be making gifts for people (just family and mulled wine sachets for a couple of friends), some thought it was a nice idea and some (The Boyfriend!) were more like, "Sooo... I'm not getting a Kindle??"! It depends on the person. This is my first year making gifts instead of buying so I have no idea how it's going to turn out yet, but I definitely have put more thought and effort into each gift through making rather than shopping!

  2. I have only ever bought my daughter a main present with stocking fillers. frankly I think its stupid buying kids so much stuff.

  3. You both are right--my sister and I played with the boxes more than the toys during Christmas. Especially the big boxes. We turned one into a spaceship.