One lifestyle change that has really made a significant impact is the Gift Moratorium. Years ago my 4 sisters and brother used to exchange little “gifties” – you know, the tchotchkey stuff you see and think, “oh my sister would love this!” The truth was, we all came to the conclusion that we could live without most of those little things.
One year my sister bravely called a moratorium on gift giving. She let everyone know that she did not have the money to buy us all gifts, and that her kids already had too much stuff. Since then, we have stopped exchanging gifts among our siblings. For Christmas and birthdays, I send a check to each of my nieces and nephews for $5.00. The little ones are thrilled to get any amount. When they turn 13 I kick it up to $25.
I have extended this gift moratorium to all my friends as well. For close friends I give the gift of my time – hours of free babysitting, petsitting, garage organizing, you get the idea. When I invite people to my home, I include on the invitation NO GIFTS. I tell the ones who can’t imaging not getting me a gift that I really want something I can’t buy myself, like photos of the kids or their artwork.
Recently I watched a friend go through a catalog, excitedly picking out $35 and $50 gifts for friends and family. This same friend can’t sleep because her financial situation is so tight. She is living on the edge, and has cut back on everything, even food. Yet she still wants to give expensive gifts – which may end up on someone’s re-gifting shelf.
I ‘d like to start a national campaign – “Just Say No” to gifts!
I love the idea of giving time and receiving childrens’ artwork or framed photos as gifts. I think of my nephews every time I see their paintings in my office. I love to pause in the hallway and look at family pictures.
I know my family would understand if I went on a gift moratorium, but I think it would be harder to explain to all my friends. Sure, my “real friends” would understand, but it would still be awkward to explain my decision. I suppose that is the first part of the challenge – figuring out a way to talk about money as if it were the weather.
Would you go on a gift moratorium? If yes, how would you tell your family and friends. If no, why not?