No need to avoid friends and relatives if you don’t want to exchange gifts this holiday season. There’s a tactful way to opt out of gift exchanges without looking like a Scrooge, says Nancy R. Mitchell, aka The Etiquette Advocate. I turned to her for advice on how to broach the subject.
Your best bet is to be honest with friends and family so you don’t miss out on the Christmas celebration if money is tight, Nancy says. Remember Christmas is not about gifts.
“I think honesty is the best policy in this case and say I would love to participate, but I’m not able to do so right now. I’m on a very limited budget.”
Speaking to the person in charge of the gift exchange is a must as they can set the tone for the rest of the family, says Nancy. That same person may also be the one hosting the get-together at their home or making this year’s plans on how to spend the holidays. So giving this individual a fair amount of warning on your wanting to skip gifts is a must.
“Anyone who has good manners would never push the point with someone who said that,” Nancy said.
During the holiday season those planning gift exchanges and parties “must be very sensitive about people’s finances in these times,” says Nancy. Making someone feel uncomfortable because they can’t exchange gifts is a big no-no.
There are ways to be a part of your families yearly celebration that don’t cost a money. “Maybe you get creative and you say I would like to give an IOU gift to everybody I would normally give a gift to,” Nancy suggests.
By wrapping and gifting IOUs for friends and relatives to help with yard work, bring dinner to an elderly relative, or baby sit for nieces and nephews it shows you still want to be included even though you’re going through a financial rough patch.
You may not be the only one tight on money and your family may even decide to do things differently, Nancy says. Instead of exchanging gifts, consider doing one of the following:
- Volunteering at a shelter as a family.
- Helping out another family.
- Doing something for your neighborhood like cleaning up a park.
- Pooling your money and giving it to a charity of your family’s choice.
Changing up your routine will allow everyone to give whatever they can afford, Nancy says.
Though many family members may be game, don’t be surprised if someone in your family objects! “Not every single person is going to agree with everything, so maybe you compromise,” Nancy says. Do keep in mind that majority rules!
After the ground rules are set to skip gifts as a family and someone gives you a gift, accept it and send a thank you note. “Don’t embarrass them because they’ve broken the rules and don’t run out and get them a gift to reciprocate,” Nancy said.
Do everything in your power to be a part of your work’s holiday celebration. “You want to be part of the group, you want to be part of the morale, the camaraderie that the company is trying to generate at the end of the year by doing this,” Nancy says.
Nancy suggest you “economize somewhere else.” Though money may be tight you must consider your actions can be misinterpreted by your boss and coworkers. Opting out of the annual Secret Santa can be “perceived as you having issues with management, that you’re unhappy, that you’re not a social person, all kinds of things can be read into your not participating at work.” In other words, it can backfire on your.
Hopefully, the spending limit is low and you can scrounge up a few bucks. If you do decide to opt out, it’s best to skip the event where the exchange is happening.
Have you ever opted out of gift exchanges? How did you do it? What was your family and friends’ response?
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Mary Jane says
Thanks for a great article. I totally agree that saying that “money is tight” should be enough. And it was good that if someone DOES buy you a gift that you simply say “Thank you.” and do not have to run out to buy a gift to reciprocate. So many times for Christmas, there are gifts both given and received that are not appreciated.
Perhaps another idea would be to simply with the IOU set a certain dollar amount and just give a small amount of money as you can afford it. Then you will have fulfilled your obligation and they will have a few bucks extra.
I also like what you said about the office parties too!
Yazmin Cruz says
@Mary Jane That’s another option! Just remember gifts are voluntary, not an obligation.
Christina Ellis says
I have never opted out of a gift exchange even when money was super tight, but I have gotten very creative with gift giving when funds are low. I found items for gift exchanges at: swaps, free markets, garage sales, through freecycle.org, at 99 cent stores. I have also baked a couple dozen cookies and wrapped them up cute and given those as gifts. I feel that not participating can come across wrong and I would want to be invited the next time.
Yazmin Cruz says
@Christina Ellis Those are great places to shop for inexpensive gifts! Rest assured that opting out of gift exchanges won’t be taken wrong if you go about it the right way.
Jen Y says
I have always been honest & early. Don’t wait until a few weeks before Christmas, some people shop early. Another thing I do is choose a different friend every year to buy a gift for. I actually pray & think about who really needs some extra encouragement each year. Then, when I present the gift I tell them what I’m doing – that I choose one person each year, always a different person & this is their yr. That way, they don’t feel the need to reciprocate & they don’t expect a gift every year. It’s so much fun! The person never expects the gift so it’s really fun to give it.
Yazmin Cruz says
@Jen Y This is great advice regarding timing. I also love that you take your time picking the person you’ll be a bless to with a gift.
@Jen Y That is so clever! You are a kind spirit to give gifts to your friends.