It’s time to rethink Christmas gifts

Let’s talk about Christmas. Yes, we must. Okay so maybe you dread all the ‘Whose house shall we have it at this year?’ or ‘Do we really need to have turkey shouldn’t we have a change?’ discussions and so on. But you’ve probably started thinking about presents and what you’ll get for who. The more organised among us are probably working their way well down THE LIST.

What do you mean the thought of buying all the Christmas presents doesn’t fill you with tingles of excitement and anticipation? Not filled with the joy of giving? Or the pleasure of receiving? Well to be honest if you feel that way you’re not alone. The buying of gifts can be highly stressful, knowing who to buy for, what to buy, when to find time to buy it, the guilt over buying endless stuff that may or may not end up going to waste, the packaging, the budgeting, the panic over what if I buy them this shower gel and it turns out they’re allergic to normal soaps so they won’t be able to use it and they end up getting me something four times the price?

The never knowing who will spring surprise gifts on you, the colleague who suddenly produces homemade chutney for the whole team, the neighbour who pops round with a bottle… so you need the backup presents too. Not to mention your nearest and dearest, their birthday present was a bit of a damp squib so you’d better get them something amazing this time round. The pressure, the pressure.

Then there’s the receiving. If you’re struggling to buy yourself nice things, good clothes, meals out, stuff for the house, it can be lovely to receive these things for a gift. But more often than not the things we’re given are definitely NOT the things we would have bought ourselves. Galling to find someone has spent a fair whack on buying you a fancy oil burner you’re never going to use when you would have loved that amount of cash to spend on something you wanted AND needed. And now you’re faced with the dilemma of do you keep the gift you’re never going to use taking up valuable cupboard space or do you get rid of it straightaway and risk being found out by the giver?

But there is another way. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Have a gift amnesty. Chances are, there are countless others in your circle who think the same as you do. of being guilted into giving 30 gifts this Christmas and receiving 30 back, why don’t you talk to people you know and decide between you to have a no-gift Christmas. The gift can be freeing each other from the burden of gift giving. Imagine how relaxing Christmas would be? Someone needs to break the cycle of obligation. Why not you?

Someone who feels strongly about this is Martin Lewis of Money Saving Expert. He launched his campaign against giving unneccessary Christmas presents nine years ago and it’s going strong. He isn’t saying ‘don’t give your grandmother any presents and let the kids cradle a piece of coal’. He’s railing against the ever widening number of people for whom we feel obliged to buy for. Neighbours, friends, kids’ friends, the lady in the playground we don’t like but she’s just handed us a ribbon wrapped package (‘It’s just a little something, you don’t need to get me anything…’).

In a nutshell, his argument goes thus: by giving so many Christmas presents we’re mis-prioritising our finances, spending money we can’t afford to spend and worse, we’re creating an often stressful obligation on those we’re giving to, as they’re forced into a situation where they feel they need to reciprocate. So I give you a £20 sequinned clutch bag. In return you give me a £20 picture frame. So we spent the same amount but if I had the choice would I have spent £20 on buying myself a picture frame? Probably not. So we’re all quids down. Here’s his updated blog post on the subject.

And remember, reigning in present buying among your wider circles is very different to banning all gift buying and ending up empty handed on Christmas morning. Nobody wants that. But think about biting the bullet and having an amnesty among friends. When you mention it, chances are they’ll be mighty relieved and back you up all the way.

©2018 Rightsize Ltd.   No part of Rightsize content or images, whole or partial, may be used without Sarah Macnaught’s written consent.  Email her at  Sarah Macnaught, is a leading declutterer and downsizing specialist in the UK.  She is UK ambassador for the Institute of Professional Organisers and an international member of the National Assn of Senior Move Managers