The Reduced Christmas

It all started with a little text asking “Would you be ok with an adult gift exchange?” from my mother-in-law to my wife.  I nearly did a dance right there.  You see my mother-in-law LOVES Christmas and has for years had the tendency to go a bit overkill on presents (at least to my taste).  I’ve noticed as I get older I really do want less stuff (let’s face it I already own most of things I want in life).  I’m more into give me a few things that I REALLY want and skip the rest (you know like the sweater you hate at once, but seem to hang onto for two years out of guilt).  I would rather spend my effort seeing people and enjoying their company than buying more stuff.

So that gift exchanged cut things back a bit more.  Yet it gave me an idea to take that to the next level and suggest to friends of ours to stop exchanging gifts for each other as well and focus on the kids instead.  They also agreed!  It seems I’m not entirely alone in getting a bit too much stuff over the holidays.

With those two agreements we have managed to take down our Christmas budget by about $250 to a total of $1335.  Actually since I’ve been keeping records, we will now only be budgeting $185 higher than our 2003 budget with no adjustment for inflation.  I should point out too, that in the 10 years of records I have we have never once went over our budget.

While I don’t think I’ll ever get down to a no gift Christmas, I am pleased to see that we have managed to resist to urge to keep expanding our shopping lists.  Yet instead I have expanded the amount of vacation I take over the holidays.  I notice having more time off just prior to Christmas I actually have time to do things and enjoy my vacation.  I don’t run around shopping, wrapping and generally losing my mind.

Have you reduced your Christmas over the years?  Any tips on talking with friends and relatives on buying less?  Or how do you cope with all the rushing around that seems to happen?

10 thoughts on “The Reduced Christmas”

  1. “I REALLY want and skip the rest (you know like the sweater you hate at once, but seem to hang onto for two years out of guilt).”

    OK, I’m a scrooge. I don’t want gifts. I wait till guests leave and throw the stuff in the garbage. It’s brand new I know and I could donate, but it frustrates me so much I just get rid of it as soon as possible.

  2. The “no gifts between adults” suggestion came up a few years ago and resulted in a furious debate in our family. As the eldest, I suggested, “OK then–why don’t we all just cook things and bring a lot of food to share on Christmas Eve?” (The nature of compromise is that not all sides are happy but they reluctantly agree to a middle ground.)

    It slowly evolved one step further where we don’t bother to buy our nieces and nephews anything. Their respective parents buy the gifts. Surprisingly, this came not from cheapness or a financial aspect but because the parents realized their kids had way, way, WAY too many toys already at home. It was a physical space/overwhelming/battery issue really.

    The grandparents are still allowed to buy gifts for the kids though. And we usually pick up something for them in return. So, there’s still a little bit of gift opening on Christmas Eve.

    It’s way more fun now–relaxed, less money, and less work than ever before. Less ripped up wrapping paper chaos, less packaging junk, less crying, less fighting over toys, less being disappointed in what your sibling bought you after you put so much time and though into theirs. Our family now looks forward to the exotic dishes each other will make. (I make Russian borscht and a big pot of hot, strong, mulled wine to help smooth everything over.) 😀

  3. We’ve been doing the reduced Christmas thing for a while, and slowly bringing our extended families in-line. We started one year by, instead of giving gifts, we made charitable donations in various peoples names. We encouraged our kids to re-gift: they go through toys they no longer need or use, clean them up, and give them to someone who things they would like it. It helps that most of our nieces and nephews are younger.

  4. Last year we reduced in gift giving and replaced with charity giving. The budget stayed the same. We asked that no one purchase my wife and I gifts and instead donate the value that they would have spent on us to a local charity. We live a province away from our families and shipping gifts when you can’t be there is such a waste in our minds. We did ask if they would still like a gift from us. To our surprise everyone except my father said yes. It was very telling in my opinion. It made me feel that the stuff was more important than the gesture. This year it has reduced to 1 adult gift exchange within the family. Draw names and only by for the one individual. Next I am hoping donations only. Slowly but surely we will get out of the commercialization of the season and focus on what is truly important. One another’s company and appreciating what we have. Our health, our happiness and family.

  5. Our Christmas has become very simple. At 67 and 63 my husband and I have all we need. Family members overseas get a telephone call. Overseas grandchildren used to be sent money for Christmas and birthdays but as they didn’t acknowledge receiving it over a two year period we stopped sending it. So that was a reduction. Our daughter who lives next door is into sustainability so I make her something like knitted cotton dish cloths and or make her an embroidered apron plus we get her a bottle of her favourite spirits. Her ex just gets the alcohol and their children get cash plus a little something under the tree. Between my husband and I we usually get the other something they have asked for in the last six months. Last year it was a kindle for my husband. We also have a box of chocolates plus food for the day. Simple, enjoyable and relaxed.

  6. We give each of our grandchildren money towards their RESP. We have seven grandchildren and the oldest is eight years old. We have never bothered telling them that this is what we are doing and to date, none of them have realized that we haven’t given them an actual present to open. (I think that is very telling about how much “stuff” they receive). This year, we are going to give them a small $20.00 present to open. We no longer exchange amongst our siblings. Always gifts to the parents (but not huge and we usually all chip in). We usually give our children something that their famiy can enjoy. Last year, it was a night at Great Wolf Lodge (which the kids told us not to do as it was not worth the money) and this year it is tickets to the Toy Museum in Rochester and a night at a hotel. Not terribly expensive but one that will generate memories! Christmas at our house is very stress free…….Church and food first….everything else falls into place. lol

    Mike…..that is just so wasteful! Why don’t you just tell the people that if they give a gift, it will go directly to the Salvation Army.

  7. Fortunately for us, as soon as we all started having kids (my siblings and I all had our first kids within months of each other) we decided on a $30 limit for any child and began drawing names for each other and my parents with a $50 limit. The kids are usually thrilled with some new PJ’s, craft supplies or used ice skates as gifts which are things that we would need to buy anyways. We’re planning to bring up the idea of drawing names with the kids too since they all have more than they really need. With friends we all agreed spending time and good food was plenty, except for one or two couples where we do a simple gift exchange and all try to make our own gifts. All in, since we make most gifts, we spend about $150 or so in gifts each year.

    My wife and I also limit ourselves and the kids to just a few things that “must fit in the stocking” – although there is always at least one gift that was too big to fit.

    We also don’t buy traditional birthday gifts for each other other than something handmade to open (or eat) on your birthday but occasionally we go nuts and get the kids big ticket items like new bicycles (used is just as good as new to them), snowshoes, kayaks or something we will really get good use out of.

    If my wife and I had our way there would be no gifts exchanged at Christmas, only homemade foods and treats and a celebration together but others insist on gift giving so we compromise to keep the peace!

  8. I just tell people that “I don’t do Christmas so don’t buy me anything.” It’s frank and to the point, and yes it startles some people who can’t possibly understand a Christmas without gifts, but for me, Christmas is entirely in the heart. I am grateful for my loved ones and spend time with them while we are all here on earth. Food, family, and enjoying vacation time are the focus. I don’t spend anything on Christmas; financially speaking it’s just another day.

  9. I’m at a No Gift Christmas.. have been for.. gosh.. 7 years now.

    All we do is get together, have a good, big meal (not necessarily turkey), and hang out 🙂

    No gifts because we can just buy what we want for ourselves.. takes all the pressure and stress out of Christmas.

  10. On my side of the family, which is very large (roughly 20 immediate family members, so not including cousins or distant relatives, etc – just parents, sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews and assorted spouses), we have done a family cut-throat santa gift exchange for all adults for many years now. For the kids we spend about $20 per kid, until 18 then they join the adult gift exchange (also $20, with every adult who wants to play bringing one).

    It is without a doubt, the highlight of the christmas exchange, trying to get what you want while sticking my brother with a curling iron, etc. Absolutely fun.

    My wife and I spend about $50 on our son for christmas, and about $20 on each other. We usually get a present for the house (this year, a new couch) and with our son participating, we donate about $400 to Plan Canada using their gifts of hope. We think it’s important for him to see that, and I like gifts of hope because he likes to buy animals, etc and understands that better than making a cash donation.

    On the other hand, my wife’s family, much like Devin’s experience above, is very much about receiving an actual gift. They don’t particularly like me (married 8 years btw) and so I find it very disingenuous to get a gift from them when they so clearly don’t like me. I’d rather have actual affection than a token of affection. But they very much want their stuff. I have managed to get my wife to pare down the expense significantly but it has taken many many years and many fights. 🙂

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