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It’s Okay To Stop Exchanging Gifts

Updated on December 17, 2009


My parents, brother and sister-in-law and my spouse and I decided about four years ago to only buy gifts for the children at the holidays and no longer exchange gifts amongst us what can only be described as “legally” adults. What we had been reduced to was the dreaded “list.” You know the one where you write down what you want and then when you open your gift you know exactly what it is? Is that even what gift giving is supposed to be? I think not. I would spend hours upon hours searching the Internet and stores for the perfect gift for the person I was buying for that would at the same time still have a little me in it. Then the list would come in the mail and I’d be disgusted. If you have been reduced to the list kind of gift giving, most likely the people writing the list feel awkward and hate it too so here it is, I’m giving you permission. It’s okay to stop exchanging gifts – Don’t Get Me Started!

I remember that after the list came into being in my family (largely due to all of us saying, “I don’t know what to get you. I’d rather get you something you really want so just put it on a list and you’ll be surprised when I don’t get you the most expensive thing on the list – well, not really.) For awhile we felt as though we were being a bit sneaky (talk about deluded) because my brother would give their list to my parents and then my parents would tell me what was on it. Is that sick or what? We actually thought this would somehow make it better that we had been reduced to “list givers.” So now, we give to the kids in the family and for the adults, whenever we see something that we think the other has to have, we buy it. Doesn’t matter if it’s Hanukkah or Halloween or Tuesday we just buy it and send it. So far, everyone seems happy with the arrangement.

The problem is broaching the subject, right? My suggestion would to be not to pussy foot around. I would just say, “You know how we always exchange gifts? I was thinking that maybe we should just spend some extra time together this year instead of the whole gift thing.” Don’t go on too much as to the whys and wherefores, “You know, my husband may lose his job and my shifts were cut down at work, blah, blah, blah” That may all be true but that’s not the real reason you’re stopping the gift giving so do yourself and your friend, family member, whomever a favor and keep it to a quick two sentences. If they agree, you’re off the hook. If they don’t, it’s time for a new friend. (Okay, sort of kidding)

My point is that unless your whole heart is in what you’re giving, it’s not really a great gift. I’ve always felt this way. I remember in school when we would all exchange names and buy the person we had a small gift. The good people got the book of Life Savers candy while schleps like me often got the Santa PEZ dispenser (which I know was wayyy below the limit set on the gift giving and certainly wasn’t roll after roll of Life Savers deliciousness including the beloved Butter Rum variety let alone the fact that I’m Jewish, what they couldn’t have gotten me the snowman instead?). If you’re simply grabbing crap off the shelves in a last minute ditch effort to get someone to like you at Christmas, Hanukkah or whatever you celebrate, chances are it’s a gift that will sooner than later find itself at Goodwill or be regifted. By the way, regifting is an art and a blog topic for another day.

The point is that the most precious thing any of us can give one another is time (sniff, one tear) but seriously. If you really want to give someone a gift, instead of giving them those reindeer mittens, give them an hour of time with your phone turned off. That’s right, no texting, no acting like you’re checking the time on your phone when you’re bored with their story so you can check emails, etc. Give someone a full hour of your undivided attention and chances are that’ll be something they enjoy and remember more than that glass vase you picked up at Marshalls at the last minute because you thought it looked more expensive than the $9.99 price tag (by the way, it doesn’t). So remain calm and give yourself as well as your friends a break. It’s okay to stop exchanging gifts – Don’t Get Me Started!

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