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How to Stop Exchanging Presents and Have a No Gift Christmas

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I realize that it’s only August, but that means that Hobby Lobby and Target will soon be decorating for Christmas.

If your family is anything like my in-laws, you might find it difficult to stop exchanging gifts and start a new tradition: no gift Christmas.

Some of you may even be cringing as you think of how disappointed Aunt Karen will be when you tell her that you’re not participating this year.

Christmas has become so consumer-focused that we’ve almost removed Christ from the equation. Without Christ, there would be no Christmas.

Sure! It’s fun to give and to receive, but the true gift is from the Father…the gift that has already been paid for by the blood of Jesus, who died for our sins so that we may have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Many families are struggling to put food on the table, so the thought of buying gifts for extended family is just too much.

What you want to avoid altogether is the use of credit cards to fund your purchases. You might even be considering using your second stimulus check to put items on layaway.

If you’re in an especially tight spot, you might find yourself emotionally spending because it feels good to treat others.

But in the end, you’re left with the bill, and you might not be able to afford it.

What Can I Do Instead of Christmas Gifts?

There are a few things you can do instead of buying gifts for everyone in your family.

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1. Switch to a Kids-only Christmas gift exchange

Keep it simple and remove the adults from the gift exchange. My in-laws have always bought gifts for all adults and children, and this includes my sister-in-law.

We told them years ago that we would be buying for kids-only, and it took a few years for it to catch on, but they’ve now adopted this practice as well.

Let’s be real. I really don’t need another pair of dishwashing gloves.

Let’s assume that you spend $30-50 per adult on gifts, and you buy for 5 adults. $150-$250 is a good amount of money to put into savings for the spring break vacation you’ll need to get away from old man winter!

2. Take a Family Vacation Instead of Exchanging Christmas Gifts

With all that’s going on in the world right now, taking a vacation can seem kind-of scary to some. And that’s okay. I’m not asking you to hop on a plane and fly out of the country.

What I am suggesting, however, is a simple family getaway to de-stress and create memories to last a lifetime.

Instead of exchanging gifts, talk to the extended family about renting a large cabin in the mountains. If everyone shares the cost, it could be quite affordable, and you can still cook a big Christmas meal.

The thought of sipping a cup of coffee in my favorite Hallmark Christmas mug on the side of a mountain while breathing in the fresh, cool air is so appealing!

We’re choosing to enjoy experiences over things because the newness of gifts wear off, but memories last forever. Cheesy, I know, but it’s true!

We recently moved to Florida, and while I am loving the tropical vibes for summer, I’m already planning a trip to the Smoky Mountains for Christmas.

3. Draw Names or Do a Dirty Santa Gift Exchange

Instead of buying for everyone, consider drawing names and/or creating a holiday gift exchange.

This could be white elephant (with items you already have at home…like dishwashing gloves) or you could set a limit, such as $25 per gift.

You can do a dirty Santa gift exchange or set whatever rules you want!

Each person buys for one person and one person only.

Note: every family has a crazy person who still buys gifts for everyone (even though they drew a name and said they’d participate).

Do not feel obligated to buy this person a gift in addition to the person whose name you drew.

If they don’t get it, that’s not your problem!

4. Start New Holiday Traditions

This year will be our first annual Christmas cookie weekend with my dear friend Crystal and her kiddos.

It will be a weekend full of Christmas carols, movies, baking, decorating, and packing up cookies to gift our school bus drivers, teachers, mail carriers.

This will also be a great weekend for sipping hot cocoa and driving around looking at Christmas lights.

It costs very little to start holiday traditions, and the impact it can have on your children’s lives is so worth it!

5. Keep Your Christmas Budget Realistic

You’re probably still going to spend some money on Christmas gifts (especially if it’s what you’ve done in the past), so it’s best to keep spending in check by creating a budget.

We Christmas budget-by-age using a calculator and the following formula:

Add together the ages of all of your children. Mine are 15, 10, and 7, which equals 32.

Next, take your total gift budget (for example, $500) divided by the total age of children (32). So 500/32=$15.63.

This is your effective cost per year of age. Now take $15.63 and multiply times each child’s age to come up with their Christmas budget.

The budget for each child’s gifts are as follows:

  • 15 year old – 15 * 15.63 = $234.38
  • 10 year old – 10 * 15.63 = $156.30
  • 7 year old – 7 * 15.63 = $109.41

If I were to divide the money equally among each child, my 7-year-old would get tons and tons of gifts, and my teenager would get very little (because everything for teenagers is more expensive).

If evenly divided, the budget would be $166.67 per child, which is okay, but I always found myself going way over budget because even clothes for teenagers cost more money.

To read more about this Christmas budget, check out this post.

If you want to skip Christmas gift exchanges this year, now is the time to start planning. Talk to your family and see how they feel about it.

You might find them more open to changes this year in light of economic challenges. Have you skipped the annual Christmas gift exchange to take a trip? Drop me a comment and let me know all about it!

How to Propose a No Gift Christmas
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1 thought on “How to Stop Exchanging Presents and Have a No Gift Christmas”

  1. Pingback: 7 Christmas Road Trip Ideas to Channel Your Holiday Spirit

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