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Opting Out of Christmas

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When my brother and sister-in-law decided to opt out of the gift exchange this year, all hell broke loose!

christmas present

Guest Blogger Emily: Okay, first of all, I know we are in a recession, and times are tight. But when my brother and sister-in-law told everyone they would not be doing the gift exchange this year, the family was less than pleased.

My brother's family had just taken a very expensive cruise a month before. And now they were telling us they couldn't afford our measly $40-limit gift? How much were they really saving by not doing the gift exchange ... $150? Was it worth disrupting our family tradition just for that?

My brother said it wasn't about the money ... he told us none of his family needs anything, and he feels it's a waste of time to just exchange gift cards back and forth.

I'd love to hear from others who have opted out of Christmas. How did your families take it? What were your reasons for opting out?

Help me understand. Because I really don't want World War III to break out over Christmas dinner just because my brother refused to spring for a few gift cards to Cheesecake Factory for the rest of us.

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29 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jamie December 3, 2009, 10:19 AM

” couldn’t afford our measly $40-limit gift?”
$40 is HARDLY measly!! And how many $40 gifts are you expecting him to buy?! Seems as if you have zero clue about the true meaning of Christmas.

Honestly you sound selfish and entitled.

My entire family opted out of Hanukkah gifts for the adults. We only do it for the kids (but if a couple giving gifts to kids does not have children then the parents will give that couple a small gift, but certainly not $40)

Robyn December 3, 2009, 10:20 AM

We opted out this year as well. My husband and I aren’t even exchanging gifts between ourselves, why would I want to buy something for his little sister or little brother whom I barely get along with? My husband’s older brother and his wife are doing just fine financially, as she is a physician and he runs a building supplies company. We are stretched to the max. He was appalled when we couldn’t afford to contribute to the $30 limit per gift exchange. We didn’t blink once or feel guilty. They just don’t understand why we couldn’t possibly be able to afford that because they are living very comfortably. As for us, well we are down to bare necessities spending right now. Despite that we have everything we truly need, food on our table, a roof over our head, a healthy child, and thankfully wonderful jobs. Eventually the rest of the family started opting out, apparently we created a domino effect. I think your family will be ok, ours will too. Times are tough and now is definitely not the time to pretend things are peachy smooth. Let’s face it, sometimes traditions have to change, but it doesn’t mean permanently. Why don’t you take that money you would be spending on needless gift cards and go contribute to your local food bank or pet shelter. Those are places that truly need help and you’ll feel much better about the whole situation. Trust me my dad’s side of the family started doing that years back and its wonderful. Sometimes starting new traditions are just as sweet if not better than retiring out of date ones.

Renee December 3, 2009, 10:27 AM

I think a gift exchange should be voluntary whether you can afford it or not! Geesh, this is the sort of thing that really takes the meaning out of the holidays!

Rachel December 3, 2009, 10:31 AM

My family is secure and comfortable, financially, but we’ve started opting out of more and more gift exchanges. How other people choose to spend, or not spend, their money - regardless of how much they have - is really none of your business. To presume that you (or your family) know better how to spend his money is ridiculous. So what if they went on a cruise? Good for them! I’d trade all of the mediocre gift exchange gifts I receive for a nice trip with my family ANY day. Christmas is about being together - not about gifts. Maybe you’re brother has figured that out. Too bad you and the rest of your family are too shallow to consider his point of view, instead choosing to paint him as a tightwad. Grow up.

PlumbLucky December 3, 2009, 10:32 AM

The sarcastic take of “but can’t afford our measly $40 gift” and the idea that its all about material goods is exactly why I want my family to start paying less heed to material goods.

Christmas should be about family. Not $40 GC to The Cheesecake Factory. Traditions should not be based on consumerism!

True Mom December 3, 2009, 11:05 AM

If your family is willing to ruin everyones Christmas because you all cannot let this go, then Good for him for taking his family on a cruise and spending HIS money the way HE wants to. I don’t really think it is any of your business.

Shannon December 3, 2009, 11:10 AM

Before we had our son we were all about buying gifts for our family & each other. Last year & this year though it’s been all about our son. We’re barely making ends meet as it is. Our families have been very understanding. It sucks that you can’t be!

Stacy December 3, 2009, 11:17 AM

I don’t know that this will help, but I offer it in that vein. It’s what guides me in this sort of circumstance, and so many others.

“The only freedom deserving of the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental and spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest.” —John Stuart Mills, On Liberty

Saum December 3, 2009, 11:24 AM

Why is opting out of gift-giving equated with opting out of Christmas? That makes me a little sad. As a non-Christian I still appreciate the cultural and family celebration and find much meaning in the holiday.
Gifts are optional (at least for adults). Enjoy the decorations and time with family. Get together and decorate cookies for one another. Make a new tradition!

chris December 3, 2009, 11:33 AM

We decided this year to not buy gifts for all of the nieces and newphew (I have 6 on my side) and put that money toward are own kids. I tried to get my husbands side to do the same but noooo they don’t want to. I just don’t see a reason to buy a gift card for out of town relatives and have them buy basically the same gift card for us in return. Why so we can open something? I actually suggestion to my husband that maybe next year we should go on a vacation instead of staying home for christmas. I see nothing wrong with that. Christmas should only be about sharing time and love with your love ones.

Barb December 3, 2009, 11:39 AM

It’s just irresponsible to continue to give gifts that nobody wants—irresponsible to the environment (so much plastic and wrapping paper!), irresponsible to your brother’s savings account, and irresponsible to teach this lesson to your children. It sounds like your brother has his head screwed on right; he spent time on a cruise with his family. Sounds wonderful. I’d love to see more people holding back on buying crap, and instead making family time special. Get over yourself.

Anonymous December 3, 2009, 12:07 PM

I think both you and your brother missed the point of Christmas. Just because gift exchange is tradition doesn’t mean you HAVE to BUY something! It’s supposed to be a festive time to share with family, to show you CARE! The gifts are symbols to show you have them in mind or want to help in their time of need. Just because your brother is rich and doesn’t need anything doesn’t mean he can’t have more love and care, and he is more than capable of delivering the same to the rest of the family. Christmas has become materialistic, but what’s important is it’s symbolic meaning. Recession is a good opportunity for everyone to reflect on this point.

Anonymous December 3, 2009, 12:11 PM

My sister-in-law and her husband have opted out of Christmas the last two years. She said that they didn’t want to spend the extra money. It was and is fine with us. How they choose to spend their money is their decision. This was how everyone else felt as well. We do buy a gift for their little girl but it is because we want to…that is what makes it a gift. The dictionary states that a gift is “something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation.” I hope your family will be able to embrace your brother’s decision and not be critical of it so that everyone will have a wonderful Christmas.

Renee December 3, 2009, 12:53 PM

Christmas is not about gift giving! It is about spending time together. My husband and I love to watch our children open presents and get excited! It is not all about you and what gift someone got you! I wish we could opt out of giving gifts to the adults in our family.

Lacey December 3, 2009, 2:08 PM

Have you ever heard of a plate of cookies or a cardamon braid as a gift. I think the best gifts are homemade.

renee December 3, 2009, 3:19 PM

40 is alot of money for some people. every year the list who i buy for gets smaller and smaller. isnt xmas really for kids? i think an adult can live with out another gift

Rita December 3, 2009, 4:02 PM

Wow this is really the most selfish article I’ve ever read. Get over yourself and try to remember what Christmas is all about. If you can’t, try going to church one day.

Patricia Korzuch December 3, 2009, 5:09 PM

We have always thought that xmas was for kids. we opted out of xmas a few years back as one of our children could not afford to get gifts, he was lucky if he could put food on his table ( we would help him at times not with money but with food )so we bought only for the grandchild. We do give our children envelopes with money ( which isn’t much ) because I told them as parents we are entitled, because no matter how old they get they will always be our children. If your brothers or sisters don’t want to participate it’s their choice. Get over it, go out and buy a few turkeys and or hams with the fixins and donate them to the needy I’m sure they would be greatly appreciated. As long as we are all together for xmas thats gift enough for me.

jme December 3, 2009, 5:09 PM

How selfish can you get? We are opting out- sort of. I lost my job recently and cannot get unemployment or county help. I’m decorating as I always have and always will, with or without money.
It’s about family and friends, not materialistic crap we’ll later throw away, anyway. $40?? Sounds like a lot to me right now. But I’ll be happier in the end. I know this.

Brenda December 3, 2009, 5:28 PM

First off you do sound extremely selfish. Just because your brother took a vacation with his family doesn’t mean that this is the reason he decided not to do the gift exchange. I can’t blame him for not wanting to sit around exchanging gift cards.

This is the reason my husband and I decided not to do the family gift exchange this year. We spent time trying to get gifts that each person could use or would like. His brother and his wife jut got everyone gift cards, and didn’t even want to spend time with the family. It felt like they couldn’t spend a little time on trying to find gifts that didn’t take five minutes to check out, and they only wanted to get there’s and leave

Maybe you need a re-fresher course on what Christmas is all about?! It’s not gifts that matter, but being able to spend time with family!!

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