Last week, I saw a series of Instagram stories from Melissa Hartwig, co-founder of Whole 30. Melissa shared her annual gift guide, and went into detail about how and why does doesn’t give or receive gifts during the holidays. She decided over a decade ago that the gift-giving insanity of the holiday season wasn’t serving her anymore. As you might imagine, her family wasn’t super on board at first. Melissa shared advice based on how she had these conversations with her family. I shared some of her advice on my Instagram and got excited responses from people who want to incorporate the “no gifts” rule in their lives. This transition can be tough, especially if you have long-distance family and friends. Here’s how to talk to your loved ones about it.
Frame It Around Your Needs
This is true when have any kind of difficult conversation. It always helps to use “I” statements, and frame the issue around what you personally need, not what is wrong with the other person. It helps the other person to be more receptive and less defensive to what you’re saying.
If you no longer want to receive physical gifts, tell your loved ones* why *that is. (Although if it’s because they are terrible gift-givers, maybe tell a small white lie to spare their feelings.) One of my friends who wants to end gift-giving wants to be clutter-free and minimalist in her home. That desire doesn’t mesh well with receiving physical gifts every year. So she should explain to her loved ones that she’s on a clutter-free journey and suggest alternatives to physical gifts.
I’ve written before about coming up with alternative gifts that are more affordable or enjoyable. If you no longer want to receive physical gifts, you can suggest other options, especially if a loved one still wants to give you something. A great way to go about this is to spend quality time together instead. This could be a meal or some kind of activity.
Just last week, I suggested to my sisters that we offer to spend time with our dad instead of buying him a Christmas gift. My dad buys himself anything he might want in the moment, so we are always scratching our heads when it’s near the holidays. A friend of mine’s mother gave her sister a gift of going out to lunch at least once a month for the entire year. I don’t know about you, but quality time usually makes me feel better than a physical gift, anyway.
Set Boundaries and Be Consistent
Whenever you set a new boundary, it’s going to take people some time to get used to it. This is especially true when it’s a boundary that seems strange to other people. (And in our Capitalist society, it is definitely viewed as strange to not want more stuff!) If you have a loved one who gives you a gift anyway, thank them but take them aside later and remind them about your wishes. They might not think you really meant that you didn’t want to receive gifts (who doesn’t love gifts, right?), so be firm in your reminder.
Melissa Hartwig mentioned this in her post, but sometimes there will be loved ones who just can’t accept your gift-free lifestyle. If you’ve told them more than once that you don’t want gifts, but they continue to give them, all you can do is be gracious. Say “thank you” and accept the gift. You have to pick your battles in life. If you don’t want to have the items around your house, you can donate them or re-gift later.
Certified Financial Education Instructor. Feminist and financial coach for women. Founder of Money Circle.