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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: enpower on August 27, 2014, 03:25:31 PM

Title: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: enpower on August 27, 2014, 03:25:31 PM
I'm 25 years old and in my immediate and extended family, gift giving at birthdays and especially Christmas is a bit of a big deal.

At Christmas, in the morning, my parents and my sister all sit around the Christmas tree and open our presents in turn. Always youngest to oldest. We are all patient and open one at a time and go around the circle and ooh and ahh about the presents we have got each other.

Then at lunchtime, we either go to one of my auntie/uncles house for a Christmas lunch. After lunch we do it all over again and gather in a big group, youngest to oldest and open presents from each other and ooh and ahh about what we got each other.

Now that I've moved my life into a frugal and minimalist way of living, this excessive gift giving makes me very uncomfortable and sort of sick in a way that the way our family shows love to one another is to clog each others cupboards with materialistic junk we don't really need. I've mentioned to my parents not to buy me anything for birthdays or Christmas, but they still get me something. I then feel forced to get them something which I have to go to the crowded shops to try and find something.

I'm really struggling to get my point across to my parents, my sister and my extended family that I have everything I need and that I don't really want to participate in the gift giving ritual that we have created in our family.

How do you stop the present giving?
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: kudy on August 27, 2014, 03:30:50 PM
I've always been uncomfortable with traditional gift giving, especially around Christmas. I've tried subtle hints, as well as blatant statements about my feelings, but it always comes across (in my opinion) that I'm some sort of scrooge asshole. I unfortunately don't have any useful advice for you.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: Mrs. Frugalwoods on August 27, 2014, 03:37:50 PM
When you figure this out, let me know! It's a losing battle with my family for the most part. I try to strike a balance between being grateful and extending love through gift giving, but not spending a million dollars on presents.

I've 100% given up on trying to get my family not to buy us stuff. I'm thankful to them for being so generous and for loving us so much. So, I've resorted to really specific wish lists. My family always asks what we want for Christmas and, instead of saying "please don't buy us anything, we are frugal weirdos aspiring to be minimalists," I come up with a list of things we honestly do need (like pots & pans, a pair of shoes, towels, a mattress pad for our bed--mostly household stuff). This way, everyone is happy.

For gift giving, I ask my family what each person truly NEEDS so that I feel like at least I'm spending money on something useful and not pieces-o-junk they'll toss out.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: Aphalite on August 27, 2014, 03:45:14 PM
It's one day out of the year dedicated to family, and you're being selfish in not considering other people's feelings as well. Suck it up once a year and participate in the wastefulness that is Christmas. It's all about mindset, choose to have a good time despite the financial mistakes with your family. The reason we all want to go FI is so we can spend more time with the people and activities we love, don't lose sight of that.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: Glenstache on August 27, 2014, 03:50:55 PM
I once received a lump of coal for expressing these sentiments. Careful thought to your wording is important... I hadn't figured that out at 19 and xmas was awkward that year and some feelings were unintentionally hurt. Luckily my current SO and family situation now precludes dealing with the xmas gift black hole, though I do still feel compelled to get gifts for my niece and nephew who area  bit young to understand / appreciate not wanting to buy into the consumer-cycle and might be hurt otherwise.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: tyd450 on August 27, 2014, 03:52:25 PM
It's one day out of the year dedicated to family, and you're being selfish in not considering other people's feelings as well. Suck it up once a year and participate in the wastefulness that is Christmas. It's all about mindset, choose to have a good time despite the financial mistakes with your family. The reason we all want to go FI is so we can spend more time with the people and activities we love, don't lose sight of that.

I agree-  hopefully there is some sort of reasonable price limit?  I would just budget for it and get everyone gift cards so at least you aren't wasting your time with thoughtful gifts-  how is that for a scrooge?
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: Bethersonton on August 27, 2014, 03:53:15 PM
We transitioned out of massive piles of gifts: spent three years giving "handmade only" gifts to each other. Some people wrote songs, some made candy, some knitted things, some wrote poems or nice letters. Everyone agreed all three years that those were the best Christmases ever. After three years we all just quit with Christmas, which is fine by me. My husband and I like to walk around malls and see the decorations that other people put up.  :-D

I know some bigger families who swap names so each person only has one gift to buy, and put a limit on money spent.  And other families do gift giving only for the little tiny kids. The rest is just a nice family meal and time spent together. Oh, another thing we still do is buy Angel Tree gifts; one year we "adopted" three families through the local military base. I like suggesting stuff like that. Maybe say "we all have so much already; what if the adults instead donated X instead of gift giving to each other. There are some people who have next to nothing."  Maybe tell them the story of the year we plucked off a paper angel from the elder care tree. A woman asked for socks and sheets. Perspective.

Good luck!
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: dbanta on August 27, 2014, 03:54:51 PM
I've 100% given up on trying to get my family not to buy us stuff. I'm thankful to them for being so generous and for loving us so much. So, I've resorted to really specific wish lists. My family always asks what we want for Christmas and, instead of saying "please don't buy us anything, we are frugal weirdos aspiring to be minimalists," I come up with a list of things we honestly do need (like pots & pans, a pair of shoes, towels, a mattress pad for our bed--mostly household stuff). This way, everyone is happy.

For gift giving, I ask my family what each person truly NEEDS so that I feel like at least I'm spending money on something useful and not pieces-o-junk they'll toss out.

This is what we do to.  If we're not specific about the things that we need, we will just get something.  I usually end up asking for kitchen gadgets that I don't "NEED" but make things easier when cooking.

As far as giving gifts goes, we started making a lot of gifts.  I'm not crafty, but I can usually find something to make that my parents would use.  Last year we made a ton of sauerkraut that we put in mason jars as Christmas presents.  Another year I made homemade moisturizer to give as gifts.  If you make stuff in bulk it's cheap and doesn't take a ton of time.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: Etihwdivadnai on August 27, 2014, 03:55:53 PM
When I got married I was the eldest of 4 siblings, all with no children at that point.
My spouse was the youngest of 5 siblings and there were several (5, I think) children at this point.

Up to this point there was universal present exchange occuring in both families.

We unilaterally declared a complete moratorium on any and all present exchange.

It was *not* popular. We were branded complete scrooges.

There were a few awkward christmasses where we brought no presents, but were given token presents which we either refused or accepted under extreme protest.

But 24 years on, and the no-present-exchange has not only held, but better still has spread quite widely
and despite now having 13 nieces and nephews (but no children of our own)
the only present giving, if any, is "downwards, skipping a generation"
i.e. we give only to great nieces and great nephews.

And there is now *much* less stress over Christmas / the holiday season.

So it was difficult but worth it (to all) in the end.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: Less on August 27, 2014, 04:00:02 PM
Alphite has a good point. Remember what your doing it for.

I find I have no problem spending money on people and giving gifts. I just need to think about it with enough time to make sure the gift isn't junk. Have very happily spent 500+ on a birthday gift when i knew that it was something that would be worth it. Can't afford to do that every year but hey. That's part of the upside of being good with money.

I really do commiserate with trying to get your parents to stop giving you gifts though. Last year asking for no gifts was a backfire really. Normally my family is pretty practical and would ask me or my SO what i might need. Instead I got quite a few 'things' that I really didn't need.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: former player on August 27, 2014, 04:10:42 PM
The best tip I have is to ask for and give things which are consumables - chocolates, preserves, alcohol, flowers, plants, good soaps, and so on.  That way, you are preserving the spirit of the occasion without spending a lot of money and clogging everyone's houses up with useless tat that will hang around for ever.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: oldladystache on August 27, 2014, 04:11:40 PM
Many years ago (20? 25?) I was fed up with all the Christmas giving. I spent months finding just the right gift for each person, and making sure that all the same class of relatives got equivalent gifts.

I couldn't get people to stop the tradition, but I suggested that Just for one year instead of getting presents for everyone else, we'd get presents for ourselves, wrap them, and bring them to the gathering on Christmas eve.

We made a big production of choosing and opening each others presents, oooing and aaahing over them and passing them around.  Nobody got junk they didn't need, nobody spent more than they wanted.

The next year nobody suggested going back to the old way and we've done it my way ever since. Some years someone gets a new car and others get just a few small things. But everybody's happy.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: purplepear on August 27, 2014, 04:23:21 PM
I've been struggling with the same issue. My family is all about Christmas and Birthdays. There is always a celebration and excessive amounts of gifts on these occasions. If I tell my parents that I don't want or need anything, then I end up with a pile of gifts that I definitely don't want.

This year, I've taken the approach of explaining to my parents about my FIRE goals and why material gifts aren't important to me. I told them that I would rather have "experience gifts" than something that will sit on my shelf. Suggestions include gift cards (to restaurants or entertainment... not retail), handmade gifts, consumables (like a bottle of wine or some aromatic bubble bath), etc. I have yet to see if this will make any impact on Christmas this year.

As for giving gifts, I try to give friends/family experience gifts as well, or put the time in to make handmade gifts. Last year for Christmas, I gave my parents several "dates" like tickets to a drive-in movie, Groupon to a fancy fondue restaurant they like, etc. It's thoughtful, yet inexpensive. I think giving my parents the gift of getting out for a night and trying something new is more valuable than another kitchen gadget.

Also I have a pretty large group of close friends, and we've resorted to doing an annual "White Elephant" or "Secret Santa" party every year and put a $ limit on the gift. This is really my favorite way to do a gift exchange.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: Seņora Savings on August 27, 2014, 04:27:24 PM
Oldladystache, that sounds like a lovely system.

My sisters and I were cleaning out our closets at my parents place this summer.  We gave a lot of old Christmas presents to Goodwill and it was a good time to suggest a cease fire; watch for these moments.

In the meantime, I would look at the part of the exchange that most bothers you (waste, lost money, getting clutter or loosing time) and look for a way to fix that (there are many suggestions above).  Also remember, if any one calls you selfish because you want to do things your way, they're insisting that things be done their way.  EVERYONE should get to enjoy Christmas, and that includes you.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: RyanAtTanagra on August 27, 2014, 05:23:31 PM
Not the cheapest but the solution I ended up in:  move far away (no I didn't move to get away from the family or gift giving ;-).  We fly back every year for the holidays, which is pretty expensive, so I say a) my gift is being there, it sure cost me enough, and b) I travel with limited/no spare luggage space so I can't take anything back with me.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: Workinghard on August 27, 2014, 05:25:43 PM
I'm all for consumables, but holidays have always been a hassle and stressful. My mom use to insist on gifts. Really? Exchanging different gift cards? Totally pointless but at least we got something we would use. I gave up and just went with it.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: hyla on August 27, 2014, 07:55:16 PM
I second the suggestion to suggest a change from everyone buying gifts for everyone to a secret santa/draw one name setup (at least for non-immediate family like aunts, uncles, and cousins).  My family switched to this a few years ago and I like it - there's still the excitement of present opening for those that enjoy that - with the added excitement of guessing who had who, but instead of multiple gifts that feel excessive and poorly thought out, you just get a gift for one distant relation.

When you suggest this, you could frame it in an "I want to make sure we have the time to really put thought into a gift for one person to make sure people are getting gifts they can really appreciate" context, so you don't offend any family members who aren't really down with frugality. 
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: labrat on August 27, 2014, 09:00:02 PM
I wish I had some advice. We tried this last year and everyone flipped out.  My husbands family, who might pick up the phone to call one time per year, got us gifts anyways and made comments to the effect that we are poor and need the gifts. Um.. Just because we drive older cars and aren't homeowners yet doesn't mean that we are destitute!  My family was slightly more reasonable and we did a gift exchange; however, my sibling went on a rant about the gifting rules and what types of gifts were acceptable.  I tried giving a wish list of practical items that I actually needed but it was completely ignored.  So much for the holiday spirit! 
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: MsRichLife on August 27, 2014, 10:43:36 PM
I'm really struggling to get my point across to my parents, my sister and my extended family that I have everything I need and that I don't really want to participate in the gift giving ritual that we have created in our family.

How do you stop the present giving?

I'm not sure how we made it stop. Persistency over the years in telling them not to buy us anything. I try to explain that we have more than enough stuff and any more just adds to the clutter. I also highlight the importance of spending time with family, eating good food during the holidays, rather than the focus on gifts. I guess this highlights the positive aspects, rather than the negative (i.e. no gifts).

We have made a small concession though. Family are allowed to buy our toddler a gift, but we prefer it to be just one good quality/handmade toy (for MIL who likes to spend a bit more) or something second hand (for my Mum who loves thrift shopping). He truly values the beautiful toys he's been given, and our house isn't cluttered with bright plastic junk.

Perhaps you could focus on giving a gift of an experience, rather than stuff; Handmade gifts or a voucher to help a loved one with something or a homemade meal. There are ways to be creative without upsetting other people. They'll eventually come around to what you value.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: firelight on August 28, 2014, 12:13:33 AM
We give consumables or experience gifts in the form of gift cards to restaurants, groupons, etc. We ask for gift cards to Costco, Shell/Chevron, etc or consumables since we don't have much space in apartments. If someone gifts us something not in this list, we ask for it to be stored in their place so we can enjoy it when we visit them. This way, they get to keep the clutter and we get gift cards to places we already spend at. For gift cards from places where we don't spend, I just sell them at gift card granny
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: firelight on August 28, 2014, 12:15:07 AM
Sometimes its better to accept the tradition of gift giving to keep peace in the family... The trick is to come up with rules that suit you and still be seen as acceptable gifts....
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: EricL on August 28, 2014, 12:56:48 AM
I don't know but to me it does sound Scrooge like.  Or at least a little whiny.  Christmas and Birthdays entail gifts even if by rights they should be modest.  That's just how it is and has been even before Jesus.  And you all are lucky to have family willing to give them.  You can keep a lot of the worst abuses down by buying nice but modestly priced gifts for family as a habit.  The key to success is getting something they really need.  That takes effort to be sure.  In any case they should get a clue.  You're really lucky if they don't and keep buying you diamonds or SUVs even after you send them knitted cat head slippers, $30 appliances, etc.  Since gifts received are by definition now your property, flog the inappropriate items on eBay or Craigslist.  Or donate them to charity. 

"Yes, the 48" plasma TV was WONDERFUL but it just didn't fit into my tiny apartment.  Did I mention how much time, money, and frustration I save not having cable to moniter the Kardasians?  But the Women's Shelter/Goodwill/Salvation Army store was SO grateful.  I even made the donation in your name so you can deduct it from your taxes.  But I adore the pink and brown reindeer antler hoodie you sent last year.  It's great around the house winter wear, the cats love batting the antler ornaments, and it scares Jehovah Witnesses."
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: MicroRN on August 28, 2014, 01:21:45 AM
A couple years ago we approached our extended families suggesting that we only buy presents for the kids (anyone who had not yet graduated college).  It took a little convincing, but everyone eventually got on board.  There are a lot of kids, and kids are fun to buy for.  The adults were all basically trading $50 gift cards anyway.  Small children get actual presents, the 2 college students got gift cards/cash.  It worked out really well.  We quietly return/donate the excessive presents that our kids are given, after profusely thanking the giver.

Within our nuclear family, we just don't do presents.  My husband and I go out to dinner for our anniversary and each other's birthday.  For the kid's birthdays we're doing experience presents.  As atheists, we don't celebrate Christmas.     
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: BlueHouse on August 28, 2014, 05:38:32 AM
Experience gifts are key for my gift giving. I know no one else likes the crap they end up with, so during the time we all get together, I organize an event. One year it was a bowling party on New Year's Eve.   It was one of the best years ever, everyone still remembers it. It got the kids and the adults involved in something together.  Up until that point, adults would sit around talking and drinking and hot tubbing and kids would play video games in another room while we all tried our hardest to stay awake until midnight.
Another year I rented a big limo-bus (seats about 20, we brought our own food and drink) and we toured the city in the evening. It was a five hour trip and we could get on and off whenever we wanted without worrying about parking. That cost about $800 for five hours, but significantly less than buying junk that ended up in the heap. We still have the pix and it's often spoken about when we try to figure out next year.   Even my nieces and nephews refer to me as the aunt who gives great experiences. They cannot even remember the wrapped toys they got. Oh, and I always wrap up a box with a hand made coupon inside inviting them to the event.
One year when all the kids were younger <12 I didn't have much money so I went online and bought ribbons for first place, second place, third place.  Then I spent time figuring out kid-contests and had a mini-Olympics that lasted most of the day.   For the adults, my gift to them was a full day of babysitting. To the kids, the gift was an obstacle course and a bunch of slightly competitive events that allowed them to win many many ribbons.  Events were selected carefully so that each kid had a very strong possibility of coming in first on at least one event. Most events were designed to tire the kids out while I was the timekeeper (sitting on the patio with a glass of wine). Haha. Parents loved it so much they stuck around to watch and cheer on the kids, which made the kids love the attention. Events included: obstacle course, foot races, hula hoop, cartwheels, log rolls, carrying eggs on spoons, teams pulling someone on a snow saucer (no snow), crab walking, hill sprints, etc. those kids slept well that night!  Years later I noticed my nephew still had some of his ribbons hanging in his room. Those are the only ribbons he has ever won. 
A previous year when I was in college I was really really poor. I made a gift called "Family Trivia". I started writing down (in the form of questions) on separate index cards, little pieces of funny family memories. Anything that we'd normally sit around after Xmas dinner and say "remember that time..."?  Well, I started collecting and writing them in a way so that the person who answered the question may have to explain more about the story. For instance "what did baby Anna say to the lady in the line at the supermarket?"  Then someone gets to answer, and someone else usually chimes in to say oh that was so embarrassing!  Or "what's the favorite soup at the smith residence?...Turtle Soup!"  (Not really, but then we talk about when uncle willy caught a turtle and tried to cook it in a soup and stunk up the neighborhood for three days. Over the years a few more cards have been added and I have a stack  now that is over 4 inches tall. Whenever one of my sisters in law tell me a story from when she was a child, I try to remember to write it down or email it to myself to add to the collection. They're anyways shocked when a card pops up from their history and they don't feel left out. Plus those stories are hilarious and the rest of her In-laws love hearing them too. One year we had to write the answers on the backs of the cards because we started to forget some of the events.  It's over 20 years later, and still one of the first things asked for when my brothers come in from out of state.

I didn't realize how creative I've been until I started writing these down. Now I'm excited for Xmas this year!  Have to come up with something new.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: firelight on August 28, 2014, 05:51:36 AM
Bluehouse, I loved your ideas, esp the index cards one. I'm totally stealing it :)
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: aetherie on August 28, 2014, 06:10:22 AM
I agree with whoever suggested asking for consumables. I did that last year - explained that I was getting ready to move and trying to reduce the amount of stuff in my life, but things like chocolate would be great. I enjoyed my presents thoroughly and then they were gone.

As for not wanting to give your family presents... I would personally just do it, because they're family, but stick to inexpensive/homemade gifts as much as possible.

You could also float the idea of a Secret Santa type exchange for the adults, so each person only has to worry about one other person. Tell them that opening a present is even more exciting if you don't know who it's from.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: BlueHouse on August 28, 2014, 06:21:52 AM
Bluehouse, I loved your ideas, esp the index cards one. I'm totally stealing it :)
Thanks cutenila!  It's great for different generations too. The most popular questions are the ones that are phrased in a way the everyone looks around puzzled and then someone reaches deep into their memory to find an answer. It's also fun to include names of prom dates, former teachers, etc in the answers to some of the questions.
In high school, My brother used to take a very circuitous route whenever he came home so he could drive past all of his friends houses. It made the rest of us crazy because it would add 15 or 20 minutes to the ride whenever he picked us up from somewhere. One of the cards asks to describe his route home with street names.  One of the siblings always attempts this while my brother sits back quietly with a small smile on his face. I can tell he is remembering good times as someone else recites the names of the streets in our old neighborhood. Totally boring for others, but then explaining the significance is part of the fun. And my brother kept in touch with many of his high school friends, so most of us know the names of the people on his "drive-by" route.
Sorry so far off topic. It really was fun remembering that stuff this morning! 
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: Noodle on August 28, 2014, 07:43:05 AM
I think changing gifting is something that people often want to change all in one fell swoop, but sometimes it can be more effective to go incrementally. For instance, instead of trying to convince everyone to quit giving to adults all at once, especially if some will be unhappy, go to individual family members and agree to end the gift exchange. When people ask why X and Y aren't exchanging presents, explain...then, others may choose to join in also. The problem with trying to change the whole system at once is that it assumes that everyone feels comfortable articulating their views and feels listened to so you can come to a mutually satisfactory agreement. Some families really have that dynamic, others don't.

I know a lot of families only give to children, but I am actually more uncomfortable with that arrangement. Having all the grown-ups sit around as a captive audience while the kids get (with waning appreciation as the day goes on) but don't give feels sort of icky.

And overall, I think any negotiation needs to start by remembering that for a lot of people, giving is about love, not just the practicalities of stuff and money. It's hardwired into the psyche; cultures all over the world and all through history incorporate giving into their societies. And their views are just as valid as yours. So tread gently and kindly when you renegotiate those agreements, and think carefully about whether the benefit is worth the cost in relationships...
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: tmac on August 28, 2014, 08:05:50 AM
I really dislike gift-giving and receiving, and I'm lucky that it doesn't come up much. My best friend knows that I don't like "stuff", but she loves giving and receiving gifts, so we give each other consumable items (nice journals, fancy chocolate, etc.) and she knows I'll love it even more if it was on sale. My parents give us cash with instructions to get whatever we'd like or need for ourselves and the kids (and what the kids need are a book, a simple toy, and college savings). I give them consumables that I know they'll like (food, spices, certificates for experiences with the grandkids). My sister and I don't exchange gifts, but our children make each other simple presents that can be sent in the mail (sparkly bookmarks, cool paper airplanes, pressed flowers, a drawing of their favorite super-heros, etc.)

As for whether someone should just suck it up because it's family and it's traditional, I say no. Everyone has the right to set their own boundaries. If I couldn't transition people into consumables or some other low-impact gifting method, I'd start a tradition for myself or schedule work that required me to be away during those gift-fests.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: forestbound on August 28, 2014, 08:37:53 AM
I come from a HUGE family. We finally gave up after gifts for 7 nieces and nephews, and 6 married couples filled the entire living room of my parents home. It was visually stunning and ludicrous. We stopped. Godchildren only until they were out of high school. Christmas is so much more fun just enjoying each others company.

My problem... my immediate "made up" family, SO, step-daughter (not married to her dad but I've been around long enough that I am considered such and I love her to pieces) and the ex-wife. Yup, the ex-wife is a great person and has become a friend, and the divorce was a long time ago and pretty amicable. The daughter gets to spend time with all of us, no drama. The problem is all these people go OVER BOARD x 10. I want to cut down or stop a lot of this but how?? The step-daughter is out of college now and making more than me, so now she wants to buy gifts for us. I don't want or need anything. Can't we just eat a lot like on my favorite holiday "Thanksgiving"??!! For them gifts = love. Sigh, I will suggest a $$ limit and I will be shot down, but I will try.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: lakemom on August 28, 2014, 09:04:18 AM
What our family (extended, 7 sibilings their spouses and a total of 22 grandkids now their spouses and one grandbaby,mine so far) has done for at least 10 years now is everyone brings a check/cash in an amount they are comfortable with and we pool it all and gift it to The Heifer Project.  We don't exchange gifts with each other as we all feel we are incredibly blesses already.  Perhaps your family would agree to something like that (choosing a charity that you all agree upon)?  Another option is to simply give a homemade gift to each person.  For a long time now I've been gifting my 3 brothers-in-law (all middle aged and single) soup in a jar mixes, along with cookies, jelly, and fudge.  Useful, consumable, and well appreciated.  Oh, and the first year I made the soup they each got a small crockpot so they can start the soup in the am and come home to a warm meal after work.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: V on August 28, 2014, 09:37:25 AM
We actually tried this last year, but with a twist.  We told everyone we were sponsoring a family for Christmas and that we didn't want any gifts from them or to give gifts because we wanted it all to go to the family.  We were not able to adopt a family last year because we were too late for the cutoff, but we were able to buy gift cards to give to a school that handed them out to families in need.  We made sure that all 16 families got something to help get their kids something.  You still aren't really saving money, but it felt good to give back and make the holidays more about the time together than the gifts. 
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: rujancified on August 28, 2014, 10:07:53 AM
Following this chain for advice, as I have none to give. My husband and I are in our mid 30s and it's still like this in our families. In recent years we've been engaged, just married, and just in a new house, so we've struggled to come up with things we "need."  We are by no stretch minimalists, but we both have high quality tastes (read: expensive) and don't like a lot of *things.* I'm already stressed about the holidays this year.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: rujancified on August 28, 2014, 10:12:36 AM
Many years ago (20? 25?) I was fed up with all the Christmas giving. I spent months finding just the right gift for each person, and making sure that all the same class of relatives got equivalent gifts.

I couldn't get people to stop the tradition, but I suggested that Just for one year instead of getting presents for everyone else, we'd get presents for ourselves, wrap them, and bring them to the gathering on Christmas eve.

We made a big production of choosing and opening each others presents, oooing and aaahing over them and passing them around.  Nobody got junk they didn't need, nobody spent more than they wanted.

The next year nobody suggested going back to the old way and we've done it my way ever since. Some years someone gets a new car and others get just a few small things. But everybody's happy.

This is the best idea ever.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: MayDay on August 28, 2014, 10:13:49 AM
Ugh, I can sympathize. 

We have been fighting the adult gift battle for about 12 years.  We are finally to the point that this Christmas we are only exchanging with, I think, 4 adults.  Thank heavens!  (And they are all on DH's side, so I will probably never eliminate those last four until they die :) )

Anyway, now we are trysting to fight the battle about kids gifts.  When the kids were babies/toddlers, lots of gifts were fine.  They changed so fast, developmentally, that they needed new toys and clothes every year if not sooner. 

But now that they are 4 and 7, they don't.  The wear clothes for two seasons (plus handing them down) and they are still hppily playing with the same toys they got for Christmas last year.  They need NOTHING.  they can't even tell you ideas of what they want since they don't see much tv with commercials.  Really their only ideas are things like an iPad, which has received the parental veto. 

So we have been trying to convince our families that truly, honestly, please don't buy them toys.  If you must do something, give them an experience like an art class or something.  I think it is sinking in with my side of the family.  My in laws are completely resistant, and about 95% if their gifts get either donated (sometimes the kids get into the packaging before I can whisk the items away, or sometimes the in laws rip them open even when the kids have no interest) or returned.  I hate to see them waste their money, but that's on them. 
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: ltt on August 28, 2014, 10:22:40 AM
The best tip I have is to ask for and give things which are consumables - chocolates, preserves, alcohol, flowers, plants, good soaps, and so on.  That way, you are preserving the spirit of the occasion without spending a lot of money and clogging everyone's houses up with useless tat that will hang around for ever.

I love this, and it's so true.  What are your parents' favorite foods?  And, you are their baby, so no matter what, they will always give you a gift.  (I cannot tell you how much soap we use in our household--body soap, hand soap, dish soap, it always gets used.)

Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: gecko10x on August 28, 2014, 11:19:07 AM
In recent years, our xMas has devolved into lots of gift cards, so last year we managed to convince both sides of the family to switch to drawing names with a monetary limit, and sold it as a cost cutting move since the family has grown. I think it worked pretty well and don't expect any push-back to doing the same thing this year.

In addition, I always give and ask for food items when I can. It certainly helps with the clutter.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: RyanAtTanagra on August 28, 2014, 11:35:11 AM
I'm not sure how we made it stop. Persistency over the years in telling them not to buy us anything. I try to explain that we have more than enough stuff and any more just adds to the clutter. I also highlight the importance of spending time with family, eating good food during the holidays, rather than the focus on gifts. I guess this highlights the positive aspects, rather than the negative (i.e. no gifts).

Before we moved far away and got to use that as an excuse, I was starting to make headway the same way.  Be persistent but not over-pushy.  You won't get where you want this year, but you can work your way there.  I would also declutter often and let my parents know, offer them things they might want, etc.  Say 'we're just getting rid of things we don't use' so they start to understand that we really don't need more stuff, we already have too much, which bothers us and generates work for us.

Focussing on the positives is important as well.  When they asked why we don't want to do gifts I'd say 'the best part of the holidays is getting to spend it with family, I would rather focus on that instead of the stress of holiday shopping'.  I also started pointing out Thanksgiving as being my favorite holiday because that's all it usually entails: spending time with family, eating too much, passing out.  That made people think and I think they started to really understand.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: frugaliknowit on August 28, 2014, 11:43:36 AM
You are 25 years old now, an adult.  You do not say if you still live with your family.  If you do not, it will make it easier.

Here's what you do:  Explain to them as you explained to us how while you love them all, etc., etc., you no longer wish to participate...you might see if anyone feels the same way. 

If anyone else does, while they are all exchanging presents, you (and anyone else that feels the same) do something else (away from the house) such as go out for brunch, go for a walk, etc. 

You then re-join everyone when the gift giving is over.  It might be a bit uncomfortable initially, but I think everyone will understand and get used to it. 
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: Guizmo on August 28, 2014, 11:57:26 AM
Just refuse gifts from family and don't care that other people think you're a scrooge. After a few years, It'll be all normal and your family will have gotten the point.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: hybrid on August 28, 2014, 12:12:56 PM
We actually tried this last year, but with a twist.  We told everyone we were sponsoring a family for Christmas and that we didn't want any gifts from them or to give gifts because we wanted it all to go to the family.  We were not able to adopt a family last year because we were too late for the cutoff, but we were able to buy gift cards to give to a school that handed them out to families in need.  We made sure that all 16 families got something to help get their kids something.  You still aren't really saving money, but it felt good to give back and make the holidays more about the time together than the gifts.

This has been one I have been struggling with for years, long before finding this blog. This year I have finally announced, long in advance to give people time to adjust, our intent to stop this with Mom and my brother. Mom is too frail to shop and is on a budget, our family is not religious, and we all have the things we need. This year we are going to take some of that money and help a family that really does need some help at the holidays. DW still wants to do presents for our adult kids and I will relent there, but it's a good start.

I told folks no birthday presents this year and for the most part that has been honored.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: Peacefulwarrior on August 28, 2014, 12:23:03 PM
How do you stop the present giving?

Easy. Don't buy anything. Let them know that you won't be buying anything for them. And that you don't want anything from them. If they buy something for you anyways just take it. That's their choice. If it's stuff you don't need you can sell it and take the money. You can't control their spending but you can control your own. I did this with my family and to my total surprise they told me they feel the same way. That christmas is too material. So now we only buy a few gifts for the small kids. The rest of us focus on enjoying each others company and the good food.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: boognish on August 28, 2014, 12:26:53 PM
I have no real material needs, and if something pops up that I need/want, I buy it.

My parents bought me a big flatscreen for my bday this year and I felt pretty awful about it (nice problem to have I know). I don't have cable, I rarely stream anything (if I do I use my laptop), and I don't play video games. Plus my studio apt is 275 sq ft and I don't have a ton of room. I'm sure it was a few hundred bucks for something I don't need or want, but didn't want to be rude or seem ungrateful. It's been sitting in the box... I told my mom I love it.

I don't like being the center of attention or people buy me things I don't need, but I understand it comes from a good place.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: BooksAreNerdy on August 28, 2014, 12:29:32 PM
Try giving only handmade gifts or give a donation is each family members name. They get a card stating that you donated $X in their name to whatever charity.

If people ask what you want, ask for practical gifts, gift cards, or books. One year I asked each person to give me a copy of their favorite book.

It gets easier when you have kids, you can just opt out and say, let's only exchange a gift for each kid.

My family was the same, with the nauseating pomp around opening each gift. My mom still wants to do it that way, but we have definitely moved towards the more frugal/practical side of gift giving. My mom lives near us and helps us a ton with kid stuff, so we indulge her to show our gratitude. All other extended family gets a card and each kid cousin gets a book.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: RyanAtTanagra on August 28, 2014, 12:38:14 PM
... and each kid cousin gets a book.

That's so nerdy
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: Peacefulwarrior on August 28, 2014, 02:57:20 PM
I have no real material needs, and if something pops up that I need/want, I buy it.

My parents bought me a big flatscreen for my bday this year and I felt pretty awful about it (nice problem to have I know). I don't have cable, I rarely stream anything (if I do I use my laptop), and I don't play video games. Plus my studio apt is 275 sq ft and I don't have a ton of room. I'm sure it was a few hundred bucks for something I don't need or want, but didn't want to be rude or seem ungrateful. It's been sitting in the box... I told my mom I love it.

I don't like being the center of attention or people buy me things I don't need, but I understand it comes from a good place.

Haha still in the box.. I love it!
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: MillenialMustache on August 28, 2014, 02:59:24 PM
We set up Amazon wish lists and normally spend $15-$20 per person. I feel that this keeps it in check and people get stuff they want. Amazon wish lists also have spaces to put a generic gift (ie any Tervis tumbler) and you can link from other sites. We ask for books, movies, and practical things. I read of someone on the forum who loved to get fancy cupcake tins as gifts - they are consumable, but fun. I think those kind of things are a good idea.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: purplepear on September 01, 2014, 08:46:08 PM
Update: I had a birthday this week. A few months ago I had a long, heartfelt conversation with my mom about my FI goals and the fact that I don't want to accumulate material possessions. I said that from now on I want to give/receive only experience gifts (if gifts are exchanged at all) because I think they are more valuable. My parents are really big on gifts and lead a very anti-Mustachian lifestyle.

Fast forward a few months to my birthday, my mom says "I know you don't need or want anything... but ..." and proceeded to give me a carload of gifts that I don't need or want. No experience gifts or consumables whatsoever. Just stuff. Mostly cute household items that I have to find space for until I donate them some day in the future.

New strategy: I'm going to ask for one expensive gift that I might actually have use for (A Kitchenaid mixer perhaps). Then my parents won't have leftover money to buy me frivolous gifts that I have no use for. We'll see.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: Money Bags on September 02, 2014, 06:04:36 AM
My sister has 4 kids and we had none until a little over a year ago and my brother has 2 kids. I told them that we shouldn't waste the money because they wanted to do gifts for everyone. I was stuck buying 10 gifts but would only receive 4. I didn't care and its better to give than receive. However, the sister who was on the take buying six gifts and receiving 12 gift was unwilling to draw names to even the playing field. (Then they would only get gifts on a 1 to 1 ratio) I said I was done because I was spending more on siblings and kid  than I was on my wife. I give each family a gift now such as a movie they might watch together with someone  microwave popcorn. I think my sister thinks it's BE but everyone else is cool with it. We said the same about birthdays but we still keep it to 20 bucks for the nieces and nephews. As a kid my uncle's didn't give my jack but I think it's simple and they enjoy it.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: rubybeth on September 02, 2014, 07:44:32 AM
Commenting mainly to get updates to this.

I really love gift giving, but try to make my gifts things that people will be able to use (or use up, in the case of consumable items--I like getting foodie gifts for my dad and give out homemade goodie bags for coworkers), or include a gift receipt when I give something that can be returned. I'm never hurt if someone returns the book/game/clothing item I bought for them.

As for gift receiving, I make a list of things I'd actually enjoy and share ideas from it with family members I know will be buying for me (my mom, my sister, my husband). I also mention gift cards to the movie theatre, restaurants, or coffee places, and people know I love coffee and chocolate, so I often get gifts of these types of things. If there's any way to tactfully let people know what kind of gifts you LOVE vs. the kind that are less useful, do it! I don't like buying gifts people won't enjoy, and I make it easy for them to return/exchange if they don't love the item.

If I am gifted something and I don't think I will use it, I tuck it away in a special spot in my closet for potential re-gifting, which I know sounds awful, but if you remember who gave you what and don't re-gift it back to the original giver, it can work out. I leave all tags on, of course. I have some very nice things stashed right now. :)
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: jabba on September 02, 2014, 07:52:21 AM
My in-laws are exactly as the OP described. Gift giving is a 6-hour ordeal on Christmas day (3 couples of adults, 2 kids), it's long, drawn out, and we end up with a pile of junk we don't want or need. The first two years we were married, we lived oversees and her parents sent us a huge box of gifts to Germany after I told them to please not... Well, for a grand total of $70 worth of crap in the box, they paid $80 for shipping and then I had to pay another 40 euros to receive the package from the customs office - not to mention taking a half-day off work to go retrieve it. Such a pain.. Anyway, over the years, I've slowly "trained" them to be a bit more efficient about this. I won't ever win the "don't buy me anything" battle, but here's what we do now:

I got everyone in the family to start using Amazon Wishlists - they also let you put stuff on there from other places, so it's pretty universal. They all agreed that this is the best thing ever, so a few months before Christmas, everyone loads up their wishlists with what they want and it's pretty guaranteed that you will get stuff off your wishlist, so at least now it's easy for us to do shopping for them. We go through each wishlist, randomly pick a few cheap things, order, it all shows up, we never leave the house.

For me, I tell everyone that asks what I want to just get me Amazon gift cards for Christmas/birthdays, etc. In addition to that, every time I want/need *anything*, I just put it on my amazon wishlist. I'm talking car parts, usb cords, batteries, anything and everything that I buy usually just goes on the wishlist. When I decide that I actually want to buy something, or actually need something, then I go buy it from my own wishlist. Simple. In addition, come birthday or christmas time, I just end up getting a bunch of stuff from my wishlist. It's not gift material, per se, but stuff that I was probably going to buy anyway. Like last year I was going to order a usb car charger for my phone, but didn't have an immediate need for it.. put it on the wishlist, got it on Christmas day. Perfect. They were happy that they could get me a gift of what I wanted, and I was happy to not spend the $4 to get a thing that I didn't really need, but was going to be useful. Half the time, they have no idea what they are buying me, but that's not what they care about.

The ones that do listen and just get me amazon gift cards are the best, because I just apply them to my amazon account, and since I participate in amazon subscribe&save for stuff like toilet paper, coffee and other household goods, it just magically works out. Inevitably most of the christmas gifts I get just end up offsetting my regular budget, allowing me to save my own cash. Sometimes it works out extra well, such that amazon credit I get for my birthday can just be used to buy gifts for other family for Christmas (my birthday is about two months before Christmas). It's like a whole ecosystem that eventually gets obfuscated from my real budget and things tend to work out such that I don't have to budget much for the holidays.

Summary: Amazon makes it all simple for me.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: justajane on September 02, 2014, 07:54:07 AM
This is a definite struggle in my life as well. I hate all the waste, and over the years, I've noticed a pattern that the things that languish in the basement or end up in the Goodwill are invariably Christmas gifts from well-meaning family. The reality is that even if someone thinks they know what you like, they often don't. This is especially the case with clothing. Heck, I can't even get it right with my own husband sometimes.

One thing that compounds this problem, at least in our family, is divorce. Since my husband's parents are divorced and both remarried, we get twice as many gifts. It didn't really start to be a problem until we had kids, and oh boy, the clutter! I have about two freak outs each year about the sheer volume of kid stuff in our home, and they usually come right before our big birthday month (May) and Christmas. I just can't STAND all the crap, but I gave up a long time ago. The best we do is direct the parents towards one type of toy. When the kids were younger, one Christmas was Little People Christmas. We have at least 10 little people sets, but I figure now I can eventually sell them in a lot on Craigslist. Now it's all about the Legos, because they are expensive and small. That minimizes the amount of crap we get, since the parents appear to have a set amount of money that they want to spend which is way out of proportion to what they should spend. It hurts my frugal heart to have so much money wasted on more Legos, but at least they all fit into one plastic storage system.

To no avail, we had suggested that the grandparents give one small toy, some clothes and put the rest in savings bonds or the 529 for the kids. But after several suggestions to that effect, we gave up. As the kids get older, the toys get smaller and more expensive, but I still can't shake the colossal waste of it all and how much more useful that money would be to my kids if it was put into a 529. But there's only so much you can do.

But with my third child, who is now an infant, I am going to put my foot down about the toys and say adamantly, NO TOYS!!!! I mean, come on, he's the third boy. We pretty much have every developmental toy and every type of toy he could ever want. 
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: jabba on September 02, 2014, 07:56:27 AM
Another thing I wanted to mention about gift cards. Sometimes I get VISA gift cards and I hate using them because you can't use them at gas stations or restaurants efficiently, tracking the balance sucks, and if you don't use them fast enough there is usually a fee. My solution: use the VISA gift card to buy myself an amazon gift card, then apply it to my amazon account. Again this works because I generally buy quite a few household items from Amazon anyway.
Title: Re: Telling the Family not to Buy Birthday/Christmas Presents
Post by: MillenialMustache on September 02, 2014, 07:58:14 AM
Jabba,

I like the way you think. We do something similar at our house. Amazon is awesome.