Personal Finance

How I lowered Stress and Costs at Christmas

I’ve never been a big fan of giving or receiving presents at Christmas time. I think when I was a child it was a big deal to get presents especially at an age where I might not have been able to buy much for myself. As I got older I found that exchanging gifts with my parents was basically a “what do you want?” exchange and we would just buy whatever the other party had asked for. Eventually it occurred to me that we could remove a lot of hassle by just skipping the presents all together and just enjoying the other parts of the holidays like eating and drinking which were the activities that we enjoyed the most anyways.

This year we are having Christmas at my house which means a fair bit of travelling for most of my family so we decided that we wouldn’t exchange any gifts between the adults. There will be four kids there and they are fair game for presents! I think this is a great way to do Christmas since it will be a lot of work for us to get the house ready for guests and to prepare meals etc so not having to buy a bunch of presents will make the holidays a lot more enjoyable. To me the best part of the holidays is getting together with loved ones and giving of gifts is irrelevant.

Does anyone else out there do anything different to cut down on giving presents? Anyone think we are ruining the “spirit of Christmas”?

Finally I’ll leave you with a link to Violent Acres who describes her feelings about Christmas gifts which are remarkably similar to mine (although she uses a lot of different words…).

24 replies on “How I lowered Stress and Costs at Christmas”

I live in Toronto, my brother in L.A. and my parents in West Vancouver – we either all congregate in BC or go on a trip together (as my parents love to travel). It doesn’t hurt that my mother is a travel agent! 🙂

I don’t remember the last time we did gifts though. Getting together is more than enough. I’m lucky that I work in Vancouver as well – so I visit at least 4 times per year and can write off my trips.

Time with family is more important than anything for us.

MG – hopefully the new baby will wait until Christmas dinner is done before making an appearance!

Preet – couldn’t agree more!


My brothers and sisters all decided to stop exchanging gifts when most of us had kids. Now we just buy for each other’s kids and it hasn’t killed Xmas spirit at all.

My youngest sister (18 years old and a pleasant surprise for my parents) still gets presents from the four older kids.

I saw a really neat idea on CTV for office secret santa’s. Everyone in the office bought a toy that they thought their giftee would have liked as a child and then they all get donated to Toy Mountain. Secret Santa gets fun again and you are helping out a worthwhile cause.

I wish I had heard about that before I left the rat race.


Qcash – I think that buying for someone who can’t necessarily buy items for themselves is more worthwhile. Kids and even 18 year olds fall into this category. In my case, I’m the “baby” of the adults at 39 so the gift exchange is pointless.

I like the idea of the secret santa gift going to charity.


I agree with you completely… yet still have not gotten to where gifts are not exchanged. It is also frustrating- gifts are supposed to be given only to the kids, but because we had no kids we got gifts, and then I felt obligated to give gifts to adults and kids because of it. It is all crazy!
I liked the Violent Acres post too.
I may post a bit about this further- funny how I want one thing, yet still do another.

Wooly – it took me ten years to get my entire family onside with this, so start now!! 🙂

And yes, it’s a lot easier to do this when there are kids to buy for.


I wish my family was this way. We continue to buy for everybody, simply because they buy for us. I’ve suggested at least drawing names from the hat, where you only buy something for one person, making it both a more personal gift and allowing us to spend more time and money, but alas nothing yet.

Warren – you have to keep at it! The Christmas present disease (CPD) can be beaten but it’s not easy.


Wow…thanks for the link. Violent Acres post was entertaining. The bit about the diamond tennis bracelet cracked me up. I’ve always said, the day I get a diamond tennis bracelet for Christmas is the day I start snooping through my husband’s drawers. Only a cheater buys his wife a tennis bracelet. 😉 (Ok, I’m kidding here in case someone did!)

Yep, I’m with you. The whole “what do you want?” bit bothers me a lot. And as someone that HATES shopping, I always do it because I don’t really have a clue what’s out there and what people want. 🙁

My husband and I have no kids (nieces and nephews) in the family so it’s pretty much adult gift gifting, except for gifts for friend’s babies which I kind of feel annoyed about having to buy (what do you get a one year old?) but feel obligated since we’re stopping by for a visit.

Has the fact that I loathe shopping made me a scrooge? Probably, but on the other hand, I love that we’ll be visiting with family and enjoying food, drinks and GTs!

Telly, that’s an interesting point about what to buy a friend’s one year old. I used to buy toys or clothes for my friends when they had a new baby but I just buy them a bottle of wine. 🙂

AS the kids in our families are all still infants and can’t really appreciate gifts except for the colourfull paper and bows, they usually receive RESP contributions. We hope they will get proper education and pay for our pensions later on (Or become doctors and cure our upcoming illnesses lol).

As for the grand-parents, they just want nice framed pictures of the babies. Thus the adults don’t really exchange anything but we all make sure to invest in decent bottles of wine for xmas dinner.

BTW, with all this talk about wine, please don’t drink and fall into the xmas tree, or drive.

Every year the family suggests we tone down the gifts, and every year it fails.

FP, make sure your friend’s one year old baby doesn’t get the car keys. I’d hate to think what kind of destruction he/she could do after downing the bottle of wine you gave.

I’m with you 100% There’s always one “happy Santa” in the family who fights any attempt to pull back to a reasonable level of consumption and calls everyone who suggests change “Scrooges” (at least there is in my family, his response to any changes is “there are place in life to cut back, Christmas isn’t one of them”).

I’d *LOVE* to celebrate a giftless Christmas!

wow, ok, I guess I’m the contrarian here — I love giving gifts. I love receiving gifts. I think my family and small circle of close friends exchange in a pretty modest way – not piles and piles of Stuff, but a select group of gifts, most of which, on my end anyways, are genuinely appreciated. Some of the nicest things in my home are gifts and periodically i scan the room and feel … well, appreciative, and connected to the giver (of course, connected by other means as well). An antique fan that works, and I use every summer. A small, classy tv able I use daily. The best bracelet, ever. Just parts of my every day life that are from people I love, and most of them received at Christmas.

Hi Nancy, yes giving (and receiving) can feel great, no question about it. 🙂

I can’t speak for everyone here, but for me I very much like finding stuff as I happen upon it (could be August 3rd) and if I see something and think – hey, that would be great for so and so – I’ll buy it.

Or if I feel I should go out and get something for someone for a certain reason – i.e. they helped me out with something, or what have you, then I will certainly try to find something that requires thought and get it for them.

BUT – when it comes to Christmas time, I don’t subscribe to the consumerism of it all in such a big way. I think a lot of people feel that way too. If Christmas wasn’t so consumerism focused there wouldn’t be “guides on the etiquette of re-gifting” on Oprah and Ellen and the such. Our society’s focus on the material things has really clouded what is truly important.

I think the first word that comes to mind when you mention Christmas should be “family”, and not “presents”.

Not to say I’m a scrooge at Christmas or think people who do the gift thing are crazy. Far from it. In fact, if my family didn’t think along my lines then I would certainly buy gifts, put effort into it and be fine with it.

It just happens to be our family thinking – more my parents influence rather than my own too.

I should note that I certainly do buy presents for people outside the family during Christmas. It’s more of a formality though – if I know someone is getting me something, I’ll do something for them: it can be a gift, having them over for dinner, etc. Also I’m in a relatively new relationship with a wonderful girl so the jewelery has been bought! 🙂 I may be cheap, but I ain’t stupid!

So, to re-iterate: I’m not against gift giving at all. I just like it being more on “my” terms… 🙂

CTR – those kind of gifts sounds nice.

Nobleea – maybe I should start buying non-alcohol wine?

Nancy – nothing wrong with giving gifts as long as everyone is into it. As Mr. Cheap says, it doesn’t work that well if you get dragged into it.

Preet – way too much consumerism. Congrats on the new girl!…

I personally hate it. I wasn’t born in Canada so we never had this silly custom (other then kids getting presentes for New years) so it never makes sense to me. Somehow, a few years ago someone started and it’s now a given. The worst part of all is that gifts are most often stupid and meaningless (gift certificates) or “well what ya want?” presents.

I really love Christmas presents! I know that it’s not very frugal of me, but I can’t help it! It’s so fun to get presents for my family that I know they’ll enjoy….

I liked MDJ’s idea of giving to someones favorite charity as a gift (for adults anyway). For the kids I say give a small gift and make a donation to their RESP (they will thank you later).

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