the process

How We Convinced Our Families to Do a No-Spend Christmas

hiya, friends. if you follow us on twitter, you may have caught this little update yesterday:

and it’s true: we got the okay from the extended family to cut out gifts for adults this year, and give only homemade or secondhand gifts to the kiddos. can we get a wohoo? we’re stoked about this shift, and hope it sticks in future years, since all the adults in the family have more than enough stuff, and even the kids have plenty. (plus, you know, we’re like saving our pennies and stuff for early retirement and don’t need to be buying a lot of stuff for anyone. not that anyone does!)

gift-giving occasions can be an emotionally fraught time for frugal types and savers, since while you technically have control over what you spend, there are huge expectations we all feel pressure to meet. and in all other areas of our finances, we each have final say, while at the holidays, it’s a whole family negotiation about what everyone prefers, loaded with the additional pressure of tradition. we know it’s a tough tightrope walk for those who aspire to give (and receive) less.

after we posted yesterday’s tweet, we got questions from quite a few folks about how we managed to convince folks to get on board with this idea, and decided to write a longer post to share how it all went down.

How we convinced our families to do a no-spend Christmas // Our Next Life -- save money, zero waste

spoiler: it took years. patience, young grasshopper.

we’re thankful that both of our families have always been the wishlist types. there are few to no random gifts other than stocking stuffers, with nearly all presents coming off of people’s wishlists, meaning that everything we’ve received is stuff we want and will actually use. we also have families that are into charitable giving, which plays into our story.

when we joined families, everyone still shopped for everyone. the gifts were smaller, but there were a lot more of them. pro: everyone had a lot to open, which most people enjoyed. con: so much stuff, so much spending, and each of us had to fill a wishlist with a lot of small to medium gifts, which might or might not be what we actually wanted. this gift-giving wasn’t extravagant by any means, but it was certainly more than anyone needed to feel like they were having a proper christmas. so when that gifting method still ruled, we pushed the envelope by asking for donations at the top of our wishlists. we honestly would have been happy receiving only donations in our honor, but instead got stuff plus donations. baby steps. at first, while folks were receptive to the charitable gifts, they didn’t start asking for them themselves for a few years. then that just got to be a thing: everyone would include one or more charities on their list. so that was the first real win in the shifting gift mindset, since it helped everyone get comfortable with giving and receiving less stuff, and instead giving more to worthy causes, while opening the door to conversations about enough and contentment.

then, when the kids came along, and everyone wanted them to have the most things to open, the door cracked open a little wider. along with another ally in the family (an ally always helps!), we got everyone to agree to a gift rotation with the adults, so that each person would just buy for only one other adult each year, but everyone would buy for the kids. the gift money parameters were much higher for this single gifting, but it was still progress. we often made a habit of asking for less on our wishlists than the gift minimum to force charitable donations to fill the gap.

the last two years, we both made the choice to ask for deliberately boring gifts (microfiber cloths that replace disposable paper towels, anyone?), both because there was nothing else that we actually wanted or needed, and because we were secretly hoping it would take some of the remaining luster off of gift-giving, and open folks up to an alternate way of thinking about the holidays. at the same time, our ally in the family went forward with a so kind registry, asking only for gifts of experience, and clearly letting the family know that they didn’t want any more things.

so here we are in 2015, several years into our campaign to get the family to spend a lot less money at the holidays, and also to focus less on stuff. in truth, we started our maneuvers purely in an effort to receive less. we honestly weren’t concerned about the cost of it all, but just didn’t want to get a bunch of things, useful or not. but as we’ve gotten more and more serious about our early retirement plan, the cost has moved into the forefront of our thinking. the amazing thing about our no-spend christmas is that we didn’t even suggest it. the grandparents did. they clearly knew we and our ally in the family would happily go along with it, and looking at the kids’ so kind registries would show that there was nothing new to buy for them anyway — the only things they want are used books and the chance to spend time with family on camping trips and other inexpensive experiences. and it doesn’t hurt that our most stuff-focused relative happens to be broke at the moment… unfortunate, of course, but it helps our holiday gifting cause!

the most interesting thing about all of this is how weird it feels to even be describing this situation given how awesome our families are. people truly care about each other and enjoy spending time together, and the sense of family is real and palpable, especially during the holidays. and with that one exception, no one cares about having the latest gadgets or having status symbols. it’s a family that generally embraces contentment, and doesn’t chase the next shiny new object. but it just goes to show you what a powerful effect our consumerist culture has on people — we have this deep-seated belief that we have to give and receive newly manufactured and purchased stuff for christmas to count. (we can pretty much guarantee that the wise men didn’t buy their gold, frankincense and myrrh during a black friday stampede at walmart.)

it’s taken at least seven or eight years of consistently working to scale things back to get to this point, and while that may not be fast enough for us or for you, we feel good finally getting to this place. if we’d pushed for any big changes too quickly (like when we did actually try to just receive a charitable donation and no actual presents), people would have been hurt, and felt that we weren’t placing enough meaning in the holidays. because even though we might be fired up about reducing consumption in the name of the environment and our pocket books, we can’t assume others are there yet, or will ever be there, and that’s okay. the last thing we’d want to do is make them feel as though we’d pushed too hard and ruined christmas. so our advice to anyone trying to follow in our footsteps is: slow and steady wins the race. focus on the baby steps and the little wins. the big wins will follow. (that advice works for pretty much any topic, actually.) ;-)

so there it is: the story of how we ever so gradually got to a no-spend christmas. the pace was slightly glacial, but we got here, and we bet others can, too.

have you made any small changes to your holiday traditions to move toward a less stuff-focused holiday? any changes you’re thinking about proposing? we’d love to hear in the comments!

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71 replies »

  1. Well done! As I’ve commented before we’ve been here for some time – and it took work, as you said. Our only difference is that the ‘kids’ – who are now all over 18 – get $ for university as long as they are students, with the envelope attached to a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, which they’ve been getting since they were tiny. When they were smaller they had tangible gifts, but only a few and usually books and games.; that stopped as each turned 16. Adults just share a house gift of wine and chocolates, which is really just a contribution to the meals, and a donation to a charity. It lets us focus on better things than presents and takes most of the stress out of the days leading up to the holiday.

    • It sounds like you have some wonderful holiday traditions, Marian! And since you never went overboard, there’s nothing to dial it back from. Kudos to you! I love the idea of a gift of money or experience attached to a chocolate orange… I may borrow that if we have to go back to gifts next year! :-)

  2. This is awesome, guys – I mean, truly awesome! We haven’t gotten to this place yet, but we have significantly downsized our Christmas “stuff” this year. My in-laws usually like to DO IT UP for Christmas with lots of decorations and gifts (and the gifts must be in equal numbers for *everyone* in attendance – yes, including our dogs). But this year, Courtney managed to convince them to tone it down a bit, and I think it’s taking.

    Less decorations. Less expensive gifting. More family time and less gift-giving. We’re pretty much where you guys were years ago, and we are making slow and steady progress towards the same goal.

    The nice thing for my wife and I is that our RV will give us the perfect excuse to avoid gifts – simply because there is no way that we’d be able to store all that stuff. We’d rather take gifts in the form of experiences, up to and including restaurants. The only things we bring home then are memories of good times and maybe a few extra calories to show for it!

    Awesome progress, ONL. Totally jealous, but we’ll get there too. :)

    • Thanks, Steve! Wow — even equal numbers of gifts *for the dogs*?! I hope the dogs receive things like individually wrapped kibbles and bones! ;-) Our families like to make a big deal about Christmas, too, and we haven’t messed with any of the rest of it on purpose — no changes to the decorations, caroling, or other traditions! So we’re hopeful that it will actually feel pretty similar, even though it’s a big change.

      And yes! You guys will have the perfect excuse once you’re full-time RV! And we truly have no problem with gifts of experience, but no gifts is even better. :-) You’ll get there!

      • I just have to chime in to say that Steve’s comment made me realize that my boyfriend and I – thanks to our very budget-friendly gift spending limit for each other this year – will spend as much on the dog as we will on each other.

        I can’t tell if this is sad or not.

        Hahaha either way, it works for us, and I laughed out loud when I realized it. An amazing, inspiring post, as usual!

      • Haha — I’m guessing that it’s different for you guys since you’re already so frugal! :-) And sometimes doggies just do need presents! Thanks for the super sweet note, Des. :-)

  3. You guys rock! I have tried for the adult-gift rotation several times, but that has failed. I did however let everyone know that used items are perfectly okay for the kids, so win there. But, I think the problem is is that several of us LOVE giving gifts… and I am one of them. I do make stuff, but I will shop year round for Christmas gifts. I don’t care if I get anything, but I love giving!!! I wish I could be a Christmas elf – what a cool job!!!

    • Thanks! I hope that folks are actually willing to give used gifts. Maybe you can call them “vintage” and then get them to be more receptive to the idea? There’s nothing wrong with loving to give gifts — we’d include ourselves in that! — it’s just a matter of keeping things from getting out of hand. And now we’re at the point where there’s literally not a thing we need, and any object someone gives us is a burden. We’d have been happy to get gift certificates for meals or movies this year, but we’re happier that the family was open to going to zero gifts!

  4. Great job! I love your incremental approach–I think it makes change more sustainable. I’m sharing your secrets in my post, to be published shortly. We used the band-aid approach because the gift-getting we getting to be a bit much, but I wouldn’t recommend this for everyone. ;)

  5. LOL – I love your point about the wise men.

    Congrats! Appropriate, because this is quite the accomplishment. My family is pretty scaled back when it comes to Christmas, with one exception, my mother. She just can’t stop herself – even after filing for bankruptcy! On Black Friday, she was texting me pictures of toys for my son – things he doesn’t need, but they’re a “great deal.” Whenever I try to talk to her about these things, she just gets this hurt look on her face and then changes the subject. I won’t give up on her, but I’m not optimistic. She is the quintessential American consumer – blind to the gimmicks and on a doomed quest to satisfy her emotional needs by spending money (which she doesn’t have).

    • Haha — yeah, we keep thinking back to the wise men, and thinking, “This can’t be what the bible intended.” They only brought gifts for Jesus, after all, not for each other, or for Mary and Joseph, and no one gave gifts back to them! So somewhere along the lines, we’ve twisted the meaning of the holiday, however nice some of those traditions are. :-) That’s a bummer that your mom can’t seem to keep a lid on her spending — I’m sorry you have to deal with that. It’s a tough thing to witness, I’m sure. But like you said, don’t give up on her! We’ve seen first hand that old dogs can learn new tricks. :-)

  6. That’s awesome!! My parents (Italian) got offended when we tried to do that last year (that’s a story for another day!).

    We’ve made some progress in that the siblings of my wife and I don’t exchange any gifts. However, we do get a gift for each of the nieces and nephews. We also get gifts for our parents.

    I would love to get it down to where we only get gifts for the kids. I had a conversation a while ago with my dental hygienist and she said the extended family agreed that the only presents would be for kids 18 and under. I thought that was fantastic and the way it should be.

    Nice job guys!!!

    — Jim

    • I think the parents are the toughest ones to bring along! But if yours are anything like ours, they have more stuff than they need, and hopefully they can recognize that. The last few years, we’ve done things like museum memberships or restaurant gift certificates, so there was no actual stuff exchanged — that feels like a happy medium. But good luck in your question to buy for kids only! We completely support that desire. :-)

  7. I guess we succeeded in doing this in 2015 as well. My dad said “I’m retiring and we’re all going to Hawaii for Christmas.” And my sister and I said “that means we buy no one anything.” And the kids asked for hula skirts from Santa… so that will be their own Christmas Present (Lui will have to get a shirt or something). I hope the kids will see that the experience was worth the lack of presents. And we can continue on to next Christmas in our path to less STUFF. Thanks for the lead!

    • I love the trip to Hawaii instead of (most) presents! Experiences over things. The hula skirts for the kids seems like a simple souvenir from the trip, and totally reasonable for Santa. Keep us posted on how the kids feel afterward!

  8. This is great. My family called a gift-giving truce ~5 years ago, but there always seem to be a few people who break the rules each year, leading to the awkward “you got me a gift and I got you nothing” situation. I might have to talk to a few family members after this year; the past few holidays, we’ve literally exchanged Amazon gift certificates of the same dollar value. How heartfelt!

    Hope the change sticks for you!

    • LOL — Amazon gift cards in the same amounts! How postmodern. :-) We are definitely grateful that, even in the years when we would have preferred to give and receive less, we still had equal expectations all around… that awkwardness is no good. But still great that you guys called a gift-giving truce! That’s a better place to have the conversation from than with gift-giving out of control. Good luck!

  9. This is soooooo beyond great! Especially this “we both made the choice to ask for deliberately boring gifts”! I always want to ask for things I actually need (grocery gift cards, kitchen supplies, beauty supplies, etc.) but I chicken out in the end embarrassed that people will think I can’t afford that stuff on my own. So silly, but there truly is a stigma attached to the holiday season that not many people understand.

    However, I’m slowly making progress as well – so maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to get where your family is. 3 years ago I introduced Secret Santa, and every year since we have lowered the limit. We used to do stocking stuffers but I recommended we don’t do those this year and instead to a fun Chinese gift exchange, so in total it’s $100 for your person, and $50 for the exchange.

    We’ve also spoken about donating to charity instead of doing gifts at all, which might be on our to-do list next year. Great post!

    • Thanks, Alyssa! Yeah, the boring gifts did send a big message, I think! The Secret Santa is a big step forward, so bravo for getting folks to go along with that! And your limits sound completely reasonable. Baby steps…

  10. That’s great! We’re at the mostly “boring stuff on our wishlists” part.

    It is a little problematic for us though because we have several times the income of DH’s relatives and I think they count on a lot of what they get from DH’s parents and so on. We try to give to 529 plans (for the SIL who set them up for her kids– the BIL has been saying he would set them up for his kids for years, but his oldest is 6 years old now so I think last year is the last year we’re going to suggest it) in addition to gifts because the 529 cash doesn’t really “count” as a present. Really I’d rather they keep their money or give something small and affordable off our wishlists but us still be able to give.

    • Thank you for that reminder — we didn’t include 529 contributions because we also don’t count those as presents. But it *is* holiday spending that we’ll keep doing. And if you’ve already gotten to the boring stuff on the wishlists part, then you’re pretty far along!

  11. So envious of your entire process and the end result! Considering how stressful it is coming up with gifts for our own wish lists as well as for others, you would think more people would be more relieved to do things this way. I can’t even imagine how the conversation would go for us on either side of our family – something for down the road, perhaps… this is good motivation. :)

    • It’s never all or nothing, so you can definitely make the tiniest little baby steps over many, many years to get to an outcome like ours. And you make a great point that we hadn’t thought about — the pressure of filling a wishlist is something that a lot of people would prefer to be relieved of! Great point!

  12. Such a huge win, congratulations!! Even though the pace was slow & steady, it’s much more triumphant when you reach the feat. :) Two years ago my fiancé and I were able to convert both of our families to one-gift/Secret Santa exchanges. But it seems we’ve regressed a bit because now each family has incorporated two exchanges each (a total of 4 gifts) by adding a white elephant & ornament exchange. We would like to propose just one exchange each again, but it seems the mindset is still focused on the “act” of opening more than one gift (regardless of what is inside). Especially when the kiddos (ages 8 and below) are getting showered with new gifts/items (that’s tough territory when everyone has different parenting)! Hopefully next year we can refocus on one (or none)! :)

    • Compared to most people, it still sounds like your traditions are pretty reasonable at this point! But good for you guys for urging folks toward less spending and more quality time. And if you decide you want to tamp things back down, good luck with that too! :-)

  13. We have always kept our list to only the kids. Although, when I was a single parent, that was a little bit of a bummer, since I didn’t get any presents. But, it was also easy on my purse, since I only had to buy for little ones. We’ve been tossing around the idea of doing an white elephant Christmas Eve this year, by giving something we already own. Congrats on giving gifts up altogether! One day we hope to be this hardcore :)

    Mrs. Mad Money Monster

  14. It’s so challenging! I had one faction of my family that always insisted on buying me really unnecessary and un-asked-for gifts. To the point where it wasn’t even really the thought that counts. (I hate to sound ungrateful but – cheap melon scented lotion? a clutch? have you met me, relative?) A few years ago I even suggested that we all donate the cost of our communal gifts to charity, but my cousin divulged she’d already shopped for us (it was only early Nov!!) Although it’s been gradually scaling down in the last few years, this year they’re all going out of state for the holiday, so I’m hoping we’ll break the cycle once and for all. I’m sad I won’t be spending the holidays with them, but slightly relieved that I don’t have to worry about gifting on that side of the family. Now if I could just get my parents on board….

    • OMG — I’m pretty sure I’ve received that same cheap melon scented lotion from a past BF’s family! Same Q: Have you met me? :-) Traveling for the holidays can be a great way to downscale the gift-giving in future years, though! You can tell folks that it really made you appreciate that Christmas is all about the family time, not the presents, and that you want to be able to appreciate that more. I don’t know if it will work for you, but as we found in our case, even the little changes over time add up! For your parents, I’d suggest the wishlist of super boring presents. :-)

  15. Where in your family birth order do you fall? I’m the youngest in my family (4 boys) and our son is the youngest grandchild. When I, as the youngest, proposed the idea – others seemed more willing to go along without to much fuss. I think if older siblings bring up the change, it moves a little slower (my wife’s family).

    • Interesting question! I’m an only child, so kinda whatever I say goes on my side of the family (makes things easier!). But the real movement on this has been on Mr ONL’s side, and he’s the oldest.

  16. Nicely Done. We have certainly scaled back over the years. We usually have spend limits for everyone, so can set a budget. We often give experience type gifts restaurant, movies tickets etc. So When the receiver uses it them can think of us. :) and enjoy a night out on us.

    • Thanks, Brian! I love how you guys do it — spending limits and gifts of experience. That’s 10 times better than giving folks things they don’t need or want, or letting the gift-giving become an arms race over the years! :-)

  17. Congratulations on the successful realization of your eight-year, glacial-paced project! This is very exciting. :)

    My family is a bit odd in that nobody is particularly interested in Christmas. It’s kind of a mixed bag because on the one hand, there’s no gift-giving pressure, but on the other hand, I always feel like everyone else’s family is having so much fun! It’s all good though. I did have several very stressful Christmases back a few years ago when I was dating someone whose extended family was SUPER CRAZY INTO CHRISTMAS, and I felt obligated to buy gifts for all of them even though I barely knew them. I can definitely say that I’m happy not to have that particular source of stress anymore.

    Thanks for sharing about the SoKind Registry — very cool!

    • Of course what’s funny is we didn’t know it was truly a project until just recently, when we got to the point of no presents. :-) But good to know that all of those nudges to the family over the years worked!

      I’m glad you got that contrast view of a family who goes overboard — I’ve seen a few different ways of doing it, too, and all in all, I’m totally happy with a low-key Christmas, though I can see how that could make you feel the FOMO! I really think the fun part is the family time together, though — cooking, big meals, sitting around in your PJs on Christmas… I’ll take that stuff over presents any day. :-)

  18. Wow well done! We haven’t gotten to this point yet but I think our gifts have downsized and we have made a rule only to buy useful gifts. But I would love to one day to get to where you guys are… no spend Christmas.

  19. Sounds like it was a worthwhile effort! My family has always kind of been this way. My parents send me a little money, and I do small amazon gift cards to my two-step nephews, but that’s about it. It really takes the stress out of the holiday! I’d rather do something more meaningful like save money and go visit my parents in Michigan each year and spend time with them.

    • Sounds like you have a great Christmas tradition in moderation, Tonya! That’s terrific. And amen to doing something more meaningful! We’ve done destination Christmases a few times, which to us is a way better way to spend the money!

  20. I love this idea. For the last few Christmases, I’ve wanted to ask to stop all the crazy gift giving with my family, but it always meets resistance. I’m going to bookmark this and revisit it until I can inspire some change in my extended family’s gift giving practices. Thanks! :) :)

    • Hi Robin — Don’t lose hope! :-) I felt that way for a long time but now see in hindsight that all of those little shifts added up to something big over time. Thanks for commenting!

  21. Well done! Sounds like a really well-planned approach, recognising that you need to be patient, and not abruptly try and change the family traditions and habits. I’m still overwhelmed at how much my in-laws love to buy and give, and always thought changing this would be impossible, but perhaps I’ll start trying the slowly-slowly tact…

    • It was definitely NOT well-planned, but rather we just kept looking for ways each year to scale things back. :-) But thanks! Definitely try the baby steps approach…

  22. I always wonder a little why these types of stories to seem to imply that people allow their relatives guilt or coerce them into purchasing gifts or receiving gifts. You can choose to just stop gifting. You don’t have to ask anyone.

    When I was left home at 17, I immediately stopped giving gifts. I told everyone repeatedly that I would not be giving any type of ‘scheduled’ gifts, such as Christmas, and to please not purchase gifts for me as I would not accept them.

    For the next 10 years or so I stuck to my guns. I gave no gifts and any gifts I received were returned to the giver, unopened. A lot of people really did not like this scenario but the last 10 years it has been effortless. They still discuss gift giving with me, but every single one of them has told me how grateful they are not to have to think/find/buy/package/gift for even one more person each year. At the very list I’ve given them back just a bit of their own money and time every year, a much more fitting gift.

    • I don’t think we or most people would say that they feel coerced. Gift giving is fun for plenty of people, and receiving them is fun too. For us at least, it has always been about being a part of a fun family tradition, instead of keeping ourselves outside of it. But congrats on finding an arrangement that works for you!

  23. We’ve been working towards a less gifting Christmas slowly over the last few years. Last year we had a breakthrough and only exchanged gifts between siblings and a grab bag for the kids. It’s not where I want it to be yet, but it’s a work in progress. We’ve been unconsciously converting into minimalists over the past year or so, and it’s like we’re finally opening our eyes to the advertising and shameless consumerism that society pushes. Well, we finally started pushing back and it’s getting better every year! Congrats to you guys for having a breakthrough with your families!

    • Thanks! Just focus on that slow and steady progress — that’s how we got there. Traditions are so emotional, and you never want to push for too much change too fast. :-)

  24. I still give my parents wishlists. They are items I can buy for myself, but I think our family still likes the having things under the tree to open part. I sent my list of 5 things to my dad & his reply was to the effect of ‘I thought we were going to scale back this year’. One item was a list of places where I will use gift cards! (I have one from last year to TGI Friday s with > $20 on it still!) My brother got me the same yoga mat 2 years in a row, so I hoped the list will keep that from happening. Someone got me yoga blocks a few years ago & they work well for most poses, except balancing on them for crow pose. They have just a little too much give. On amazon they go for around $8, the more dense ones are closer to $15. I wanted a pair but figured if my sister & brother each got me 1, it’s 2 things under the tree, but they could spend <$20. I felt awkward stressing the need for the more expensive ones, but falling on my face is not worth the $7-14. :)

    • The wishlist is great — that’s a great way to go to avoid getting duplicate gifts (like you did) or gifts you don’t want. And it seems like you’re asking for small, reasonable gifts. Way to go!

  25. This is great! I can feel how happy you are about it. You are so patient with your families. Will you share what you make for the kiddies?

    My approach is a lot less subtle and maybe less friendly, because I’m not as patient and don’t like waiting years for change (who does?). Like last year we opted out of Secret Santa, because we just didn’t see the point and didn’t perceive it to be a warm or fun activity (no kids, just adults = boring). Instead, we took the amount we would have spent on gifts, and gave it in cash + a nice card to the family hosting the party. They were touched because things were tight financially and no one had offered to chip in. It was a big win because we didn’t have to go shopping for gifts, or receive any gifts, and got to help out family at the same time. This year we will do the same, but I guess it won’t be a surprise anymore. :)

    • What a nice way to go! I’m sure the hosts appreciate that a ton, and so much better than having more stuff pile up that may or may not ever get used!

  26. Woohoo! Congrats. That is no small accomplishment. I’m so glad to know that it took a few years to convince your family. I’m on year 2 of trying to convince my own, and it was feeling kind of hopeless. I can see them be a little more receptive each year…except for one stubborn member who believe that giving gifts = tradition. I’m trying little things to keep the costs low – doing extra work, selling things on Craigslist, doing a focus group, selling books…and then using that income solely for the few gifts. Each year, I’ll chip away at the expectation, though.

    • Thanks, Amanda! I’m not sure if I would have told you a few years ago that our efforts were adding up to much, and yet here we are. So stick with it — slow and steady wins the race. :-)

    • Christmas was great! We still received one “unsanctioned” gift from the inlaws, but it’s a wooden puzzle that we love, so we didn’t complain too much. :-) And we put all the money we didn’t spend on gifts into charitable giving, so we hit a higher number there than we ever have before… that felt good too!

  27. That’s great progress to shift the family thinking- hopefully you’ve been able to keep it up since then. I’ve disliked gifting/receiving from a young age and as I grew up was able to opt out of the adult exchange (with some objections). But over time it led to the exchange going away which was a bit of a relief.
    We followed that up by specifically asking for no gifts at our wedding, adding the option to donate to one of our suggested charities or one of their choosing. With a few exceptions (parents of course and perhaps some inattentive readers) it worked out great. May have helped that much of her side had to fly in from Germany so gifts would’ve been a pain. (Though now that I think of it we may have asked for some German facial tissues to restock our supply, they hold up so much better).
    Nowadays the Christmas giving is primarily to nephews- usually some European candy and cash. Now if only we could get her Dad to stop sending a huge box of Nürnberg Lebkuchen each year we’d be all set. :-D

    • Oh man, I do not turn down the German Christmas goodies, especially now that you can get gluten-free lebkuchen! ;-) I’m glad you’ve succeeded in downsizing gift giving! We haven’t stayed fully no-gift since I wrote this, but it’s been very minimal, which is great. Some people loooove giving gifts, and we decided not to steal all their joy, but instead to funnel it into gifts of experience. Like last year I asked for and got a massage gift certificate… that is a present I feel GREAT about. ;-)

      • Nice! No complaints about the massage gift- that’s one of the things we’ve eliminated recently and we do miss it occasionally. Glad you all found a compromise!