Friday, November 30, 2012

I Opted Out of Gifts - to Mixed Reviews

Finance and Frugality Friday

About 10 years ago I realized that I was giving and receiving many gifts that were, well, disappointing. A book of poetry from my sister prompted me to reconsider the whole notion of gift giving (and receiving). My sister doesn't like poetry. I don't like poetry. When I opened my birthday gift I felt my face drop and I felt instantly guilty for being disappointed. My sister read the look on my face and she apologized.

"I went to the bookstore to pick out something for you and then Jack called and I had to bring some important papers to his office right away and I thought the cover was pretty and I had to get you a present -"

That's where I cut her off.

"You had to buy me a present?"

We were both silent a moment, considering how it made gift-giving seem like a teeth cleaning.

Then I suggested, "What if we just skip the gifts from now on and meet for lunch?"

Her face lit up. As a busy wife and mother she agreed that finding time to have lunch together to visit and catch up would be a more mutually beneficial than running an errand to buy a gift for each other.

So I took this idea family- and friend-wide. Over the next few weeks I contacted all the people I would normally exchange gifts with and gave them my speech.

"I hope you understand that I'm feeling overwhelmed financially and I'm suggesting we no longer exchange gifts and just enjoy each other's company as we always have during the holidays."

Sometimes I had to explain a bit more or answer a follow-up question, but the overall reaction was

"That sounds great! You take me off your gift list and I'll take you off mine and I can't wait to see you at (insert our normal gathering here). What a great idea!"

Grandma Grey (whom I named for) was my only stubborn holdout.

"You don't have to get me anything, but I've already made my gift arrangements for this year." She miffed quite shortly.

"I understand and I hope you mean it when you say I don't have to get you anything. Thanks, Grandma and I'll see you next week."

She sent me an Amazon e-gift card. It was very much appreciated and I sent her a very heartfelt, hand-written thank you note on the note paper I bought with the gift card. And you know? The next year all I got from her was a lovely Christmas card with a personal holiday greeting inside. Best present ever.



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