Lately, I have considered what’s up with all the gift giving in our society.
We give gifts in holiday seasons. We give gifts on birthdays. We give gifts at weddings. We give gifts at parties. Sometimes we even give gifts when we visit people for dinner.
Don’t get me wrong. I like both giving and getting gifts… sometimes.
I just don’t like the gifts that you are “required” to give. You know the gifts you have to give – mostly because of some tradition or event.
When it’s Christmas, your family expects you to give and get presents. Same thing goes for birthdays.
While the gifts can be nice, I feel like there are better ways to give and receive gifts than the transactional way most gift giving is done.
I have considered communicating to my friends and family that I don’t necessarily want gifts and that I won’t give them either.
Why is it that I’m considering to stop giving gifts you ask?
Saving the environment
One of my primary reasons to stop giving gifts is for the benefit of the environment.
For each gift you give or get, resources have been used to produce it – both raw materials and energy have most likely gone into making the product. At the same time, finite resources have been used to transport it from A to B (perhaps around the globe).
On top of this, every time you get a gift, you will most likely replace it with something else that is being thrown out. Perhaps even before that particular product’s lifetime was up.
The average American spends close to 900 USD on Christmas gifts per year. Imagine how many products this adds up to every year and how bad Christmas gifts alone are for the environment across the globe.
… and don’t even get me started on Black Friday.
If you stop giving gifts, you will of course also save money.
Imagine if everyone started saving up rather than spending lavishly on gifts.
Even better, what if they invested the 900 USD on Christmas gifts instead? After a while, they might be able to buy their presents using investment returns instead 🙂
Personally, I would save quite significant amount if I stopped giving presents to all my family members and friends throughout the year.
Making it count
If you stop giving gifts, it will become even more special when you then occasionally decide to give a gift.
Have you ever felt that gift giving feels more transactional than meaningful? Sometimes it might feel like a race to open all the gifts as quickly as possible rather than spending a little time opening just a few gifts.
If we stopped making gift giving a central part of different traditions (e.g. Christmas or birthdays), we might have even more time to enjoy each other’s company and engage in meaningful conversations rather than focusing on the gifts.
I would argue that if you stop giving gifts by default, you could occasionally give gifts that are even more meaningful.
By not giving and getting gifts you can make sure that you are not cluttering up your own or somebody else’s home.
I like the concept of minimalism and not surrounding yourself with more than what gives you true and lasting happiness. Truth is that most gifts will not fulfill that.
We are so used to buying things that we fill up our houses with them and don’t necessarily reflect on whether we need those things or not.
If you stop getting and giving gifts, you will also avoid the hassle of having to find gifts for each member of your family for every occasion.
Most people stress around all December to buy gifts or spend countless hours online finding things to buy.
Furthermore, you avoid the hassle of having to return gifts that you for some reason don’t want.
How to stop giving gifts
So, all of this sounds interesting, but how do you actually stop giving gifts?
I’m still giving gifts occasionally, so perhaps I’m not the best person to answer this. However, I know several people who have succeeded in eliminating gift giving that have used different approaches.
Communicating it clearly
I would always start with communicating your wish to stop giving and getting gifts to your family and friends clearly.
You might get some negative reactions, but if you are open about the rationale behind your decision, I would expect your family and friends to respect your choice.
Giving inexpensive gifts
You don’t have to stop all gift giving to stop giving traditional gifts.
There are plenty of ways to give inexpensive gifts to show people who you care about them and think about them.
How about doing people a favor or creating something for them? For example, you could give them five evenings of babysitting or paint them a picture. There’s plenty of ways to give (nearly) free gifts to friends and family.
Deciding on your gift receiver list
Many people think they need to give presents to the full extended family and a wide network of friends.
I believe you should decide on your gift receiver list to figure out which people you actually want to give gifts. You could then communicate it clearly to the people who you don’t want to “exchange” gifts with – and I promise you, when you stop giving people gifts, most people will probably stop giving you gifts too.
Deciding on your gift occasions
Lastly, you should decide on which occasions you want to give gifts.
Do you only want to do it at weddings and on special occasions? Do you want to skip Christmas and birthdays?
I believe a good way to stop giving gifts is to define which fiveoccasions you actually want to give gifts at and which you prefer not to.
Making it a test
Tell your family and friends that you are trying a year without giving and getting gifts – just to see how it would be. This will be easier for them to understand than to straight off eliminate gift giving forever.
It will also be easier for you to test it and see whether you like not giving and getting gifts or not.
Your turn: Do you want to stop giving gifts? Why/why not?