A Zero-Budget Christmas
Part 8: How to have that awkward gift conversation
Christmas rushes in this week, ready or not. You might think it’s too late to think about a Zero-Budget Christmas—you just need to get the gifts and get it done! But this last post in the series is meant to help you make the changes you need to make to give thoughtfully for years to come. In other words, I’m going to help you have that awkward gift conversation.
As we said in the previous post, most of us give presents to more people than we should. Our resources are limited, but because our hearts (or our guilt) are big, we end up overextending our budget, only to regret it later. That cycle continues year after year after year because we don’t stop and make the decisions we need to make to regain control over our holiday budgets. Cutting people off our gift-giving list feels very uncomfortable.
But if you are spending more than you should on gifts each year, you have the perfect opportunity this week to make some changes in a loving way.
Many of us will be spending time with loved ones over Christmas, or chatting on the phone. This is the time to have a gift conversation about next year. And it doesn’t have to be uncomfortable and awkward at all, as long as you are prepared.
But before you pick up the phone and tell your sister you’re not buying gifts for her kids anymore, take some time to evaluate. Think about all the purchases you’ve made in the last month, and all those you feel you still have to make. Are you satisfied with the way you gifted this year? Which gifts do you already regret purchasing? Did you make any purchases out of obligation? Are there people on your gift-giving list that you would stop buying for if you weren’t concerned about offending them?
Now, make a list of giving priorities from greater to least. I have created this gift-giving worksheet to help you out. Simply click and print!
Here’s the important part: go through the list and cross off any names/events you can simply do away with. That office Christmas party? If it’s at the bottom of the list and you begrudge the fact that you have to come up with a $10 gift to bring each year, decide now that you simply won’t participate again. Cross it off; it’s gone.
Next, circle the names you’d like to eliminate from your list after you have a gift conversation with that person. If you’ve been in the habit of exchanging gifts with someone, don’t just stop giving. The dialogue is important. More on that in a minute.
Finally, underline the names you’d like to continue to gift to, but perhaps in a different way. That might mean choosing to spend less on that person in the future, or simply choosing to make her gifts from now on. Write down the changes you’d like to make, and get ready to have a conversation with that person if you think the change will be noticeable or needs their cooperation (like choosing to do an activity together rather than exchanging gifts).
Now, it’s time to have a conversation about gift-giving with those you love. Does the very idea make your heart race? Take a deep breath. The next section can help.
First, remember it’s a conversation, not a monologue. Go in with a heart to listen and love your people well. This is important because different people interpret gift-giving in different ways. For some, it’s a deeply meaningful act of love. For others, it’s just a nice thing to do. Gifts might mean little to you, but listen for the possibility that your loved one might feel differently, and respond accordingly.
Second, consider the timing. Wait until after this year’s presents are exchanged, or it will put a damper on the festivities. This year’s gifts have already been purchased. Enjoy them.
Later, you can start the conversation by saying something like this, “I really appreciate all the wonderful gifts you have given me this year, and I’ve truly enjoyed choosing gifts for you, but I have been thinking that it might be time to try something different next year because…..”
Third, don’t skip the because. State your reasons clearly but lovingly. If your budget is tight, say so. If you’d like to have a less materialistic holiday, say that.
The why helps contextualize and validate your proposed changes. Even if your loved ones disagree, at least they will understand your concerns and, hopefully, will communicate theirs. Who knows? Your Great Aunt Susie may feel the exact same way but has been afraid she’ll offend you. You won’t know until you speak up.
Fourth, offer compromises. If you would like to do away with an exchange of gifts, but the other party does not, be prepared to offer some alternatives. We’ve gone over a few of them in the series already, but here are a few ideas to jog your memory:
- Draw names to lessen the amount of gifts each person needs to purchase
- Suggest family gifts over individual gifts
- Propose an event or experience over a gift-exchange
- Challenge everyone to give homemade gifts next year
- Sponsor a child or support a charity as a family
Finally, remember that your relationships are always more important than any gift-giving disagreements. Always.
If your loved ones simply can’t bear to change the way things have always been done, then let it go. Just don’t be pressured into spending more than you can afford. Do the other things we’ve talked about in this series, even if your recipients don’t go along. Put systems in place to create some Christmas capital for next year, plan to make your gifts, and stock your gift closet whenever you find a great sale.
Then, enjoy giving thoughtfully, knowing you have lived within your means while loving others well. That’s what a Zero-Budget Christmas is all about.
*To begin reading A Zero-Budget Christmas from the beginning, start here.
**During this series, affiliate links may be included for your convenience.