How To Minimize Gift Giving (Without Being a Scrooge)

how to minimize gift giving without being a scroogeGift giving can so easily get out of hand. People often want (or feel obligated) to give more than what they really can actually afford. In some families, gift giving becomes sooo overblown because people end up feeling guilty or frustrated they can’t spend what others can. Don’t worry about them. You do you. While Christmas is the season of giving, you should never give more than you have. It truly is the thought that counts… even if you feel pressured to spend a certain amount. Make an effort to find ways to reduce your spending, and stress, by trying to focus on enjoying the togetherness of family and friends. And getting that to be enough.


You can successfully cut down on your holiday gift giving without being labeled a Scrooge by…

  • Checking Your List Twice. If you have a traditional gift list, take it out and review it carefully. You may be surprised to learn just how many people you buy gifts for each year. If you don’t have an official list, now is the time to make one. Be honest about writing down each and every person that you plan on buying gifts for. Then, take the time to review it carefully. Some people you may be able to talk to (like siblings, for example), and just ask them if you can skip the gift exchange this year. My sister, Kelly, is on a Spending Fast, as you know, and she had this conversation with all of us. Also, my husband, has this arrangement with his siblings every year, and it works out great.
  • Making Christmas for the kids. As a family, make the suggestion that adults should only buy gifts for the kids of the family. Set the kid age limit from 0 to 18 or 21 so everyone is on the same page.
  • Deciding on an adult name swap. If your family isn’t happy with just the kids getting something to unwrap Christmas morning, agree to name swap among the adults. Each adult’s name gets put into a hat and drawn by the other adults. Or, if you’re all in different states one person will be the leader by putting everyone’s name in the hat, pulling the names, and informing everyone of who their gift recipient is.
  • Skipping the stockings. Unless your family has a strong tradition surrounding the stockings hung by the fireplace, leave them empty. The extra candy and junk toys likely won’t be missed and you can save additional cash by focusing on the larger gifts wrapped under the tree. Or you can go back to the days of old and fill stockings with fresh fruit (or coal;).
  • Setting affordable spending limits. Set a reasonable spending limit everyone can afford. This can be a great way to set a limit (say $30-ish), give 1 person something they really want (rather than them getting lots of small things they don’t really care for), and everyone ends up spending quite a bit less overall.
  • Asking for a wish list. To prevent spending money on gifts no one likes, ask for a wish list from everyone with three or four things listed in the right price range to help point people in the right shopping direction.
  • Banking cash for family trips. For families that don’t have small children to give to, perhaps an all-year around savings plan can be put in place towards group holiday family vacations. Stop spending so much money during the holidays and invest it wisely in a vacation fund for next year. As a family, choose the destination together. With a great trip on the horizon, people likely won’t even miss not having gifts under the tree. (Make a tasty breakfast then volunteer Christmas morning if you’re worried about their being a hole where you’d normally be opening gifts. OR, this is one of my favorite ideas, write each other letters telling each other things you love about one another, put them all under the tree, and read them silently or to each other. Guaranteed tears, people.)
  • Planing a party. If an annual family vacation isn’t in the cards, try saving gift money to go towards a big holiday party. Focus on the people that are invited, and not on the decorations or material things. Make it a time to really remember for each of your friends and family members invited. Have everyone chip in for the food so the financial burden isn’t left to just one person or the family where the event is being held.
  • Opting out at work. Work-related expenses can be a large burden and also the cause of hurt feelings. Suggest that co-workers move to a Secret Santa idea with strict spending limits for gift-giving to cut down on expenses. You may also want to consider opting out completely of holiday gift-giving. Bring your co-workers homemade cookies or some other treat instead. I did this in the past by adding a nice note, a cute free printable holiday tag, and it worked perfectly.


Do you make an attempt to keep the gift-giving reeled in or do you go hog wild and deal with the consequences later? Do you have any tips for keeping costs down during the holidays?

P.S. Have you tried these pumpkin spice cupcakes with browned butter cinnamon buttercream? Omg. So good.


8 thoughts on “How To Minimize Gift Giving (Without Being a Scrooge)

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  1. Caz

    I try really hard to get the adults to say, let’s not bother and buy for the kids, but one pair wouldn’t agree that THEY shouldn’t get a gift, so they buy for my daughter and we by for them. We spent $50 on Omaha Steaks delivered to them, they sent a book for my daughter, which I have to wrap (!) and it had the sale price sticker on it of $10.95. It’s also not a book for a child particularly and not anything she is interested in. So, not only do I feel jipped at how cheap someone so much better off financially than we are got, I also feel like I should buy something small extra to make this gift seem nicer. But I’m not going to do it because then it costs me more. Anyone else out there feel like they are expected to spend a certain amount (because there are comments made otherwise) and yet they get gift-shafted in return? Rant over LOL!

  2. Amelia

    I try to make every thing from scratch and I like giving things that are useful, and I got lots of nieces qnd nephews. My husband just lost his job so this christmas I am just focusing on the little ones and our parents, the new babys are getting blankets, the toddlers are getting quiet books, and the older girls are getting scarfs, I am making cookies and buying each family a board game.

  3. mary

    I only buy for the grand children(2). I buy my son a couple of token things, like some pajamas, chocolate and maybe a new mug or some socks. I bake for everyone else. I go to the dollar store and get some very cheap but quite lovely cookie tins and fill them with brownies and other treats. My friends love it. I also do homemade preserves in the fall, so I give those out as well.

  4. Pieliekamais

    I enjoyed this post, thank you!
    This year, I accepted that my gifts won’t be perfect or “fair” (someone will get more and someone will get less this year), and this attitude of acceptance has helped the most.

  5. Jennifer

    I don’t do gifts during the holidays except for the children in the family. If someone insists on giving me a gift then I accept graciously, but after I stopped giving out presents that basically stopped as well. Now I focus on spending time with loved ones. Our time is about being together and I am much less stressed this time of year. After a year or two of the new normal nobody wants to go back to the old way, especially once they understand how much time and money everyone saves, and how much less stress it is to get together when you aren’t worrying about who got who what.

  6. Angela

    I cannot stand secret Santa at the workplace, ugh. Proud to say I convinced my workplace to spend the usual Secret Santa amount on items for our local food bank. Much more meaningful.

  7. Janet

    My husband & I are both seniors 65 + .. he’s retiring soon & I work p/t childcare.
    My husband’s 2 daughters are grown & married & all are financially well off. We have 3 grand kids 1 yr, 8 yr & 11 yr.
    I just want to buy for the grandkids & not the adults they are in 30’s & 40’s but my husband insist on giving the adults. I’m tired of this & there’s nothing they need . What to do.. help!



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