It’s wonderful to see a person’s face light up thanks to a gift you bestowed. I do love giving gifts, and I love receiving gifts – within reason. But have you ever analyzed why you buy so many Christmas gifts? You may buy for your partner, kids, colleagues, neighbors, miscellaneous relatives, friends, your lawn guy and so on. It can be a lot.

My husband and I haven’t exchanged Christmas presents for years. We’ve decided that, for a number of reasons, we actually maximize our seasonal merriment by minimizing gifts. Before you label us as “The Grinch Couple,” let me explain why the gift of no gifts is so valuable!

Your Reason for the Season

People exchange Christmas gifts for many reasons. Obligation? Yup, maybe you really don’t want to get anything for your boss. Tradition? Well, telling Granny that you don’t want to exchange could seem rude. Joy? Definitely; finding the perfect gift for someone you love can be priceless.

For some, Christmas gifts connect to when the Three Wise Men brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus after his birth in the manger. Additionally, it is believed that Saint Nicholas gave gifts to the poor. In the present day, of course, Santa Claus rewards children who have been well-behaved. The “reason for the season” is different for everybody and, so, the intent with gift-giving varies too.

I did wrestle with mixed feelings about no gifts. Will it really be Christmas without presents? Have we turned into a pair of Scrooges? But I discovered that decreasing presents has allowed me to be more present during the holiday season than ever before.

Photo credit:

Good Tidings of Time 

For many of us, time is much more valuable than anything that comes with a receipt. Instead of spending hours shopping for my spouse and loved ones, I’ll have more time to experience the season with them. Rather than bustling through big box stores, we can drive around to see Christmas lights, attend holiday festivals, build a gingerbread house, offer random acts of kindness and so on.

Save Your Seasonal Sanity

Let’s face it; holiday stress can bring out the worst in people (i.e. Black Friday stampedes and parking lot scuffles). Wouldn’t you love to eliminate the angst of return lines, bargain bins and that ridiculous color-coded excel spreadsheet that organizes your shopping checklist? [OK, I admit that I slightly enjoyed the excel document… A-type personality here.] Sure, Santa’s elves can’t gift-wrap your sanity and put it under the tree, but maybe maintaining your sanity this season is an epic Christmas miracle!

Photo credit: As Simple As That (blog)

Embrace Festive Fun

Instead of investing in gifts, we’re investing in one another. We’re embracing old Christmas traditions and making new ones. Much of this goes back to time, as previously mentioned. On Christmas morning, for example, without time spent opening gifts, we can enjoy lounging in our matching pajamas, making Santa pancakes and sipping hot cocoa by the tree as our little one plays with his new toys. And we’ll probably get to the family holiday party earlier too, which will increase opportunities for family bonding. I love cooking alongside my 101-year-old Nana! And, it sounds trivial but our family board game battles are always hilarious; so why not roll the dice beside the tree instead of accumulating scraps of wrapping paper and torn-apart boxes?

The holiday concept of more fun and less stress has spilled over to my circle of friends too. Instead of gift swaps, we’re focused on experiences. Research indicates that experiences make us happier than tangible things because, in part, they create bonds and memories. For example, gathering with friends for a cookie exchange, ugly sweater party, movie night or anything social or entertaining.

Or, get together for something socially that you need or want to do anyway. For instance, my gal pals and I meet for Christmas-colored mani-pedis. We feel that we are treating ourselves with the service and also each other with the bonding girl chatter. Everyone in this social group is totally cool with no longer exchanging gifts — less shopping and stress, and more savings and time together.

Brrr… Frosty Financials

According to the American Research Group, shoppers around the country say they are planning to spend an average of $983 for gifts this holiday season. Almost a grand… Yikes!

Photo credit: Divas and Dorks

I don’t think Christmas should put anyone into debt. It’s easy to talk about money with my spouse, so I had no hesitation telling him that I’d rather redirect our funds from stocking stuffers to date night, vacations or house repairs. Talking to others about money can feel a little weird though. It’s not exactly merry to tell someone, ‘I don’t want to spend the money on you’ or ‘I am short on cash this season.’ I have finally become comfortable, however, with telling people that I am scaling back on gifts and hope they understand that I’d like to cease our exchange. You can offer an explanation, but you don’t have to. If you still want to exchange gifts, consider setting clear guidelines about the budget. It can be uncomfortable if you gift someone a cheap bottle of wine and they spend a much prettier penny on you.

My sister-in-law’s extended family started a great tradition of charitable giving instead of gift-giving. Each family member contributes whatever amount they see fit to the chosen nonprofit. And each year, a different person gets to choose the charity. Do good-feel good efforts are the best! Along those lines, consider random acts of kindness as gifts instead of tangible items.

Hopefully, expressing my genuine well wishes of Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to loved ones is more valued than discounted scented bath soaps. My anticipation of Santa’s arrival is ever so present and I cherish the gifts of no gifts: family, faith, love and kindness!

Feature Photo Image Credit: Dollars and Sense

Nancy DeVault is the managing editor of Date Night Guide and a contributor to publications such as Babble, AmeriDisability Services Magazine and Orlando Magazine. She enjoys outdoor adventures with her husband and toddler.