Join Early Retirement Today
Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Unwanted Gifts
Old 12-26-2011, 09:23 AM   #1
Recycles dryer sheets
 
Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: anywhere usa
Posts: 246
Unwanted Gifts

Over the years, my wife and I have adopted a strict "no gifts" policy. We neither want to give nor get things, for a variety of reasons. All we want is time together. Everyone we know has come on board with this (most welcome it), except her immediate family.

The policy has been in place for at least 10 years. We've tried a variety of tactics to stop the gift giving - from saying "no gifts" to literally handing the unwanted gifts back and saying "thank you for thinking of me, but we really just want your company"

None of it works. We eventually resigned ourselves to accepting the gifts and thanking the givers in person and with a card. It's not that we don't like the people or appreciate their effort, we just don't need the stuff or agree with the heavy consumerism of the holiday. The gifts typically end up donated or given to other people we know that want them.

Lately, another twist has been thrown into the picture. Our financial situation has begun to diverge from her family, more strongly in some cases than others. Instead of just feeling like "I didn't want that, what a waste of money and time", it's now also "they really could have used this money for their needs". We literally were given about $300 in cash, another $100 in other stuff from her siblings. Everyone is burdened with debt. Meanwhile, we're DINKs saving well over 50k / year.

Reciprocating could be done at no cost to us (using the parental money from year X to buy gifts for year Y), but we strongly disagree with the gift exchange and do not want to participate. It is way out of control - every year the tree has thousands of dollars under it. I suspect most of them are financed. Presents are opened for hours, we actually needed to break for dinner part way through...

I had accepted we cannot make them stop without ruining Christmas. The feeling of guilt that the gifts have started creating is new though. It makes me dislike the whole exchange even more.

Just venting someplace where it doesn't matter if people think I am a scrooge that hates Christmas I suspect many here are like minded and have similar experiences to share.
__________________

__________________
pimpmyretirement is offline   Reply With Quote
Join the #1 Early Retirement and Financial Independence Forum Today - It's Totally Free!

Are you planning to be financially independent as early as possible so you can live life on your own terms? Discuss successful investing strategies, asset allocation models, tax strategies and other related topics in our online forum community. Our members range from young folks just starting their journey to financial independence, military retirees and even multimillionaires. No matter where you fit in you'll find that Early-Retirement.org is a great community to join. Best of all it's totally FREE!

You are currently viewing our boards as a guest so you have limited access to our community. Please take the time to register and you will gain a lot of great new features including; the ability to participate in discussions, network with our members, see fewer ads, upload photographs, create a retirement blog, send private messages and so much, much more!

Old 12-26-2011, 09:37 AM   #2
Moderator Emeritus
Bestwifeever's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 16,373
You've made it crystal clear to your families that you are not giving gifts. Most people would stop giving you gifts after the first year. No need to feel guilty about what they do.

Would you participate in a grab bag, which some families do? It would be a compromise for your families and you, but at least then you'd only have one gift to donate after the holidays
__________________

__________________
“Would you like an adventure now, or would you like to have your tea first?” J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
Bestwifeever is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-26-2011, 09:45 AM   #3
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
Midpack's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Chicagoland
Posts: 11,971
We did the same thing and everyone in our family complied fortunately except my parents who stopped with the gifts but started sending checks. After a few, we told them we would give the money to a local charity which they seemed to object to (they would rather see the money go to their charities, win-win to me). That finally stopped them, and now we only gift to kids and young adults just starting out, more pleasant for all concerned IMO.

And you are not alone in seeing gift giving having become excessive in our culture, the meaning of Christmas (being together with family as you mention, at a minimum) can be lost if you're not careful.
__________________
No one agrees with other people's opinions; they merely agree with their own opinions -- expressed by somebody else. Sydney Tremayne
Retired Jun 2011 at age 57

Target AA: 60% equity funds / 35% bond funds / 5% cash
Target WR: Approx 2.5% Approx 20% SI (secure income, SS only)
Midpack is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 12-26-2011, 09:50 AM   #4
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
easysurfer's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 7,885
You can mention that if they wish to give, instead of gifts to you, ask them to give to their favorite charity or pick out a charity that you support and have them donate to it.

This way, they still can act in the spirit of giving and you wouldn't have gifts that you really don't need.
__________________
Have you ever seen a headstone with these words
"If only I had spent more time at work" ... from "Busy Man" sung by Billy Ray Cyrus
easysurfer is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 12-26-2011, 09:51 AM   #5
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
Gotadimple's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 1,761
Understand that in spite of financial circumstances, it is a point of pride for some to be able to give a gift in the spirit of the holiday. You are just the recipient.

Everyone uses their money differently. Use what is given to you to make a difference for someone else, and tell them you are doing it. Ask them to give you experiences instead of cash.
__________________
Only got A dimple, would have preferred 2!
Gotadimple is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-26-2011, 09:51 AM   #6
Recycles dryer sheets
ratto's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 225
Quote:
Originally Posted by pimpmyretirement View Post
I had accepted we cannot make them stop without ruining Christmas. The feeling of guilt that the gifts have started creating is new though. It makes me dislike the whole exchange even more.
I share you pain. The whole Christmas gift exchange ritual has progressed into an arms race with no end in sight. The network is terribly slow today. Is everyone back online to grab post Christmas bargains for next Christmas already?
__________________
ratto is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-26-2011, 11:49 AM   #7
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
donheff's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 8,643
Quote:
Originally Posted by Midpack View Post
We did the same thing and everyone in our family complied fortunately except my parents who stopped with the gifts but started sending checks. After a few, we told them we would give the money to a local charity which they seemed to object to (they would rather see the money go to their charities, win-win to me). That finally stopped them, and now we only gift to kids and young adults just starting out, more pleasant for all concerned IMO.

And you are not alone in seeing gift giving having become excessive in our culture, the meaning of Christmas (being together with family as you mention, at a minimum) can be lost if you're not careful.
Actually, Midpack's approach seems the perfect response for the OP. You can go overboard in your pursuit of a non-commercial Christmas, and giving presents back seems to cross that line. Why not thank them nicely and tell them you have given their presents to (fill in the charity) where they will be put to very good use. Contributing the money is easy and you should be able to find places that will take the actual physical items. Don't forget to take the tax dedcuction.
__________________
Every man is, or hopes to be, an Idler. -- Samuel Johnson
donheff is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-26-2011, 12:26 PM   #8
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 8,616
My mom sent me a check for Xmas. My wife sent my mom a check for Xmas. We won the arms race.
__________________
LOL! is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-26-2011, 12:29 PM   #9
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
 
Join Date: Nov 2011
Posts: 2,360
My spouse and I are also sometimes troubled by gifts from those who, by our judgment, should not be increasing their credit card balance for such items. However, tradition says at least some portion of gifting is to make the giver feel good. I accept those gifts on the basis doing so fulfills the desire of the giver.

As further evidence consider the following. If there is an item I don't urgently need or is simply for fun, rather than immediately buy it, I will add it to my Amazon gift list. The givers described above have known of the list for many years, yet have never gifted me any of the items on it. My conclusion is their gifting is not about the recipient's wants, but is rather about their wants.
__________________
GrayHare is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 12-26-2011, 01:25 PM   #10
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 11,017
True. It's about the giver more than the gives, most of the time. After all, there's the adage about "it's better to give than to receive" which some people take far too seriously for their fiscal health. This has ballooned to ridiculous levels in the West, aided and abetted by the marketing industry, which specializes in turning wants into needs.

A few years ago I started to give charity gift cards, where the recipient gets to choose how the donation is spent. They are very popular with my friends and colleagues. I hate giving or getting stuff just for the sake of it. I'm totally not into competition about Christmas.
__________________
Meadbh is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-26-2011, 01:45 PM   #11
Recycles dryer sheets
 
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 135
With my recent marital problems, I read a book (of course!) that *might* be relevant here. It's called "The Five Love Languages" and it talks about how different people show/perceive love in different ways -- words of affirmation, giving/receiving gifts, physical touch, quality time, and acts of service.

It's geared toward romantic relationships, but I've found it helping me to make sense of some of my friendships and my relationships with family as well.

I am so not into giving/receiving gifts as I have very few wants/needs and can afford to buy what I want. I scored a zero on that love language

But, I have a friend who is always giving gifts. Usually nothing extravagant. For example, she took a trip to Washington DC and made sure to bring me a map of the subway because I'd had such a good time on my visit. She's always cutting out stories from the paper she thinks would interest her friends. After I told her of my impending divorce, she went into her car, got an unopened bottle of water (from a race -- we're both runners) and said, "I'd really like you to have this." After reading this book and realizing what's going on, I understood that I wasn't showing her my love in a way she understood, so I am making it a point to give her little, inexpensive gifts, since they mean so much to her.

My mom is also a gift love language person, so when everyone else decided not to exchange gifts, she still got us some.

I don't know if that's the case with the people you mention here, or if it's more about trying to outdo one another and feelings of obligation for the holidays.

I wonder if you could discuss things and try to set a dollar limit or some sort of theme on the gifts? Next year, with my family, we're going to give used books. We all love reading, so this gives us a year to find that something special, without spending a lot of money or taking up a lot of space.
__________________
Marathoner is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-26-2011, 03:08 PM   #12
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
braumeister's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Northern Kentucky
Posts: 8,592
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marathoner View Post
But, I have a friend who is always giving gifts. Usually nothing extravagant. For example, she took a trip to Washington DC and made sure to bring me a map of the subway because I'd had such a good time on my visit. She's always cutting out stories from the paper she thinks would interest her friends.
This immediately made me think of the "Cathy" cartoon strip. Cathy's mom was constantly cutting things out of the paper and sending them to her. People who do that sort of thing really do get a big lift out of it, and you're very astute to recognize it.

I'm like you, and rarely enter the gifting world. My big exception is for a close friend that I grew up with back in Brooklyn. Every year at this time, we exchange gifts that are special. I send him some Graeter's ice cream from Cincinnati (no kidding, it's some of the best ice cream in the world), and he sends me a New York cheesecake from Junior's (no kidding, NYC cheesecake is, like bagels and pizza, better than any other).

Apart from that one big Xmas exchange, gift giving is a rare event among my circle. When it happens, it's always something very special that means as much to the recipient as to the giver.

A good example is another friend I grew up with in Brooklyn. He currently lives near Olympia, Washington. After we had talked about an upcoming backpacking trip I was going on, he sent me a package of the best beef jerky I've ever tasted. It came from a little butcher shop near him, Stewart's Meats in Yelm. Totally appropriate for me and special because it was one of his local specialties.

Those are the only kinds of gifts worth giving, IMNSHO.

Oh, and here's one for you. I did my first marathon at the age of 58, and two more after that, but now I'm strictly a half marathon guy. After talking to another friend about how my knee just couldn't take that pounding any more, he sent me a Cho-Pat knee strap. I've been wearing ever since, and love what it does for me. The cool thing is that every time I put it on, I think of him, so how great is that?
__________________
Pas de lieu Rhône que nous.
braumeister is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 12-26-2011, 03:20 PM   #13
Moderator Emeritus
Nords's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Oahu
Posts: 26,616
Quote:
Originally Posted by pimpmyretirement View Post
None of it works. We eventually resigned ourselves to accepting the gifts and thanking the givers in person and with a card. It's not that we don't like the people or appreciate their effort, we just don't need the stuff or agree with the heavy consumerism of the holiday. The gifts typically end up donated or given to other people we know that want them.
Lately, another twist has been thrown into the picture. Our financial situation has begun to diverge from her family, more strongly in some cases than others. Instead of just feeling like "I didn't want that, what a waste of money and time", it's now also "they really could have used this money for their needs". We literally were given about $300 in cash, another $100 in other stuff from her siblings. Everyone is burdened with debt. Meanwhile, we're DINKs saving well over 50k / year.
Reciprocating could be done at no cost to us (using the parental money from year X to buy gifts for year Y), but we strongly disagree with the gift exchange and do not want to participate. It is way out of control - every year the tree has thousands of dollars under it. I suspect most of them are financed. Presents are opened for hours, we actually needed to break for dinner part way through...
I had accepted we cannot make them stop without ruining Christmas. The feeling of guilt that the gifts have started creating is new though. It makes me dislike the whole exchange even more.
You're the only one who can change the way you feel. Right now you're giving these people your permission to make you feel bad.

I like the charity-donation idea, especially telling them where you're donating it to. Eventually they'll change their behavior on their own.

Our neighborhood's the same way-- every holiday we're showered with gifts of food from neighbors whom we only see a few minutes a day (or a few minutes a month). The home-made treats are great, but others go out and buy a dozen bags of gourmet nuts or potato chips to drop off door-to-door. Also tasty, but not so much "the thought that counts" effort.

We've learned to say "Thank you very much!" We also reciprocate during the year whenever they need handyman services or other neighbor assistance. Either way I don't feel as though they're depriving themselves or forcing us into a gift-giving arms race.
__________________
*
*

The book written on E-R.org, "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement", on sale now! For more info see "About Me" in my profile.
I don't spend much time here anymore, so please send me a PM. Thanks.
Nords is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-26-2011, 05:02 PM   #14
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
Free To Canoe's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Cooksburg,PA
Posts: 1,738
This Blondie comic strip seems to have captured the spirit well.

BLONDIE
__________________
Free to canoe
Free To Canoe is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-26-2011, 07:34 PM   #15
Moderator Emeritus
Khan's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Pine Island, Florida
Posts: 6,868
Send a message via AIM to Khan
I have found that after not giving or thanking, the influx of stuff eventually stops.
__________________
"Knowin' no one nowhere's gonna miss us when we're gone..."
Khan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-26-2011, 07:52 PM   #16
Full time employment: Posting here.
tightasadrum's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: athens
Posts: 802
After 36 years of marriage with annual Christmas gifts to more family and friends than I can even name, I asked my DW last week why? As time passes all the families of all the people we've exchanged gifts with throughout the years have expanding families. The gifts just under the tree cover half the living room. It takes DW all year long to purchase these gifts, and this year's health issues have put added stress on her to make all this happen. I won't even get into the cost.
So I asked her as pleasantly as i could if all this was really necessary. The fact that she hesitated before answering me gave me some hope. She said it had probably gotten out of hand, but that she was not going to change anything while her mom was still around, now 90. This morning I was in the living room with MIL when she remarked that the number of presents under the tree had gotten a little out of hand. (I swear i didn't bait her into it either.) So, I asked her, why do it then? No, no. She just couldn't NOT buy all those gifts for her family. I tried to nudge her in a better direction, but she, well let's just say she's a wee bit stubborn. Looks like I'm stuck with this ridiculous gift thing for a while longer unless I can alter the method. I like the idea of giving to a charity at Christmas. Maybe MIL and DW will listen to that idea. At least it would reduce the amount of shopping that they do now.
__________________
Can't you see yourself in the nursing home saying, " Darn! Wish I'd spent more time at the office instead of wasting time with family and friends."
tightasadrum is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-26-2011, 08:19 PM   #17
Recycles dryer sheets
 
Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: anywhere usa
Posts: 246
I like the idea of letting them know the gifts are being donated to charity.

A transition to something like the white elephant game with a $20 limit would be great from my perspective. I am not sure others would feel that way. As marathoner suggested, they view the gifts as proof they love each other.

This year my wife tried redirecting people towards small or time based gifts. One request for copies of pictures taken over the year was met with $200 in cash and a promise of pictures later. Another for a $12 card game was met with $50 worth of other stuff, and the card game...
__________________
pimpmyretirement is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-27-2011, 07:50 AM   #18
Recycles dryer sheets
Tandemlovers's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 151
"With my recent marital problems, I read a book (of course!) that *might* be relevant here. It's called "The Five Love Languages" and it talks about how different people show/perceive love in different ways -- words of affirmation, giving/receiving gifts, physical touch, quality time, and acts of service."

Marathoner, I saw a recently article in the NYTimes regarding the preacher who wrote this book. Though I didn't read the book, I did ask my family members to rank their preferences as to how they prefer to be shown love, and I kept their responses leading up to Xmas as a guide.
__________________
Tandemlovers is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-27-2011, 08:28 AM   #19
gone traveling
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Eastern PA
Posts: 3,851
DW/me have stopped exchanging gifts for the two of us for more than a few years. She still buys for her family (I don't have any), especially the young childern (e.g. her 1st/2nd generation neices/nephews).

The way I look at it, the "magic" of Christmas (e.g. Santa) belongs to the childern, anyway.

Like she told me, if she/me want anything, we purchase it on our own. Additionally, she has many gifts from me over the years (42 years married, and add another five years as a "couple" before that) of things that are still "in storage".

However, she went shopping yesterday (sales, sales, and more sales) and did buy me a gift box of Hickory Farms goodies ($65 before, $15 yesterday) due to a video I showed her that was broadcast last week by Neil Cavuto concerning "Women's gifts for the man" (you can find it on your own). The crux was that men only look for one thing (after the obvious) and that is meat/cheese - thus the Hickory Farms reference.

While it was more of a "joke gift", I'll take it to celebrate my birthday (a week from today). That's a plus, since my birthday was never celebrated by my family growing up (why do you want a gift? You just got Christmas gifts; yes, they were strange, that way).
__________________
rescueme is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-27-2011, 08:44 AM   #20
Moderator Emeritus
Bestwifeever's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 16,373
I really like the spontaneous "I saw this and it made me think of you" kind of gift I sometimes give and sometimes get, unrelated to any holiday or other occasion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords View Post
...The home-made treats are great, but others go out and buy a dozen bags of gourmet nuts or potato chips to drop off door-to-door.....
I would actually love it if someone dropped off a bag of potato chips at my door
__________________

__________________
“Would you like an adventure now, or would you like to have your tea first?” J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
Bestwifeever is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply


Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


 

 
All times are GMT -6. The time now is 02:55 PM.
 
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.