I get it.

The conversation is still awkward for me at times even though I have been tactfully opting out of gift exchanges for quite a few years now.

And here we were, Thanksgiving with my in-laws and the inevitable conversation of type of gift exchange and the dollar limit had begun.

I was waiting for the right time to chime in and graciously decline participation on behalf of my husband and I.

Although…they were discussing a $20 limit for  a “couple” gift…well that isn’t so bad I thought.

We can afford $20, $10 each, to spread a little Holiday cheer with his family.

“I think that sounds good.”

As the words came out of my mouth my husband glanced sideways at me. I knew what he was thinking. We had decided in the car on the way over that we were not going to participate this year. We had gotten out of it for quite a few years when my husband had unsteady employment, but the exchanges had slowly crept back in.

We talked big on the way over, NO GIFT EXCHANGES this year, none. Not with anyone.

“It’s just $20 and this will be the only one” would be my rationalization on the way home.

But then the talked turned to $20 gifts each. Yikes, that’s $40 total…this isn’t going to work. And then all of a sudden the limit was up to $50.

Tis the season to opt out of gift exchanges! Keep Christmas SIMPLE this year! (includes helpful phrases to use :)

What just happened!?! There is no way I could justify that on the way home…$100!

So now was the time to interject.

You know you guys, I think we’re going to bow out this year. We’re really hope to start saving for a house soon, so we’ve decided to sacrifice gift exchanges for ourselves this year even though we’ve always had fun exchanging gifts with you in the past.

Awkward? A little bit.

But at the end of the day, I’d rather have a few awkward conversations to save the stress and time of shopping and to save money.

Plus, we’ve found that we’ve really enjoyed the times when we haven’t exchanged gifts in the past. Generally, everyone still brings something small for each person like hot chocolate, snack mix, coffee, Christmas tree ornaments or Christmas mix CD’s.

What is really neat about this, is that it feels like a more genuine expression of gift giving. I’m bringing something for you to show you that I love and care about you, not because I have to, and not something off of a list that you emailed to me…it truly has been more enjoyable.

I’ve also appreciated having time to put more thought and energy into the few gifts that we do get for our kids and parents.

Oh, and if you are worried about people thinking that you are weird for opting out, usually at least a few others feel relieved that I had the courage to bring it up. MOST people are running a pretty tight budget so they don’t mind forgoing the exchanges either.

Here are a more helpful phrases that you can try:

“Thanks for inviting me to exchange gifts, however, my husband and I decided that we’re only exchanging gifts with immediate family this year.”

“I’ve always enjoyed exchanging gifts with you all, the {insert past gift here} you gave me last year has been great, I use it all of the time, but I was thinking, how about this year we all just go out to lunch together instead of exchanging gifts. Afterall, time with you is the best gift of all!”

“We were wondering if we could start a new tradition this year? Instead of doing a traditional gift exchange, could we do {insert alternative here), we think it would be alot of fun!”

For a bunch of fun ideas for inexpensive alternatives to gift exchanges that you can suggest to your friends and family, click here: How to Opt Out of Gift Exchanges Without Looking Like a Scrooge

A couple of other helpful tips:

  • Know yourself. If the thought of bringing this up in person at Thanksgiving sends chills down your spine, maybe an email beforehand would be a better way to approach it.
  • Expect a little push back. Not all of our friends and family were fans of our new approach to gift giving, but that is ok, they are entitled to their opinion. At the end of the day we have to do what is best for our family.
  • Understand that some people are “gift people”, it is their love language. My sister falls into this category, so it didn’t feel fair to completely deny her the right to exchange gifts, we just kept the limit really low or exchanged homemade gifts (although, beware, this isn’t always cheaper!)

Good luck, you can do it! Here’s to a less stressful and less expensive Holiday season :)

Do you have any tips or phrases you’ve used to opt out of gift exchanges? Please share below!



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Tis the season to opt out of gift exchanges! Keep Christmas SIMPLE this year! (includes helpful phrases to use :)




Great post! Christmas is a time to celebrate Christ with family and friends..not stress over gift buying and even using credit to buy gifts! We have slowly encouraged families to go from everyone gets a gift to now we draw names. So hopefully one day we can just join together to enjoy each other’s company! :) Love all your posts! Just stumbled upon you and I’m hooked..ready to clean out my house!! :)


We have a group that we “re-gift” as a criteria. Something that was given to us in the past, that we didn’t really open. I always have a random pillar candle, coffee table book or picture frame that I kept, and thought I would use, but actually didn’t. It’s a lot of fun. We put all the gifts on a big table, draw names and then you can go pick something you’d use! Doesn’t always work for the last person, but at least you have a gift for next year!

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