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20-40-60 Etiquette: Time to stop gift giving?

by Helen Ford Wallace Published: October 27, 2010


QUESTION: When is it time to give up Christmas gift giving? How does one suggest to a friend or family member that it may be time to stop the Christmas gift exchange?

CALLIE’S ANSWER:  Give up?  It is always nice to get a gift, and know that someone has thought of you. It isn’t about how much or how nice the gift is. It is about the effort, and thought.

Come on, ’tis the season!

LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER:  I think you have to do this delicately, without sending the message to a friend or relative that they’re no longer high enough on your present priority list. Some people really enjoy gift-giving, and picking out a gift they think you’ll like, even a small one, is a way for them to show how much you mean to them. You might be stealing some of their holiday fun.

However, in today’s economy, as people scale back spending and the size of living spaces, it’s easier to suggest ending the exchange. If it’s a friend with whom you’re no longer in touch regularly, sometimes the gift-giving stops gradually, without a conversation or hurt feelings. If you want to stop an exchange for financial reasons, then approach your loved ones with the thought in mind and say so — “We’re trying to cut back our spending. What do you think about drawing names to save money? Or, what about dropping the gift exchange this year altogether and enjoying time together instead?”

If it’s just a group that you’re a part of it and you’re tired of buying knickknacks en masse, why not suggest that everyone bring wrapped gifts for a charity that helps out people at Christmas time? There’s no shortage of needs, and organizations can provide lists of items they need to help families during the holidays.

I don’t think there’s a specific time when families or friends should consider giving up Christmas gift giving; you just have to weigh each situation individually  — a growing family (by marriage or children), a financial hardship, etc.

Also note, when children are involved, I think it’s important for them to learn how to give gifts graciously and not be on the receiving end all the time. So if the children are the ones still involved in a gift exchange, then take them to the dollar store and let them pick out inexpensive gifts for the ones who will be giving gifts to them. Or, involve them in baking for others so they can share the joy of giving, too.

HELEN’S ANSWER: We all love Christmas gifts!  It would be hard to give them up, but if you haven’t seen the person you are giving a gift to during the year, maybe it is time to re-think your list. If it becomes a chore or hardship to exchange gifts, it is time to call your friend/relative and decide to end the gift giving exchange.  And most people will not be offended by that call, as it might be what they have been thinking too.

Or you might suggest setting a limit of a lower cost on the gifts. Many families either draw names among the relatives or set cost limits on gifts.

Several people have given to charities in the name of family members or friends and have sent cards to them stating that. When we received a card like that, although it was not our favorite charity, we took it to mean that we did not have to return the favor, as the generous gift was given to several other people at the same time.

GUEST’S ANSWER: Yvette Walker, OPUBCO’s Director of Presentation, Features and Custom Publishing. I have a friend who doesn’t give Christmas gifts … at all. But she does a wonderful job celebrating birthdays. I admire her. She has been able to accomplish something that I haven’t.

I’ve tried and failed to suggest the Kris Kringle method, pulling one name out of a hat and giving only to that person. Or buying something fun and needed for the house that everyone can enjoy instead of buying individual gifts. Somehow we always come back to gifts for everyone.

I always imagined that the older you got, the less you would have to worry about giving and getting gifts. Not true … it depends on your family and its expectations. If the cessation would cause more hurt than benefit, keep giving, but find more personal, and less expensive and lavish gifts to give.

Unless you’re talking about a husband or boyfriend. Sorry, gents, the giving NEVER ends. Keep those gifts coming!

Callie Gordon, a college junior,  was a 2009 debutante. Lillie-Beth Brinkman is a former  debutante and currently the assistant features editor for The Oklahoman. Helen Wallace has written a social column for The Oklahoman for many years and has been on various local Ball committees. Guest Yvette Walker is OPUBCO’s Director of Presentation, Features and Custom Publishing.

This group does not always agree (via age differences), but they ALL see the need for proper behavior.

Ask a specific etiquette question and you will get three answers…Then you decide for yourself how you would handle the situation. The answers have information for every age range….Callie is 20-ish; Lillie-Beth is 40-something, and Helen is 60-plus.

Please email us with your questions and  follow us on Facebook, Twitter and daily blogs. We will try to answer your etiquette questions  weekly on the Parties Extra! blog.

Sometimes we will ask other people for their opinions.

Look for us!

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by Helen Ford Wallace
Society Editor
Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for...
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