7 Tips to Avoid Unwanted Gifts

A gift from a loved one is such lovely thing. And the people who give them to us are an even greater gift. A carefully wrapped present is often how people show their love for one another (hi! 👋 Me. Gifting is one of my Love Languages) and we should be grateful when we receive a gift. Unfortunately, on occasion, gifts can also feel a burden, especially when the gifts come with strings attached.

There are people all over the world have no extra funds to buy things outside of the necessities, let alone scented candles or ugly knit sweater (which are surprisingly en vogue right now) so we should acknowledge that being able to give and receive gifts is 100% a first world problem. Even writing this, I am very aware that it is a privilege for myself and anyone who resonates with this topic. But, since unwanted gifts it a dilemma that many people face, and a relevant topic for my readers, here we are navigating those waters together.

There are lots of reasons someone might want to avoid gifts, or certain types of gifts. Gifting can be a struggle for people who live in tight spaces, with a large family or who are trying to live a minimalist lifestyle and clear clutter for their mental health. Homes in America are often large and there is usually a place to stash the presents bestowed lovingly onto us, at least for a while. I’m sure you have received something that sat in a closet for years without thinking about it again. Heck, I’ve seen plenty of items that I have gifted to others, stashed on a shelf unopened. The United States is one of the most consumerist countries in the world. It is reported that the U.S. produces more than 30 percent of the planet’s waste, with 4 percent of the world’s population. We are also one of the leaders in consumer debt with the highest debt to income ratio, by a large margin according to CreditLoan.com. Americans are starting to feel this strain and the burden their belongings are bringing to their lives. It feels like maintaining a home has never been harder.

A movement has been growing of people desiring to “go tiny” or just greatly minimize their possessions. They can have less to manage, clean and maintain and to live more within their means with less dept. For some, finances are tight and the gift giving season comes with a lot of pressure. For others, the desire to reduce waste and consumerism is important and they desire gifts that can be kept forever (like memories of time together, travel or experiences) in lieu of more “stuff”. Regardless of your personal reasoning, I have a few suggestions for how you can ease your family into more appropriate gifts for your lifestyle.

Set up a donation drive through Facebook “in lieu of gifts” – This is a handy way to suggest people buy you nothing without having to send everyone awkward email. If you are even lightly tech able and can work your way around Facebook, Never before has it been easier to suggest donating to a great cause in your name. Facebook will even let you put a personal message on the fundraiser, so you can explain to friends and family how important the cause is to you. If you don’t have Facebook you can do the same thing and collect the funds yourself through a collection website and send everyone a link via email. Set this up at least a month or more prior to the holiday or birthday so people have time to chose this gift for you instead of picking up that counting coin matching from the Macy’s gift section.

Ask for Memberships – memberships are one of our go-to’s around the holidays. We take the opportunity to ask family to renew our zoo, science center or educational classes for the kids. They are happy to do it because they love to share in those experiences with us and the kids so it’s a win-win.

Ask for donations to a savings account – If you have a family member that typically floods your home with a lot of gifts, suggest that they contribute to your kids savings or college fund instead. Let them know how much you appreciate their gifts and you are trying to keep it simple this year and would love if instead, they would make a college fund contribution.

Books only please – If you feel weird requesting specific items, or you know the person won’t dare not bring a wrapped gift for you or your child, ask for books. “We have so many toys but we are building our home library! Can you bring the kids your favorite children’s book instead?” And then have them write an inscription inside for the children to read and remember who gifted it to them.

Crowd fund that playhouse (or other larger item) – if you have a splurge gift in mind for someone, ask your immediate family to contribute towards the one big gift or goal. Got a kid who wants to be a drummer? Grandparents love being able to make those pricey lessons a reality.

Suggest a Consumable gift – maybe your office does a gift swap or secret Santa every year. Suggest you do a consumable gift swap instead. Perhaps you have a friend who always gives you too much at the holidays, ask her if you can put in a request for a batch of her famous peanut butter cookies this year instead of gifts! If you need ideas, I have a list of awesome consumable gifts (that people will actually want) here.

Create a wish list – This is something we do to help our kids evade store meltdowns and give validation to their wants. It’s one of our favorite tricks for the “gimmie” toddler stage and it comes even more in handy around the holidays. Using the Amazon (or even just writing it down on a notepad or note app on your phone) wish list has saved us so.much.money over the years. Very often, kids want something in the moment and forget all about it later. Heck, I do it too, to avoid impulse purchases I refrain from purchasing items that haven’t been on my wish list for at least a week (or longer). Most of the time, I change my mind. Curate your own lists throughout the year for birthdays and Christmas. Our family loves the ease of it and being able chose gifts for the kids or us from a list of items we have really been wanting or needed!

Suggest an event or outing – If there is a group you typically do a gift exchange with, suggest an outing or experience you can do together in lieu of swapping wrapped presents. Some ideas for this would be a movie, dinner, or if its family or a really close group of friends, you could plan to take a trip together!

I think as the years pass and people see how you keep your home, hear your praising your new minimalist lifestyle at the dinner table, and reflect on your own gifting practices, you will get fewer and fewer unwanted gifts. But, in the meantime, I hope some of these suggestions help you.

So, what if – even though you followed these tips on avoiding unwanted gifts, you still received a gift that you didn’t ask for or that doesn’t suit you. What do you do? You can read our post on that topic here.


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