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Getting off the gifting treadmill

Updated: May 24

The holiday season is now over and everyone is busy evaluating their lives and making resolutions to improve things for the future, so it might be worth considering how we approach gifting (and re-gifting) this coming year. For me, gift giving is definitely my 'love language', so finding a way to limit it is a huge challenge!

pitfalls of obligatory gift-giving

Many of us find that we've got into the habit of giving gifts to almost everyone, teachers, postmen, friends, family, distant relatives … in turn, those we give gifts to feel obliged to return the favour. The sheer number of gifts given mean that each year we both give and receive some duds. These might be duplicates of things we already own, or lovely things that just slightly miss the mark: clothing in the wrong size, edible gifts that contain unsuitable ingredients, toiletries that aren’t suitable for your particular skin type or things that just aren't to your taste.

Selection of random Christmas gifts that might be regifted

How do we change this culture of obligatory giving and receiving? In the first instance, start the conversation with your friends and family before next Christmas!

Plan now for next Christmas

In my family we have adopted different approaches over the past few years; we've done a second-hand Christmas, and a handmade Christmas, but for Christmas 2022, we decided to reduce the overall number of gifts we give.

There was a great deal of discussion amongst the wider family. We took time to think about what aspects of Christmas we enjoy as a family, and after much consideration we agreed that giving and receiving gifts is a part of the fun that we wouldn't want to completely forgo. We were generally happy to reduce the number of gifts given and received, but how would we go about this? We considered:

  • Each person just receiving one large gift that everyone contributes to

  • Giving consumable gifts

  • Just buying for the children

  • Only buying for immediate family

The idea of contributing to one expensive gift for each person didn't really gain much traction with us - lots of people in our family enjoy the act of selecting just the right gift for each person, so this method rather sucked the joy out of it for us - but I appreciate for others who don't enjoy the process, this might be a good option.

Giving only consumable gifts was also ruled out quite rapidly - you need to know everyone's likes, dislikes, allergies and intolerances for this to work and with a large family to cater for, there were just too many variables! We did however agree to try and focus on buying sustainable gifts.

With the suggestion of buying for children only - most of our children are now young adults, which made things a little more problematic! My eldest daughter has started a full-time job, so she has been taking delight in choosing the perfect gift for each member of the family, and for the first time, she could really afford to do so, so she was keen to get gifts for everyone.

We also quickly realised that if we said children only, that no-one would get anything for the grandparents, which seemed a little harsh.

In the end, we settled on buying just for our immediate families (including grandparents), but not buying for aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews or nieces - this significantly reduced the number of gifts given and received - though I appreciate that this wouldn't be the case with all families!

However you choose to manage your gift giving, it is important to have the conversation and to have it sooner, rather than later! It isn't terribly fair for one person to unilaterally decide that they are no longer giving gifts, without informing others, because without the conversation, they are effectively choosing to be gift recipients and not gift givers.

What about the Dud Gifts?

So, having hugely reduced the number of presents arriving in our household, there were still the odd ones that missed the mark for various reasons, so what can you do with these unwanted gifts?

The easiest solution may be to donate suitable items to charity shops, but you often find that they are overwhelmed with toiletry sets at this time of year, in addition to this, they sell the sets for a fraction of their face value, so what other options are there?

One good option is to donate to food banks – toiletry sets and edible gifts are greatly appreciated and often provide a welcome treat to those who need to use these resources.

the Re-gifting conundrum

The other slightly more controversial option is to re-gift unwanted items. For some reason we seem to look unfavourably on regifting, but why? How is it better for us to have to find house space for something we don’t want, or alternatively commit perfectly good items to landfill, just because they aren’t to our taste, or don’t meet our needs? Surely its better for find a suitable recipient for the gift, so it might be used and enjoyed?

The key to successful re-gifting is to ensure that the recipient is both delighted with their gift, and the none the wiser about its origins.

5 simple rules For re-gifting

There are five simple rules to follow if you do decide to re-gift:

  1. Do not re-gift within the same social circle as the gift giver.

  2. Ensure that the item is within date.

  3. Make sure it’s suitable for the new recipient – is it something they would like, is it the right style, is it the right size?

  4. Remove any damaged packaging, re-wrap the gift and replace any prewritten tags.

  5. Don’t give items that are outdated or out of style.

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