I Don't Believe in Buying Holiday Gifts (And, No, I'm Not a Scrooge)

A pile of Christmas gifts in colorful wrapping with ribbons.
Beata Becla/Shutterstock
By Jeff Wilson, as told to Meghan Rabbitt

In our "Money Mic" series, we hand over the podium to people with controversial views about money. These are their views, not ours, but we welcome your responses.

Today, one dad tells us why he and his wife don't exchange gifts -- and why they've also chosen to downplay presents for their daughters. By skipping the whole holiday gift-giving hoopla, he says that it actually makes his family's season merrier

This time of year, most of my family and friends are frantically running around shopping malls and waiting in crazy-long lines to get gifts to put under the tree. Some of them have a lot of fun doing this -- and others are totally stressed out.

As for me, my wife, Sherri, and our two daughters, Winter, 15, and Sylvie, 12, we sneak in as many long hikes as we can before the snow starts falling and spend our weekends cooking delicious dinners. You see, Sherri and I don't get each other gifts, and we don't buy many for the girls, either. As a result, there's no such thing as "pre-holiday craziness" in our world, and we truly get to experience all of the magic of the season without any of the stress.

A No-Gifts Christmas Tradition Is Born

Sherri and I met in our late 20s and bonded over our shared vision that a frugal, simpler life might just be the ticket to happiness.
We talked about "Walden" and how we'd both read it as teenagers, but how we hadn't truly understood Henry David Thoreau's point until much later in life. And we'd seen many of our family members try to keep up with the Joneses, working constantly to make payments on a big house, two brand new cars or a boat.

With all of that in mind, we decided to minimize our wants and stick to our needs.

So starting early in our relationship, we made an agreement: birthdays, Christmas, Valentine's Day and other holidays were "no gift zones" for us -- at least not for store-bought presents. Instead, we would write poems, create something by hand or give each other an experience on those special occasions.

For example, for our birthdays every year, we leave the house early in the morning to hike 15 miles on the beautiful, deserted trails at Lake Hope State Park near our home in Athens, Ohio, and then have a great meal at their lodge restaurant. It feels decadent to ditch work for the day and be together in the woods. Neither of us would trade that for a store-bought gift of any kind.

Fast-forward to my siblings and I having children and trying to buy birthday and Christmas presents for everyone. Sherri and I felt like we already had everything we needed to be happy, plus we didn't always use the things that we were given.

And whenever we visited our extended families at Christmas, it seemed like the piles of gifts for the children got higher every year, and the toys would just be forgotten a week later. We feared that we'd be doing a disservice to the kids by teaching them that this was what life was all about.

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Every year there is some wanker that writes an article like this. The moral superiority oozed from every word in this self-serving article. The man still sounds completely absorbed in self. I write this from the island of Haiti where I've spent the day giving gifts to people less fortunate than I, and yes it was very fulfilling to play Santa and truly do good for others.

December 25 2013 at 6:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wonderful Idea! I completely agree!!

December 24 2013 at 1:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Many years ago there was a picture in our local paper. It was a from a local church. There was a picture of Santa on one side and Jesus Christ on the other and it said Whose Birthday is it anyway?? I put it on the Fridge every year as a reminder.

December 24 2013 at 12:35 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply


December 24 2013 at 12:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Been doing this for quite a few years now! I'm sure a lot of others do the same. We get what we want all year. You won't find me near a mall or box store till it's over! We really do enjoy the holiday a lot more this way!!!! Same with our birthdays. Happy holidays everyone!

December 24 2013 at 11:06 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

My husband and I haven't exchanged in years. Going on trips and fixing up the house is fine with us. We don't have kids and even with that, I do not spoil my nieces and nephews. Kids are spoiled and get whatever they want, (all year too). What ever happened to socks and underwear under the tree!

December 24 2013 at 11:02 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I feel the same way. It seems the true meaning of Christmas is not as important any more. To many people believe in gift giving is more important the celebrating the birth of Christ.

December 24 2013 at 9:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

christmas gift giving stopped years ago with illness and income,this year i thouhgt of reviving the gift giving,and then a strange thought came to mind.bartertown.if i give a gift and get one in return its an anomyous barter.i knew the holy christmas had fallen,in giving, value evaporates,in a barter the value remains,compounding the earth value,opposing the devalueing of gift GIVING

December 24 2013 at 7:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Alot of people do what this couple is talking about,all the holiday gift giving has gottin way to expensive and we have forgotten the true meaning of family time with the holidays.So my wife and I do not give each other gifts either. We are more into enjoying eachother and the true meaning of being together and enjoying the season.

December 24 2013 at 7:20 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

If you buy gifts" simply" for the sake of giving something then it becomes commercial and in many cases useless and too expensive...which of course is hard to avoid when you are bombarded with commercials and advertisements every where you look...and kids seem to bombard their parents with an endless list of wants ..I enjoy giving Christmas gifts but I prefer to find at least one opportunity in every gift to give something they don't have...my time....this year I painted the room that was to become the nursery for my son and his wife who are about to have their first baby and as a bonus gift I bought a new light for the room...last year we made raised planters to encourage our kids new found interest in gardening and we added some purchased seeds and gardening tools...So we buy some things to go with the gifts that come from our time...It's a pleasing balance.. Always well received...As a couple we stopped buying birthday gifts for each other a long time ago (we just couldn't afford it) Instead we always do something that will make the day extra special in those little ways that only people who have received them can understand...favorite dinner, fresh crisp clean sheets on the bed...extra dessert with the lunch...gas tank full...car warmed up on a cold morning...dishes done & counter cleaned. We even have a tradition or re giving the same birthday card year after year (it started as a joke)...and each year we add a little note to it and we reread the old notes...

December 24 2013 at 6:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply