Mind Over Money

How To Solve An Uncomfortable Christmas

So you’re tackling your debt to achieve financial freedom but it’s time for Christmas and gifts, what do you do? It’s sometime uncomfortable if people shower you with gifts and you can’t reciprocate. They want to show you that they love you but it makes you feel bad. Here are 3 things you can do to get them to listen to you

Make a plan

Me and my fiancé are asking our relatives what they want that is inexpensive. This has been greatly received and gives the hint that you aren’t giving much and you don’t want much in return. You can also mention this in the conversation. If people know your intentions and know what to expect they usually follow the lead.


Let them know that you are just going to return the gifts if they give you more than 1 gift (or whatever you are comfortable with keeping). This will get the point across that you are serious and you appreciate their love but it makes you feel bad. True, you still get the value of the gift but it’s the principle that counts :)

Just Say “No”

After you told them how you feel and they insist on giving anyway , just say no and don’t take the gifts. You don’t have to be mean about it, just say “No thank you”. This is the most confrontational way but it will get the job done.

Just remember that you can’t control what other people do and you have to accept it. As long as you’ve expressed what you can do, then they can react however they want. They can get you a bunch of gifts because they want to, or getting you an inexpensive gift because they understand you. This economy has really brought the holidays to their roots and price doesn’t mean you love someone more than someone else. The thought really does count.

Are you uncomfortable when someone gives you something and you can’t reciprocate?

How would you handle the situation?

Comments (11)

  • How To Solve An Uncomfortable Christmas…

    It’s sometime uncomfortable if people shower you with gifts and you can’t reciprocate. They want to show you that they love you but it makes you feel bad. Here are 3 things you can do to get them to listen to you…

  • Whatever happened to accepting gifts graciously? If the giver has made the decision to give a gift even if they know you are not going to reciprocate, then why can’t people just accept the gift in the spirit it was intended. You have implied that the giver of the gift is somehow selfish for choosing to ignore your guilt for not being able return the favor. Maybe it is the person who turns down a well meaning gesture because of guilt who is being selfish. My sister tells her twenty something nephews not to buy her anything but warns them she will be giving them a gift. As she says, my decision to give a gift is not based on what the expectation of receiving a gift but based on my love for you.

    • I see your point and don’t disagree with you. On the other hand, If I tell you to not do something as easy as not getting me a gift because it makes me fell bad, then why wouldn’t you just not do it? What if her nephews felt bad about always getting a gift but not being able to reciprocate so they got a credit card and bought her a gift they couldn’t afford; Is that wrong? There’s nothing wrong with what your sister was doing unless her nephews honestly didn’t want her to get them something.

  • Hmmm, I think I’d have to agree that it’s important to be able to accept gifts graciously. Usually the pleasure in gift giving isn’t for the recipient, but for the giver! Simply because you can’t reciprocate is no reason to deny the gift giver a chance to show their appreciation for you. Everyone functions on different financial levels, but I don’t think abstinence is a solution, especially because it may come across as pride instead of nobility.

    • I agree with what you say but at the same time what is that person to do? Should they just shut up and take the present. If something is going to bother them where thay feel bad for taking the present I feel like you have the right to deter the gift giving.

  • Great article! I am uncomfortable when i can not reciprocate. For the last couple years, before the holidays, I have approached family before hand and let them know that we won’t be able to get them gifts. It has been received really well. Some have opted to still get us things, which didn’t bother us at that point since we made our intentions clear.

    • yea I think if you let them know what’s going on yet they still get you something then it should be no skin off your back.

  • I see your point Kevin – and I agree that I’ve been in those awkward situations before too.

    However – I also agree with the “accept gifts graciously” folks on here.

    My suggestion – just act really appreciative – but then return everything you don’t want or need and don’t tell them you’re doing it. :-)

    Some people really just like to give on Christmas – so let them.

    If what you give to them is so important, they’ll get the picture after you give them socks and they give you a BluRay player. After a year or two like that – they’ll tone things down.

    Christmas isn’t about keeping things even.

    • That’s a good point that Christmas isn’t about keeping things even

  • We aren’t able to give much for holidays at this time in our lives, and we make sure that other people understand that. They may question why, since our income is decent, but they don’t understand that we’re trying to get out of debt, pay for college with cash, etc. I think the key is to have open dialogue about our plans with other people.

  • I have experienced both sides of this and don’t know what’s right. I received some generous gifts from people who are clearly less fortunate than us, it was very awkward because I wouldnt even consider getting them anything, we are not close at all, and feel guilty like now I am supposed to get them something even better as we are so obviously better off than them.
    Then on the other hand, I gave very thoughtful gifts to family, that I think they thought were great too. However they did not buy for us, which is fine, because they are generous all year and I am happy to give something. But now I feel they are mad at us like we made them look bad. Also they are much, much better off than us.
    I wonder if the awkwardness comes from uneven gifting especially when dealing with people of different economic statuses? Who knows, but it has been an awkward Xmas this year…


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