Millennial Money: How to Just Say No to Gift Exchanges


Your college roommate. Your current roommate. Your book club. Your brunch crew. Your office secret Santa. Your cousins. Your siblings. Your parents. Your partner. Their parents.

As your social circle expands, so does your holiday shopping list. But what happens when you can’t afford to buy gifts for everyone?

One option: Cut back on gift exchanges.

Opt out of the office secret Santa. Don’t give your child’s day care provider a present. Tell your roommate/cousins/friends that you can’t exchange gifts this year.

This move may seem harsh, but if the alternative is going into debt, it could be the best move.

Last year, 65% of millennial shoppers bought gifts with their credit card. This year, roughly a third of them are still paying off that debt, according to an annual survey of holiday shoppers from NerdWallet.

Consult your budget

Now is a good time to make a budget, if you don’t already have one. Factor in your normal expenses — rent, electric bill and pallets of LaCroix — plus things like holiday travel. Now you know what you have to spend on gifts this year.

Your budget may allow for some gifts, but there’s a good chance you’ll need to make some cuts.

Need help starting your budget?

NerdWallet breaks down your spending and shows you ways to save.

WORK SECRET SANTA

This is a tricky one to navigate. One school of thought is to make the office exchange a priority.

“If there’s a work setting where everybody’s participating, you must participate,” says Jennifer Porter, a manners teacher and gift shop owner. “It shows goodwill. These are your colleagues. Pony up for that and feel good about it.”

But office size and dynamics come into play. If your office is large enough, you may be able to opt out without anyone noticing. Just don’t sign up. End of discussion.

It’s harder to bow out in a smaller office or team, especially if the whole group gets together for the gift giving. If it’s simply not in your budget, talk to the person organizing your office exchange.

“Let them know, so you don’t have to make a campaign about it,” says Elaine Swann, an etiquette expert and founder of The Swann School of Protocol. You can spare them extra details, Swann says, and spare yourself the need to tell all of your office mates.

Another option: Consider regifting. (Fun fact: 82% of millennials regift holiday presents, according to the survey from NerdWallet.)

Friend and family gift exchanges

Your immediate family is likely on your must-gift list, but extended family may not make the cut. The same is true for your closest friends versus your larger friend group — book club, brunch club, bros club and so forth. It’s OK to ask to scale back things to fit your budget.

You don’t need to put up a front with your nearest and dearest. Remember, these are the people who know you best.

“You can be a little more frank and transparent,” Swann says. “If there’s anyone who’s going to understand, it will be those you have a close relationship with. They will understand and almost expect it.”

Child’s teacher, day care provider

In this instance, less is more. There’s no need to tell the teacher they won’t get a present from junior this year. A heartfelt note from you and your child will be cherished as much as another gift card or coffee mug, if not more.

Having ‘the talk’

If you decide to end or opt out of a gift exchange, be honest and considerate. You want to halt the presents, not the relationship.

Don’t make up excuses or put off the conversation until a week before Christmas, Swann says.

“Be brutally honest, without being brutal,” she says. “Frankly say, ‘Thank you for thinking of me and wanting to include me, but I will not be able to participate.’ Resist the urge to over explain.”

You’ll likely find people understand — they may even be relieved. But if they’re not OK with it, give them space.

“Don’t try to fix it in that instance. Allow that person to go through the process of being disappointed,” Swann says. “Your role is not to get them over to your side. Your role is just to inform them of your intentions.”

Don’t have time to track your expenses? Let NerdWallet show you where your money goes and find you ways to save each month.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press. 

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Mila has been writing both opinion based articles as well as hard news for over either years both for Tutor Times as well as other reputable news organizations. Mila specializes in political news and world news.