Save With More Meaningful Gift Giving – A Different Mindset

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How To Save With More Meaningful Gift Giving

Save With More Meaningful Gift Giving – A Different Mind-Set

One of the greatest freedoms I have ever felt was when I arrived at the point where I didn’t buy my gifts based on what people would think of me. You know the type I mean. That office gift exchange that you really don’t have the money for this year but can’t say no to because you wonder, “What will they think of me at the office?”

What about that expensive gift you really can’t afford but that you know your sister in law expects of you? You know she will say bad things about you to the rest of the family if the gift isn’t up to her standards.

Then there are the gifts like the ones for the trash man, the mailman or babysitter and, of course, you can’t spend any less than $25 on each child’s teacher. I mean what kind of person are you if you don’t give these people expensive gifts?

Then there are the obligatory gifts for those people whom you have only known for a month or two. Though you’ve only seen them once or twice in that time, they show up on Christmas Eve with a gift for you. Of course, you have to keep several presents on hand to give them.

I don’t want to sound like Scrooge but my point is that you have got to stop feeling compelled to buy gifts (or anything else for that matter) solely because you’re worried what others will think of you.

You don’t have to do what everyone expects you to do. Think about that for a moment. Just because something is expected of you doesn’t mean you have to do it. There is a difference between that and doing what you are responsible for, but that is for another discussion.

Just because everyone expects you to exchange gifts at the office doesn’t mean you have to. Just because you think the trash man or mailman expects a gift doesn’t mean you have to give him or her one. (I love my trash man and mailman… well not literally, but I do like and appreciate them and I don’t mean to sound like I’m just picking on them).

I know this is hard to do because we all want people to think well of us. Here are some suggestions to free yourself from worrying about what others think, especially in the area of gift giving:

For example let’s use my good old trash man. If I have an extra amount of trash, I will make a point of running out and thanking him for doing the extra work. At other times, I tell him what a good job he does or I will call his company and tell them what a good job he does. Every once in a while, I bring him out a plate of cookies.

When Christmas comes, if I can’t afford to buy him a gift, he really doesn’t think anything about it.

Sometimes others ask me if I give my trash man a gift and, when I say no, they get a look of horror on their faces. I don’t worry about it because I know in my heart that I did the best I could. If the truth were known, my trash man probably appreciates the things I did all year long more than the one little “token” gift that they gave at Christmas.

Which would you rather have — someone who is nice and helpful to you all the time who might not give you a gift or someone who shows no interest in you all year and then gives you a token gift once a year?

Secondly, don’t make a big deal out of not being able to give a gift. Years ago when I was younger, a friend and I had to go to a business get-together where they would be serving alcohol. Neither one of us drank. My friend wanted to know what we should do if we were offered something to drink. I hadn’t even given it a second thought, so I looked at him in surprise and said, “What do you mean? We just say no thank you and ask for a Sprite or something.”

I didn’t make a big deal out of it and when I was asked what to drink I just asked for my Sprite. No one thought anything of it, but my friend hemmed and hawed about it and started apologizing because he didn’t drink. Then he went into details about why he didn’t drink and on and on until people were either embarrassed for him or thought there was something wrong with him.

He was trying so hard to impress the people for the sake of our business but instead he just made a fool of himself. We get so worried about what other people think that we tend to make fools out of ourselves and make a bigger deal out of something than it needs to be.

Take a moment to think how much you have spent this year on things to impress others, and not just at Christmas but all year long. Are you a parent who bought a toy or car for a child that you couldn’t afford but were worried that the child wouldn’t love you as much if you didn’t get it?

How many birthday gifts have you bought for your friends or your children’s friends that were more expensive than you could afford but you didn’t want them to think less of you or your child?

Many times, people have asked me if I was going to a certain Bible study or activity at church. When I said no, they asked why and I had to say I couldn’t afford it. but I didn’t spend money I didn’t have just so they wouldn’t think there was something wrong with me spiritually.

If you really think about it, you will be amazed at how many times we spend money we don’t have just to impress others. Like I said earlier, if you are kind, caring, respectful person who thinks more of others than yourself, people will see you and care for you alone and not what you can give. They will know that you give generously when you can and if you don’t there is a good reason.

You may say, “That is all well and good, but what about people that don’t understand and think poorly of me when I don’t give a gift?” I hate to be blunt, but what about them? Does it really matter what people who are uncaring and judgmental think about you? These type of people will always find something to judge or misunderstand no matter how hard you try to please them.

What I’m trying to say is don’t allow what others think to cause you and your family to go into debt, even if it is your own family and friends. This is peer pressure. We tell our children not to give in to peer pressure, but we give into it all the time and we wonder why our children fall into the trap of it. They see it practiced at home.

If you’re a little insecure about changing this habit, be careful, gain some confidence and if you are truly and honestly doing the best you can, don’t worry about what others think.

One last note: This doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t buy gifts for these different people that I mentioned above. If you have the money, then go for it. Also don’t be embarrassed to give a gift that is not so expensive. We offer ideas in our books and all over the web site about how to give very nice gifts for very little. Get the thought out of your head that if you can’t give something expensive you shouldn’t give at all.

I know that it might sound trite, but it is true. Some of the nicest gifts I received and the ones I enjoyed and appreciated the most cost very little or nothing. That little Elmo magnet my grandchild bought with his own money at a garage sale means just as much to me (even though I’m not really into Elmo) as the most expensive gift I ever received. I will proudly display my magnet and cherish it because it was bought with love and much thought.

It really is the thought that counts (not the price).




  1. says

    We will know our culture has changed for the better when we can all emotionally adopt this concept in our dealings with each other! It is such freedom to stop worrying about what other people think about gifts we give…and/or what people think about us at all. Materialism has become such a foundation of modern American culture. Anyway, I am much better now than I was a few years back. But it is still a struggle with family because you keep wondering if your gift was good enough. It is similar to the nagging doubt people have in their mind about God and salvation. Jesus died to “free us from our sins” so we don’t have to constantly “earn” His love for us through works and rules etc. We have to believe that our family and friends will appreciate us without having to “buy” love. It is an interesting analogy isn’t it? Maybe this is why it is such a struggle for us.

  2. says

    I give $20 to our hairdresser. She is good and fast and will fit me in when ever I call. She also cuts my husbands hair otherwise it would be $10. We have been going to this hair place for 20 years so the two that cut our hair are more friends than employees.

    The chiropractor and massage therapist get cards.
    The dentist gets a gift since he is a friend who visits us almost weekly and we exchange gifts with him.

    The problem I had was buying things for my grand children. They live too far for us to visit them so it is pack the box and ship it on the bus.
    The few times we have made the trip for Christmas the other grandma shows up and spoils my Christmas. Just her attitude and her mothers put paid to having a nice relaxed Christmas with my son and his wife and their children.
    The little ones have to be on their best behaviour and if they start to get rambunctious they are scolded and sent to their room. Great grandma doesn’t like a lot of noise.
    To my husband and myself noise and confusion rule at Christmas.
    We have always gotten big gifts for the little ones and money for the adults.
    Well this year I decided to change that pattern.
    We will send money early so the eldest can get a snowboard helmet to go with the snow board his parents are getting him.
    Mia is 5 and wants a barbie doll. I have to pick up the doll but I am making a lot of outfits to go with her. I have 6 knitted outfits done and 5 more to go. along with socks and panties.
    With the cost of the doll and the clothes I have spent $12. It would have been $10 for the doll but I had to buy tiny knitting needles to knit the outfits. I am using up wool that has been sitting for years when I couldn’t knit.
    Cameron will get a bunch of dinky toy cars and trucks which he loves and asked for and a leggo set that you make farm animals with.
    My husband found the iron on picture sheets so he is taking pictures of the toys and we will put them onto a pillow case for each child. The parents will get 2 cases printed with pictures of the children.
    For the family of 4 the cost will be about $150. Cut down from over $500 most years.
    I don’t care what Nana says about us any more. I only have to see her for 1 day a year and the children realize that the things we send are loved and wanted not just for the day but for many days to come.
    Still won’t see them until the summer but the gifts are the sort that keep on giving over the year.
    It has taken a lot of soul searching for me to stop trying to compete with a grandmother who lives around the corner and always there but I think I have seen the light.
    I am called the silly grandma and I love it.

  3. Rachel says

    Thanks for posing this Jill. Lots of wisdom in the words. And it goes back to having the spirit of Christmas all year long. We shouldn’t be nice to people because it is Christmas, we should be nice and giving because that is what Jesus wants us to do. And I just want to comment on the church activities. You said that you were very honest with people about not being able to afford the acivity. once a friend of mine was very insistent that I attend a Bible study she went to. She would call almost every week to invite me. while I appreciated the invitation, I just did not feel led to attend. Finally I told her that I did not want to attend church activities unless it glorified God. Now don’t get me wrong, I attend on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, but I do think more about other services and activities. I have to take into account my husbands work schedule, if I need to babysit my grandkids, and other demands on my time. God is not marking on a chalk board every church event I show up for, He is looking into my heart for a willingness to follow Him. Hope I explained this in a way you can understand.

  4. Grizzly Bear Mom says

    Great Aunt Grizzly would also consider it a Christmas gift if you played that board game she requests every year/listen to her story/go for a walk with her/whatever she said, etc.

  5. Lisa says

    Much wisdom in this article. And it reminds me of this quote:

    “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
    — Dr. Seuss

  6. Holly says

    Several years back my family decided to stop exchanging gifts altogether, except for buying the small children gifts. In the last few years, we stopped buying presents for other kids and just bought for our own. My Christmas has become about what it’s really about: Christ. It is pointless to stress out over money and what you’re going to get someone who has the ability to go buy something for themselves anyway. At work, we exchange baked goods. Everyone has their little specialty that they make for everyone. I have actually come to resent all the stress and Black Friday business. People don’t even appreciate the holidays for what they are anymore. It’s more about the sales.

    • Jeneane says

      You are so right Holly! I refuse to participate in “Black Friday” just so greedy retailers want more money.

      And I appreciate all the other comments also. All true.

    • Fay says

      Kudos to Carrotriver! I donate to every chance I get. I like buying the bees for these reasons: honey is a luxury for these families and they can make good money from the surplus; the product is vegan so there are no religious/cultural conflicts; wax is also supplied for use or selling; the bees pollinate the community gardens benefiting the whole community; they are inexpensive for the families to raise; and finally there is a huge decline globally in the population of bees. Einstein said that if the bee disappeared the earth would only survive for 4 years.

  7. Denise says

    Great article. Although I have to say it never occurred to me to gift gifts to the trashman or some of the others. Actually, I haven’t a clue who picks up my trash. The can goes out in the morning and when I get home from work it is empty. While I know it is common practice for some to give gifts to people they “hire” throughout the year (hairdressers, babysitters, etc.), I can’t think of one I’ve ever felt about doing this.

    I do give a gift of homemade candy to volunteers and others at church who I want to show appreciation for, and also to most my friends and co-workers. The “bought” gifts are limited to family and a few close friends. As far as caring what others think, well… I’m afraid that I stopped worrying about what others thought of me shortly after graduating from high school.

    I am always hoping that the people who feel the need to give a gift to me at this time of year would follow my lead. I would much rather receive a home-made goodie than an extravagant gift that makes me feel uncomfortable. As a Sunday School teacher, I’ve receive several thoughtful gifts from parents. While I appreciate the sentiment behind them, I have a drawer full of stuff I can’t get rid of but don’t have a use for. Actually, if just one of the parents would give me a card that said “In appreciation of your work, we’ve donated $$$ to ________” I think I would bust out in tears of gratitude.

  8. Maria says

    Jill, thank you for your honesty and for saying what so many think but are afraid to carry out. I feel very blessed to live in a small, rural community where “big” isn’t always expected. One thing we do to simply express gratitude this time of year is to bake cakes (one to each school) and take them to the teachers’ lounges at the high school and grade school (enclose a card with your well wishes and family name). The teachers love the unexpected dessert as well as the thoughtfulness.

  9. Frances Moseley says

    Jill, I agree with your philosophy on gift giving. If I may add a couple of comments of my own, please allow me to do so. I am a teacher and, while any acknowledgement of the hard work I do is appreciated, I have all the cute Christmas mugs I need. If you are stumped for teacher gifts, here are some suggestions: a gift card to a local teacher supply store, a bookstore, an office supply store, of even Wal-Mart is thoughtful and will be put to good use. The amount on the card doesn’t matter. The fact that you gave it does. Also, teachers always appreciate a note or brief letter from their student or a parent letting the teacher know that they are making a difference. Sometimes the simplest of things mean the most. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas season!

  10. Lorie says

    This all leads back to how the Bible tells us that what we have is from God and we are to be good stewards of those things. That doesn’t just mean our family and friends, but our money as well. Is it being a good steward of His gifts to go into debt to buy presents for every Tom, Dick and Harry? Wouldn’t it be better to perhaps craft a small something or bake a plate of homemade goodies, enclosing a card or gospel tract with them to share His message and His love?

    My husband and I have been through a couple of HARD years. We have, by His grace, been blessed for my hubby to keep his job (though is was close run a few times) and have been slowly paying off our debt. We are trying to raise a family of 4 kids on one income. I have learned I have no problem telling others “Sorry, we just can’t spare the funds right now, Thanks anyways.” Folks are very often sympathetic and have even offered to pay for some things to help (youth group passes on trips, etc.)

    We got rid of having television about 4 years ago, and it is amazing how dramaticlly it affected our need to ‘keep up with the Joneses’. My kids don’t run around with the “I want’s” like they used to, having to have the latest whatever. I don’t feel pressured to have the right clothing, car, hair, appliance, computer, cell phone, etc all the time. I can focus on my family, home and most importantly my walk with the Lord. I now go into homes with TV and it drives me crazy. Try it…turn off the TV for a week and see how much more peaceful your world is.

    I firmly believe that gifts should be given to show your love for someone, not because everyone else has suddenly decided they think you should buy this person something. I have never laid eyes on my mail person nor my trash person. I am not going to buy them a present. My kids help me make cookies and we send a plate to each teacher with a handmade note from them thanking them for their time and service.

  11. Heather says

    I totally agree w/ you that you needn’t buy presents for everyone you know. That just puts you financially in hock & stresses you out. Who needs that? My gift to coworkers is a big plate of homemade goodies at the office Christmas party. I made huge amounts of cookies/breads/candies, make a variety tray for the office, make gift bags full of goodies for my gifts to friends/family/neighbors. The recipients can either eat the gift themselves or use it for when they entertain.Last year I went to Goodwill & got baskets & made goodie baskets for gifts. I cleaned the baskets up with 409 spray & hung them outside to dry, lined the basket with tissue paper or cloth napkins & filled. Simple.

  12. says

    Hi Tawra, my comment isn’t about todays newsletter but I did want to tell you an experience I had. I was SO EXCITED about your idea for buying a larger turkey than needed (it’s just me and my daughter) because the price is better (.48 a pound!) and then having the butcher cut the frozen bird in 2 so we could have half for Thanksgiving and the other half sometime in December or January. EXCEPT when I went to purchase my 20 pound bird, and asked the good old butcher if he would do this for me he told me No, He couldn’t …”we don’t do that … it contaminates the blade.” That was the end of the discussion. EXCUSE ME, do you NOT clean the blade off after using it every time?? I was disappointed but not discouraged as our 20 pounder is in the refrigerator thawing out and I will cook the whole thing and then just cut it in half myself and put it in freezer bags to have another time. I just was so excited about your suggestion and then my balloon was burst. LOL. I always appreciate reading your helpful tips and encouragements! You are a wonderful person. Thanks for sharing and keep it up..EVEN IF THEY WON’T DO SOMETHINGS HERE IN SOUTHWESTERN PENNSYLVANIA LIKE THEY SHOULD!!!! God bless and thanks again! HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!! Nancy DeMuro, Pittsburgh, PA.

  13. says

    This is my second Christmas with my husband. We decided that it is far better to give then to receive so instead of giving to each other we decided to pick three people/families that we could be a blessing to this year. For example, we picked a teacher who works in a very low income area and has to buy things like tissues, cleaning wipes, etc out of pocket. So I put my couponing skills to work and played the drugstore game to get these items for free/cheap.

  14. Rachel says

    I used to sell Mary Kay, and while I was not successful at that venture, I did learn some good life lessons. One was this: “Don’t worry what people think about you, because the truth is they don’t think about you at all.” And it really is true. People are far too self obssesed to be thinking of anyone but themselves.

  15. Elle B. says

    When I first got married, my sisters-in-law would send us a bill for the extravagant gifts for my mother-in-law even after both she and I explained that we already gave a nice gift and that she didn’t want anything big like a new sleep number bed. Splitting big ticket items doesn’t always turn out well. After a few years of this, we were then given a bill on my husband’s inheritance to repay one of their gifts–even after we politely paid a portion and then said no more without further discussion–none happened and we have to pay the sisters $400 when the mom dies. Expectations can be expensive and divisive.

  16. says

    Nancy, when it is thawed cut it in half yourself.
    It takes a bit of work but use a pair of heavy duty kitchen shears to cut through the breast bone. Then a heavy knife to cut the back bone.
    You have it in half then freeze the one half for later.
    It may not be as well cut as by a butcher but it will taste wonderful.
    I do this quite often and it works well.

  17. barb~ says


    What great thoughts and advice. I try to give a useful, but fun and inexpensive gift to others. Several years ago I started buying holiday paper plates, napkins,cups,etc. that were on clearance at the end of the season. I also buy plain red, green and white when they are cheap. I take colored cellophane and wrap up some of each in a bundle and tie it with a pretty big ribbon-sometimes I add some candy or maybe votive candles. It’s like a holiday “care package”. I have done this for years and my neighbors love it and so did my kid’s teachers. I usually try to give the gift package early so they can use the items when it will make life easier for them during the holiday craziness.

  18. Laura says

    We’ve decided to “opt out” of the commercial version of Christmas this year. We’ll still give gifts but we’ve placed severe limitations — one for each child from Mom and Dad, the kids pick names out of hats for one another, even asking extended family and friends to choose a single gift for the family (a game, a DVD, etc.) instead of a gift for each member.

    With one family we’ve decided to do a special activity together instead of buying and exchanging gifts.

    Our motivation was twofold: 1) the economy and how not only we, who are not yet feeling the pinch, are affected but also how others who may be feeling it shouldn’t feel obligated to give to us. And 2) I have nearly come to hate Christmas morning because of all the stuff. My kids aren’t rude or greedy, so it’s not their attitudes so much as it is the stuff, stuff and more stuff that no one needs and was bought and given because someone (ME!) felt obligated. No more.

    I grew up in a home that was touched by divorce and there were a few years, when I was in my teens, when we did not exchange or receive gifts. My brothers and I agree those were the best Christmases ever. Family, a beautiful tree and decorations, music and favorite TV specials, love and warmth, the miracle of the incarnation, all these are what truly made it Christmas.

  19. Mari says

    Elle B: What an absolutely horrendous experience, and what overpowering and insensitive in-laws!! Can’t believe that story (I mean I believe you, but I can’t believe their behaviour)

    Rachel; I TOTALLY agree with you! People are FAR too self obsessed to be interested in what anyone else but themselves are doing……LOL!!!

    Brilliant article, Jill, by the way :)

  20. Paula says

    Thank You soooo very much for this article. It’s uplifting to see others with the same mindset. I hope the trend continues to spread. It’s 5:20 am on Thanksgiving morning, I’m cleaning out my emails and sending Happy Thanksgiving wishes to some family and friends via email. I had the morning news on, and can you guess what the majority of stories are about?? BLACK FRIDAY sales and who is open today!!! It’s so sad how materialistic we’ve become. Christmas has become a feeding frenzy of sales, and we have thrown the Baby JESUS out with the bathwater!! I shut it off and chose some peace and quiet to start my day…
    We are in debt up to our eyeballs, and trying to come out from under it. I never thought that struggling would be such a blessing to me. We have bought some nice gifts for our daughter(shopped clearance sales all year-got better than black friday prices!!), and I’m making a few things for others, so we can sit back and relax and ENJOY the REAL CHRISTMAS that everyone else is trying to BUY (Jesus already paid for it!!!)…Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and a blessed CHRISTmas!!!

  21. Lois says

    Jill, this article really hit home with me. I always felt that I was letting my family down by not doing a full blown Christmas. My kids are both adults and they too are experiencing “doing with less” in this economy. We sat down and talked about it and realized this holiday is more about family than spending money. I reminded them of this certain Family, about 2000 years ago, had nothing, not even a rented room in an inn. But they were together, with some awesome company on a night with an exceptional sky to view! So, we decided to get together to celebrate this same night, in 2010, with a meal and our own little family.

    When my kids were teens, they had a hard time dealing with peer pressure in middle school and senior high. I kept reminding them that by listening to what others are saying, and letting their words affect you, you are giving control of yourselves to them. I reminded them who they were as part of our family, and who they were in Christ. Take control back, I said. Now it’s time for me to listen to my own wise words 😉

  22. Michelle says

    I grew up on a small farm in the ’80’s. We were POOR…my parents had bought the farm at the worst time, the land price was high and the interest rates higher, milk prices were cut in half in one year, and during that same year we lost a lot of our herd from a polluted well. To say the least there was no money for Christmas for 4 kids, my parents were just trying to keep up with farm bills, and not go bankrupt. I remember them fighting about how to pay for groceries.
    With the economy bad for many right now let me say the gifts were small, and mostly useful…and homemade. We older kids got tools that we used on the farm…because what we were using was worn out, we got boots…we were doing chores in tennis shoes that had holes in them (Wisconsin winters are not kind). I do know there was not a toy or book from Santa that year for any of us…and we all were young enough to still believe. But we knew Santa came because we saw a red nose flying through the sky…some might say it was an airplane, but what do they know? Mom pointed it out and was so excited…today I know that being a good actress can make a huge difference in bad times. And Santa snuck in the basement because we were still awake and put our gifts in the dryer. We found them when we were sent to get the diapers for the baby. We didn’t really know how bad it was at the time because love and imagination is always stronger than a lack of money.
    Today I don’t give my little ones all they want though I could. Christmas is not about gifts, it is about love and sharing and family. We will bake a birthday cake for Jesus, and read the true story of Christmas…and focus on the real reason for the season, and the gifts will be enjoyed, but not the focus. Even toddlers can learn these things, and still have fun and enjoy Christmas.

  23. rose says

    grandma .. just read the post where u r called the silly grandma .. dont ever change .. i think thats great ..
    my great nieces (they are my one sister’s grandchildren) .. they call me “too many kisses” aunt rosie … bc i just hug and smooch on them all of the time .. in fact the older one asked my nephew (her father) why i do this all of the time and he told her its bc i (aunt rosie) has soooo much love in her she needs to share it with you and well, its a good thing bc you can never have too many kisses or hugs ..
    so now all of the kiddies call me too many kisses aunt rosie .. hehehe 😀 .. and i love it! ..
    and yes every time i see them i am always bringing them somehting .. and to be quite honest its usually something from goodwill or the $1 store but its brought with love and i personally think they prefer my smooches and hugs to the gifts i do bring ..

  24. Cindy says

    A right on article! So many people go into debt at Christmas. For years I bought little things for people throughout the year based on their interests and never had to worry about debt. My husband was a poor pastor, so I HAD to think that way. Many people may not be aware that Federal Employees, including post office personnel, are not allowed to take monetary gifts, and possibly not even other gifts. Better not to offer but just give a big THANKS when it’s warranted.

    I came from a poor family with 6 children. I’ll never forget the Christmas we didn’t have money even for a tree and everyone felt a little low. Then my Dad came in bringing a short tree and we were so happy. He had found it in a ditch! No one came to claim it so he brought it home. That year we all got just a coloring book and new box of crayons. But it was a very precious Christmas that I’ll always remember because of the love in our home. THAT’s what really matters!

    • Sheila says

      A special Christmas indeed when you can remember the gifts. New crayons always smell so good.
      Trees were never a problem for us living in the country.

      • says

        There is nothing like the smell of new crayons. I always buy them when school opens for a quarter to give to my grandkids at Christmas because there is nothing like getting a brand new box of crayons no matter how old you get. Even at my age every couple of years my kids get me a new box of crayons (yes I must confess I still love to color) and I love them.

  25. Allyson says

    One of the best received gifts I ever gave was little strips of paper that I had printed bible verses on. I choose verses that spoke God’s promises into my friend’s lives and replaced the word “you” with my friend’s name. Each person I gave this gift to said they love being able to pull a strip of paper out of a container (most decided to put the strips in some special container) and feel encouraged and loved. It cost me one piece of paper and a little ink for each person.

  26. Linda Aube says

    Your advice on gift giving is not only invaluable, it is priceless. Taking the time to thank people for doing ordinary things extraordinarily well is more than a kind act. When we build people up, it is a gift that keeps on giving — sort of paying it forward in the way that person will be inclined to treat another. We all live for recognition and can never get enough. I just wanted to recognize you for sharing your good sense and spirited words of wisdom. You are a blessing! Thank you!

  27. Sarah J. says

    As the wife of an ex garbage man, we appreciated the gifts and tips. My husband was a very considerate garbage man, letting an old man throw his one walmart sack of trash away even tho he wasnt a customer, he got the trash cans of elderly that forgot or let a little boy see in the truck ( with his Mom of course). The gifts he really appreciated were the can of coke, water bottle, a orange and the occasional bottle of beer! He received amazing tips year after year. Those tips helped pay for our 4 kids Christmas gifts. While you shouldnt put yourself out spreading Christmas Cheer if you feel led please do! Those guys work hard no matter the weather and unfortunately they dont get compensated well. :) JM2C

  28. grizzly bear mom says

    Someone said “Don’t worry about what people think. They do it so infrequently.”

    Additionally most anyone who is close enough to “deserve” a gift from you will understand if you don’t give them one.

  29. Christie says

    Thank you for publishing this! I really needed to hear this today because I am dealing with the “what will they think of me” attitude. My husband and I are not in a financial situation where we can purchase expensive gifts for our family members but those family members scoff at the homemade put-your-heart-into-it gifts. This morning I decided I was going to give them homemade gifts because I’ve spent months carefully planning what to make each member of my family. I figure Christmas is about CHRIST not materialism. Our greatest gift (our Savior) was given to us in the most humble of circumstances so why should we act like Christmas now is any different? Thanks so much!

  30. rose says

    the other nite my daughter and i were at walmart .. and now they are selling 12 x 12 block of the rice krispie treats by the rice krispie company (i know many of u have seen them in the box) .. and i said to my daughter how awesome that was .. adn she commented that homemade tastes so much better .. adn then i reminded her of how my homemade krispies turn out .. and esp the very last batch i made .. it was with too many marshmallows .. *my son adn son in law loved them but we didnt* .. and told her that, well, think about it .. not everyone has the time these days and well not everyone makes those easy to make treats taste great (her’s are great .. mine r duds! …heheheee ;D ) .. and well, its a good idea esp if u have lots of people u would like to make “homemade” goodie for .. they even sell the fudge covered ritz crackers now too! (i bought a box.. get one! .. they are sooooooooo good!) ..and then i told her .. those two items and 2 more packed cookies dipped in chocolate or whatever and wrapped in a cute container/baggie/box with a bow .. and voila! .. a really cute gift .. that actually came from the heart bc well u did have to put all the stuff together and get things prepared and etc.. granted, u didnt literally bake and make all these things but its still the thought that counts and that is the most important thing of all ..
    my sweet daughter told me she didnt think of it that way .. and its like “is ur glass half empty or half full” kinda concept ..
    i told my daughter i have those 6 cans of beer we bought last new years eve to share with the neighbors (it was a 12 pack) and then at walmart i showed her that gift of the beer bread mix/baking pan .. i told her i found a recipe for that bread using flour, a bit of sugar (tiny tiny bit) and hte can of beer .. i then told her to pick out 4 people who we would want to give this to and voila! .. there u go.. xmas gift! .. they can make it themselves .. and if she has any seasonings she would like to add .. just wrap it up .. i personally would leave it plain bc i have never tasted this bread but on the recipe card, just put a small note can add seasonings.. (just an idea) ..
    i am not sure how long beer will be ok in the fridge and i dont think it will go sour (never heard of such a thing either) .. but i thought it would stil make a nice gift ..
    just a thought here ..
    hope everyone is almost ready for the holiday .. 😀

    • says

      not sure how long ago this post was written, but beer does go skunky.
      had some we bought for an evening with a friend and he didn’t show up.
      we don’t drink beer so after 6 months my husband opened a bottle and it was so bad.
      so if you want to use old beer check one bottle or can just to make sure it will be a good gift.

      • Sheri says

        If it’s bad, you can put it out for the snails… I don’t know if it works, but I know people do use it for pest control for snails.

  31. Kelly says

    Great thoughts, Tawra!

    If I can add a little bit to this conversation, its “be the leader of a new trend”! If we all just gave what we could afford, maybe others will follow suit. For example, if you can’t afford a big gift but can afford a nice plate of home made cookies, do that. When others see you going with what is reasonable, you may give them the courage to do the same.

    Years ago when my kids were small, they went to quite a few birthday parties. I started out buying a nice card and using nice gift wrap, but then noticed that the birthday boy or girl didn’t care about teh card or the paper. So I started having my kids make a card for their buddy and we used really cheap paper or comics to wrap it. No one cared, and soon other parents started doing the same. I think by going ahead and taking the plunge it gave other parents the courage to do the same.

    • says

      One thing I do to save whether it is for a birthday party or at Christmas is if I give someone a gift I don’t give them a card. A card or a gift are both items that are suppose to say I am thinking of you on this special day so I always thought that by giving both you are just expressing your well wishes twice and never could figure out why do it twice.

      I know that isn’t normal but like you say most people (especially kids) pay very little attention to cards anymore. This is also why if I give money instead of putting it in a card I know they will throw away I buy something like their favorite candy bar, candle or something little for only a dollar or two to wrap the money with. That is as much or less then most cards and they have something they can do something with.

    • Sheri says

      So true! The card and wrapping paper or gift bag can cost more than the gift! I sometimes buy the big bag of tissue paper at Costco or use butcher paper to wrap gifts. If the person is okay with it, I use used wrapping paper! They just rip through it anyway… Or… I make a cloth bag that can be used again.

  32. Doris Hofmann says

    You are so right, Jill I think of the times I have read of the days when people made gifts for each other, and usually it was a single gift, perhaps a knitted sweater or a handmade toy or some such item. One of my daughters doesn’t have a lot of money and I have tried to convince her to make cookies for people for Christmas gifts. People really enjoy homemade gifts and something that doesn’t end up being a lot of clutter or end up stuck in a closet perhaps never used. But cookies or candy come in so handy for either the family to whom it is given or to their guests. Keep up the great ideas. We need to remember that there is a reason for Christmas, and it isn’t about worrying about gift-giving.

  33. cathy says

    Thanks for this newsletter. It seem to hit the spot for me this year. We had some finanical issues come up for us & this Christmas is going to be very very tight for us. Reading these words help to ease my heart- thank you.

  34. ed says

    Exellent advice, and I commend you for courageously being able to say it, and hopefully for us to courageously doing it!
    God Bless!

  35. Anna says

    For our mail person we always put a $1 box of thin mint cookies from Dollar General with a Christmas sticker over the price and a ribbon if I have it. We put it in the mailbox near Christmas. She loves it! She always sends back a sweet thank you note. We don’t single her out for an inexpensive gift we try to be careful shoppers. This year,though, my sister and I have taken just a little money each week since October and have gone to The Salvation Army and Goodwill. We are almost done with our shopping including alot of stuff for under the tree Christmas morning. We are so happy…we both have very big families and limited income.

  36. Martine says

    I found your website about a year ago and I have to say thank you for all the wonderful insight you and Tawra so lovingly share with everyone. I truly adore that you are about the thoughts and emotions that motivate our choices. The in depth info you supply goes beyond cutting coupons or buying generic brands. I live on the east cost of Canada (Dieppe, New Brunswick). The universality of what you teach is very true everywhere and for everyone. It has brought me to really think about how and why I make the choices I do and not only where money is concerned.

    Advent is beginning next week for us catholics. This is a wonderful time to reflect and take stock of the past year. I like to revisit what is important to me and if I’m going in the direction God wants for me. Preparing for xmas is much more personal and inward for me.

    With all the great ideas and information you give, it makes my choices much easier. Because I’m comfortable with what and why I give, others are also. I don’t feel the need to explain or apologize anymore. That’s a wonderful feeling and is greatly due to all you, Tawra and your readers teach through the newsletter and website.

    In other words MERCI BEAUCOUP (thank you) from the bottom of my heart!!!


  37. Julie Johnson says

    One Christmas, many years ago, I suggested to my husband’s family we “draw names.” Ouch. My suggestion was not well accepted; however, with prayer and time, I realized they really LIKE shopping for my husband and me. We, on the other hand, do NOT like shopping so we give them gift cards every year in a Christmas cards. Not terribly original, but we no longer get “wish lists” and it keeps it simple. This also keeps me out of the malls and other areas that I don’t wish to go, ever!


  38. grizzly bear mom says

    Christmas used to be so stressful that it made me cry. I got little sleep, had to stay in houses with either sick unsupervised children or five smoking people. This resulted in upper respiratory and sinus infections. I also sttod in line to by these people a Christmas gift they didn’t need. I divorced the smokers, and my sisters decided to only gift to the minors and mom. I also gift those Christ would on HIS birthday. (I can’t imagine anyone more neglected on their birthday than he!) That includes visting prison on holidays, the poor, hungry, sick, orphans, etc. Include whomever you believe appropriate like the garbage man and hair dresser. As a too little time single working professional I would like homemade cookies or for you to play that game with me that I keep requesting each year. Now that I am free to celebrate Christmas in accordance with my principles I am happy again.

  39. says

    Here is an article that I wrote early this year on re-gifting items we already own. I think it goes well with your post here in the spirit of the thing. :-)

    Rethinking Gift Giving in the New Year

    You’ll see I put a link to your site at the bottom of the first page. I need to link to this post of yours in particular since it goes well with the thought I tried to present.

    Thanks again for you thoughts here.

  40. Anna says

    Hi! I would like to add to my earlier post how much I appreciate Tawra and family and Living on a Dime! I have also given the cookbooks as gifts. My sister (a very accomplished cook) is really enjoying her Not Just Beans Cookbook I gave her! Thanks again, I know you have helped us and so many others!

  41. Melanie says

    We give our boys (age 4) 4 gifts only. 3 are from mommy and daddy representing the three gifts from the wise men. and one from Santa. they each get a stocking also. The first christmas with the boys we went nuts with buying gifts and the next year I realized that it is not about the gifts so much as the celebration of the birth of Christ. It is not about the gifts and how much each gift is. So I have been done with the boys for about 2 months except some stocking stuffers. I make gifts for eveyone else in the extended family-ideas and items have been bought only thing I have to do is make them yet. The preschool teachers are getting a jar of homemade jelly that I made in Sept. I do not like to go to the stores in Dec. becasue of the crazies. Wonderful article!

  42. Sheila says

    My 22yr old nephew just received a large commercial sized cottage cheese container of his grandma’s chicken and dumplings and a qt. sized bag of homemade chocolate chip cookies from his 16yr old sister for his Birthday. Now that smile was a grateful happy man. His wife doesn’t make that kind of soup and doesn’t make cookies often.
    We all have enough “Things” an fortunately not needs. the treats are always appreciated.

  43. Roxie says

    I have been in the day care business for more than 20 years. So many children have come and gone through my door that I can not begin to count them. In all these years I have given away a lot of ‘junk’ gifts to the Goodwill etc. I do appreciate the thought, but how much cheap perfume, candles, and plastic jewlery can a person use? A few have given items that were wonderful and appreciated.
    I would love to get a ‘thank you’ for taking such good care of Johnny, or a letter of reference than another trinket.
    I do give a gift to each child in my care. Almost always it is a book and a blanket and pillow.

  44. Grandma says

    Saw a gift idea for someone you appreciate but don’t really know like a teacher or minister or the person down the street.
    Those little plain cardboard or paper mache boxes. decorate them with a cut out card on top and paint the sides.
    fill with some hard candies. tie a ribbon around them and you have a nice gift you don’t have to wrap.
    Everyone can probably get rid of the candy and if it is hard it won’t melt like chocolate.
    An apple cut out on top for the teacher. Maybe a bible verse or bible picture on top for a minister.
    Peppermint candies would be good especially in winter when sore throats are a part of life.
    You would have a nice gift for about 2 dollars.

  45. annie says

    In our town there is one family that always prepares a BIG breakfast along with gifts for all of the garbage men one Saturday before Christmas. Several women get up at 5am and start the brekfast plus other women stop by and bring dishes of food. This year will be a little sad because the man of the house passed away. But the tradition will still continue as one way that everybody appreciates what these men do all year long.

  46. Grandma says

    Would this make an appropriate gift for someone who is not up to making a party but who always seems to be doing things for others. She is quite disabled this year and I was thinking of making a sandwich cheese and cracker plate.
    fancy little sandwiches which could be kept in the fridge and those roll up ones also for the fridge. Cheese of different types and crackers. All could be kept a few days in the fridge except the crackers.
    I don’t want it to appear tacky but I have trays that would make it fancy just not sure if this is a christmas gift or just a helping out when the person doesn’t like to ask for things.
    help with this please if it is not appropriate could someone give me some ideas.

    • says

      It is a perfect gift grandma. It is especially good because sometimes it is nice to get a “savor” something to counter act all the many sweet things we get at this time of year. Since I love cheese and crackers and those cute sandwiches I would love getting some thing like that to munch on.

      Plus since I became sick I have had almost a zero social life because I just am to sick to do most things. I so long for those yummy things you could get when you go to parties like that. My mom calls me and says we went here or there and they had the best food and I just can dream about it. Even something like a pot luck at church or Christmas party food would be so lovely. So I would say you couldn’t have come up with a better idea.

      I guess my thing is anything I receive that I don’t have to cook or buy myself is a real treat and I love.

  47. Grandma says

    Jill we rarely go to parties and when we go to the few friends here in town it is just for coffee and talk.
    So no special treats and that is why I want to do something for this special friend.
    They can’t get out except for shopping and visits with his mother. So I figured a couple nibbler trays even if it just the 2 or 3 of them to enjoy.
    When you think of what you are missing it is kind of nice to go to the kitchen and find a something there that a friend gave and you know you are not forgotten.
    I know I would love to have someone do something like that for me.
    I think that is why Don is taking me to the motel for the 2 nights. Christmas with no family is so hard on me and he knows it. So new tradition.
    As times change we have to go with it or fight it tooth and nail and I just don’t have the stamina to do much fighting this year.
    I once last year told Don my perfect vacation would be 2 days in a motel with a bunch of books and him room service or restaurant in the building no dishes no cooking no phone calls and nobody knocking on the door to join the rod and gun club. Just the 2 of us doing absolutely nothing we didn’t want to do.
    I guess he remembered and threw in a pool and sauna into the list.
    Now if the weather co-operates and we can get there it will be almost perfect. Might even make up a tray for us or pick one up at the grocery store. like I said no cooking.

    • says

      Oh Grandma sounds like a really nice Christmas. I love being with the kids and grandkids and that is my first choice but one year I had to be totally by myself. I had the choice of like you said fighting it and feeling sorry for myself or doing something different. I went to the store and bought myself an inexpensive present I had been wanting, came home, put on my comfy pj’s, pigged out on pepsi and all my favorite dips and foods my kids didn’t like and watched Christmas movies and read. I really really enjoyed myself. I had to do it again another year on Christmas day because I was snowed in but it was so cozy with the snow and Christmas tree lights.

  48. Grandma says

    I have just finished 36 pizza tarts. they are so easy and really good. (yes I had to test one since they were an experiment)
    took 36 frozen mini tart shells
    baked them for 10 min at 375
    put a blob of spaghetti sauce
    then one slice of olive a few small chunks of pepperoni topped them with mozzerella cheese and put them under the broiler for 4 min.
    they look great and I am going to send some to my son’s because everyone loves pizza. They are just 2 bites so would be nice for a party.
    Total cost for 36 is about 2 dollars and that was the shells. I have enough to make a bunch more with none of the chopping and shredding the cheese.
    took me about 30 min.
    When I get home from grocery store I will try some mini quiches. This is kind of fun and no pressure.
    3 friends in town will get a platter of goodies and my son will get a lot of nibblers since they are going to attempt to do some renovations over the christmas break.
    Can work together and neither adult has to try and figure out what to feed little ones while parents are busy.
    Grandma to the rescue maybe.

  49. Dorothy says

    I know of a group of co-workers who decided not to exchange gifts among themselves this year. Instead they took up a collection and bought children’s books to donate to a non-profit organization.

  50. Krista says

    I know this is kind of late to post but I know people read these way after the article was done (I know I did – lol!). Grandma – I’m known as Crazy Aunt Krista. I’ve never been married and don’t have any children but am super close to my nephew and nieces. I’ve always done thinks with the kids that the parents would never do. The parents think I’m immature but there are enough ‘adults’ in this world! Every should not act their age all the time. As a matter of face, I NEVER act my age – LOL!

    I always hit the clearance racks – especially at stores like Target. Even if I don’t have any new babies or kids I’m buying for, Targets young kids clearance racks are fantastic! When I see a good deal and have a little extra money, I’ll buy it and put it in my Presents Box. If I ever need a present, I always look there first. I also look for discounted makeup and nail things. After Christmas I picked up several eye shadow compacts (originally $5) for less than $3. I just gave one to my niece who just turned 13 along with some manicure sets and polish that I picked up either on sale or clearance. I spend extra time at the store looking at the clearance racks but with the money I save on stuff I’m just going to buy for someone later, it’s a GREAT deal!!

  51. Sheri says

    I’m with you Jill. On hot days, and I mean over 100, I will give lemonade slushies to those working outside my house. When the meter reader came around, I would be ready with a slushie in a quart sized yogurt container with a straw through the lid. One summer it was a road crew putting in a sidewalk in front of my house. Actually, for them, I hade a five gallon jug of ice cold lemonade with enough cups for the crew. Why not be kind to these people when they need it?

    My specialty, that is requested for any party, is kettle corn. I got my recipe from Hillbilly housewife, but I cut the sugar in half. That makes most people happy with very little money involved.

    My family gets gifts from me all year. What’s left when Christmas comes around? I just make what people need: clothes, blankets, food. But I have been having fun with Ruffle yarns lately and making scarves. All gifts of love and time, little money.

    Thank you Jill for keeping this idea before us!

    • says

      Your post reminded me of a time when we were having a terrible snow storm and the power guys were working across the street from my son and his family. It was in the middle of the night and they made a bunch of hot chocolate and took out to the workers. They really appreciated that how drink on a bitter night.

  52. Tracy says

    I learned from an early age that it was always the thought that counted more so than the item being given. We didn’t always have a lot but I remember the best part of Christmas was just having mom around who has a health condition and knowing that I was loved. The second best part was getting a new book to read lol I love reading always have.

    I do completely agree that doing little things for people throughout the year like being a nice human being does wonderful things. My first year at college I worked for a division on campus that had 300 employees. I had to work with many of them on a daily basis. I always said hi and was respectufl of them. Even made christmas cookies for them as well and many of them thanked me for doing something so special as they hardly ever got home baked goodies. That year on winter break I learned I was pregnant, and man was I scared and my family was all really upset with me. When I went back to campus and finally told some people all 300 employees and there friends who worked on campus too congratulated me on my GOOD NEWS. Then when I started to have complications and was put on special bed rest at college because it was better than being at home all of them helped out and watched out for me during that hard time.

  53. Maggie says

    I think this was a wonderful post, thankyou. Two years ago I was the organiser for ‘secret santa’ at my workplace. After two years watching/hearing staff complain “what can I possibly buy for (name)?” I decided I didn’t want to be a part of essential buying when a) I couldn’t afford it, and b) buying something that somebody didn’t want or more importantly NEED. So last xmas I didn’t buy a present for a staff, instead I bought a gift for a child to give to a charity. After all presents were exchanged the staff noticed that I hadn’t received one. I quietly said “I don’t need anything, so I’ve bought a gift for a charity”. All went quiet, I sat proud and expecting great burst of laughter or whatever. Instead exclamations of “what a great idea”, “wish I’d thought of that” came out of mouths!! I was shocked and guess what? We had a vote during the year as to whether to do ‘secret santa’ or we all give to a charity. The charity won. So I was able to deliver a mass of presents for adults & children, to a grateful charity. And you know what? All staff were happy instead of stressed when we had our staff party. I’m an Australian living in the capital city of Australia.

  54. Teri in Nebraska says

    In 1995, when my sister and I were in our early 20s, we gave my parents a snow-blower for Christmas – way more than what we ever would have spent on a “normal” Christmas but my dad was having heart problems at the time and mom was too tiny to pick up a shovel, let alone scoop.
    Anyway, after that Christmas, Dad said we had spent too much and the next year we were to give each other only $1 gifts. This is BEFORE “dollar” stores were in our area of the country, so we basically gave each other coupons of time to spend with each other or breakfast in bed, or candy bars or fancy pen or homemade ornament — little things like that. Well, the next year, we decided to “splurge” and give each other one $5 gift for Christmas. We have done that in our family every year since 1997. My dad has passed on, but we continue “the tradition” of a $5 gift at Christmas. My sister has kids now – we spend a little more on them, but the $5 gift is plenty for us adults – you don’t expect much but sometimes it really is something nice or useful. We can still take turns opening gifts, but we don’t have to stress out about what to give each other. Usually I am done Christmas shopping in about an hour. Spending the time as a family together, going to church, driving to see Christmas lights, singing carols, our traditional decorating of the tree, making Christmas goodies for the neighbors, and celebrating the birth of Jesus is really more meaningful than what we give in the wrapping paper.

  55. Vicki Nichols says

    I am like the article & can’t afford a whole lot for everyone either.With having 8 grand kids my work is cut out for me! I listen to what each parent tells me & they get an article of clothing or shoes and a toy. The older kids get one item & small amt of money if I have it. I try to do for them throughout the yr instead when I can. They know the real meaning of Christmas. We believe showing love & support to them throughout the year is more important! I want to be the example……..

  56. Cindy says

    My extended family rarely gets together for Christmas any more but when we did we’d just do the gag gift game. That was fun and very little expense.
    Something I don’t understand, though, is when people say they don’t exchange within their extended family, except for buying presents for the kids. Since we want kids not to learn to expect a lot of presents, I wonder why this is done. Isn’t this subverting the message we want to send? On the other hand, I know buying kids’ things is fun!

  57. Jan C says

    My husband and I used to go and visit friends and relatives during the Christmas week as that was usually the only time we could take off from work. Our children got one little present on Christmas Day to open and then we left for our Christmas vacation. My hubby and I did this even when our children left and then we took the grandchildren. They all understood they would not get a gift, taking them on vacation was their gift. They still talk about our wonderful Christmas vacations.

  58. Jenna says

    3 years ago my husband and I were going through a tough time. We told our family we were devoted to getting out of debt. That Thanksgiving my Sister In Law called and wanted us all to go to a restaurant that was $50 per person per plate. (my husband would have ended up paying for everyone as he had in past years had we gone this was 20 people at $50 per plate plus the two of us plus tax and tip.
    I put my foot down and said we would not be going.
    The family has not spoken to us since!
    It is soooooooooooooo interesting when you discover a relationship is only about the money.

    • says

      Jeana that took a lot of guts and character to do what you did. We as humans are strange creatures. We will do anything even if it means harm to our own selves in hopes that people will love and care for us especially when it is our families and often it really isn’t what is best for us or the best way to have a relationship. I won’t be dogmatic and say this is exactly what this scripture means but when I see or hear of things like this I always think of the verse that says we aren’t to cast our pearls before swines. In other words you need to use wise discernment and make sure you are not wasting your time, money and emotion on someone who is using you because there may be someone else out there who God really wants you to use all those things for and it will really help them. Bottom line is you were wise in your decision even though I know it hurt.

  59. Denise says

    I like to do a charity of choice first. Children like simple gifts like play dough or board games. I usually give to the church giving tree, but lately the tags suggest expensive gifts. I don’t even buy my family expensive gifts of that kind. I prefer to give gift cards so that the guests of the pantry can purchase a gift.

  60. Mary Jane says

    I am in my fifties, and the last few years it has really come to me, that who I am and what I give all year round (courtesy, respect, friendship) is enough. I do not need to buy more, do more, give more beyond what I can afford in time or money, or am comfortable with. If it isn’t enough, then another gift, or committing to another obligation, etc., won’t cut it either. You are so right Jill, about making sure we show regard and appreciation all year round. To do otherwise, and then cover it up with a grudging gift at Christmas, is actually a bit of an insult, or even confusing. It reminds me of people who give flowers and great accolades at funerals, but never bothered with the person who is deceased, when they were still with us.

    • says

      I totally agree with you Mary Jane on the funeral thing. I think it is terrible how people didn’t like or wouldn’t have anything to do with a person then come to their funeral and make a big deal out of how missed they will be when all the years they were alive they only tolerated them. I visit my parents and call them and others on a regular basis because I want them to know I care about them now and I don’t want to have any regrets when they are gone. Now I will go to a funeral sometimes when I didn’t know the person much for support of the family but that is different then what I am talking about.

  61. Cheryl says

    We put an ice cold can of pop on top of the garbage can for our garbage man.In the Summer it is in a bag with ice. he really appreciates that. We give him a monetary gift at Christmas but I suspect he likes that cold pop on a 90 degree day just as much!

  62. Liz says

    I felt so much better after reading this article! My husband was laid off 3 years ago for almost a year. Although he has a job and I’m working almost full-time, it’s still a struggle to get our finances caught up. He was in the hospital twice during that time with no insurance. It really set us back. The first Christmas after the lay-off, we gave one small item (like a large chocolate bar) to the kids plus a $5 gift card. When one of his nephews opened the bar with the gift card, he looked at the gift card and said loudly, “$5!”. I thought he was happy to get it, but quickly learned he wasn’t when his parents chewed him out in front of us for making such a scene. They made as much of a scene as he did! My husband told them that we just didn’t have any money to do nice gifts as we had in the past ($25-$50) since he hadn’t been working but just a month. They were mortified that their son acted that way. I didn’t feel badly because I had done so much for their kids over the years with really nice gifts, while they gave much cheaper gifts to us and our son. Now, I don’t care. It’s a $10 gift card for all the older kids. Most of them are selfish and spoiled. I figure it will teach them a little about giving. None of them have ever given us gifts. Not that I expect them, but I always gave my aunts and uncles inexpensive gifts to let them know I was thinking of them after I started working. Kids these days are so spoiled. Some of our neices and nephews get upsset when they aren’t opening a gift and someone else is! Some also ask at the end, “Is this all?” I just want to say, “Are you kidding me!?! We had over 150 gifts under the tree and you got about 15 each!” Okay…now that I have it off my chest, I can take a deep breath and get ready for the kids. Ha! I’m so glad we taught our son to be thankful for everything he receives because people don’t have to get him anything.

  63. julie marie says

    Here may be a good tip for some readers. My husband and I go to the newspaper place and ask for there left over paper rolls. It usually has quite a bit on it. We use it for gift wrap. My children will draw pictures on it. Saves a lot of money and people comment on how they like that a lot better than the store bought. I stencil the paper when I use it for Christmas wrap and of course put twine or ribbon around it. I too am making handmade gifts this year and have in the past. We stopped doing Christmas gifts for my husband’s family except for his parents and we give them something small. Like last year it was stamps and stationary and some goodies or I will give a coupon for a meal on a day she chooses. My family we just buy for my parents and my nieces and nephews but I only spend 5.00 dollars a person. I usually pick up deals through the year and the value is more than 5.00. We are not in debt but we still have to live on our income. My children just love going out and seeing the lights and we go to the nursing home in our town and they play their instruments and sing for them. Christmas is about the birth of our Lord not about ourselves. I want to be a blessing to others.

  64. Shannon says

    Gotta say, I’ve never given a gift to either garbage man or mailman, and I don’t know anyone who does. I wonder if different areas of the country do different things? As for teacher gifts, $25? Yikes! Depending on how many children I had in school at the time, depended on how much was spent on a teacher. Some years it was a $10 gift card to Target and i’m sure the teacher was happy with it. We have also cut back on gifts to family members. honestly, they didn’t know what to get us and we didn’t know what to get them so what was the point? The children in the family drew names among themselves but now that they are older, we have stopped doing that also. The main point in getting together at Christmas is to spend time with each other and not focus on gifts.

    • says

      Yes I do think it depends on where you live. I only give some gingerbread man to our mailman because I have had the same one for years and I don’t know how many times I have come flying out of the house after he has been here waving him down to mail a letter for me. He is always so good about pulling over and stopping. I give gingerbread men to the garbage man only once in awhile when I have put out 10 times the normal about they are suppose to take and he takes it for me so I like to thank him. But like you I really don’t give to a hairdresser or different people like that.

  65. Brenda says

    So many times people get so absorbed in what can I buy, what can I do? that they forget the hardships to their own families if they gift and gift and gift. I learned many years ago when my kids were just little that we couldn’t buy a gift for everyone. Service workers like the mailman, hair dresser, teachers, minister, etc. I make a loaf of homemade bread (quick bread or yeast bread)or a jar of applebutter and write a nice note of thanks telling them how we appreciate all they do for my family. It’s a token to let them know we appreciate them all year long, but it isn’t expensive. We also have a group of friends that we do a lot with throughout the year and instead of buying presents for each other and each others kids, we have a potluck supper and game night. We spend the evening playing games, relaxing and visiting. It is a wonderful, no pressure evening and everyone has a great time because there isn’t any expectation for gifts and if what I got someone will measure up. In fact, this is my kids’ favorite Christmas party of the whole season.

  66. Jen Hen says

    I love giving gifts and have found a way to give to many people without much money at all. I will usually bake something or make some sort of candy. Cookies, mini muffins, and cereal mix-type of goodies stretch really far when you just give a handful to each person. One year I made a recipe call Christmas trash that had pretzels, m&Ms, along with a couple other things all mixed up with white or milk chocolate bark. It was great and the trash guys especially thought it was amusing as well as tasty. Puppy chow is a good one, spice mini muffins, sugar cookies, etc. All super cheap to make a lot of. Plus when they know it’s homemade, it makes it a bit more special.

  67. Jill says

    My brother (30) just sent this link to me along with his wishlist from Amazon that averages about $100 a gift. This article takes one side, but it doesn’t seem to touch on the expectations a giver with that mind set should have when it comes to gift receiving. I think that would be helpful.


  1. […] Josh Stevens is promoting the coupon site “Groupon” – as part of the promotion he can’t use cash or credit to live for a year.  He must simply live off the Groupon coupons.  So how can this relate to you?  Well, if you’re a regular person, you probably buy a gift here or there for a wedding or birthday.  Even though you are in debt, you probably still do this.  However we do suggest that if you are truly struggling with debt read this article:  DON’T FEEL COMPELLED TO BUY GIFTS […]

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