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Unhappy With Your Family's Gift-Giving Culture? So Do Something About It Already!

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Do you spend the month of December annoyed and stressed out because your family's gift-giving expectations are out of control? Please take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. With the exception of your Great-Aunt Sally, there are very few of us who excite at the thought of shopping for every brother-in-law, half-uncle and second cousin. And when I broached the subject on my blog, The Non-Consumer Advocate, last week, boy-oh-boy were people on board with creating new holiday traditions that do not rely on the obligation of pricey gift giving (and receiving.)

And it's not just a monetary issue, as keeping an uncluttered home is a bizarrely difficult task, made none the easier when armies of knick-knacks, bulky sweaters and general tschotske-ism invade our homes.

It is not reasonable to build an extra room to store all. Those. Scented candles!

But taking control of holiday gift-giving is far from simple, as changing family tradition is usually wrought with family drama. (And is why I am writing about holiday gift giving in August, before most people have begun their annual zombie mall walk.)

So is there anything you can do?

First off, find a family ally to help champion your cause for simpler holiday gifts, and together brainstorm some new ideas. Maybe consumable or experiential gifts only; or even a spending limit for immediate family members. And as stingy as it may sound, try suggesting an end to gift giving with extended family members. I tried this a few years ago with my in-town cousins, and was relieved to find they were all more than happy to oblige.

But what about family members who stubbornly refuse to budge, who see your efforts of simplification as more Scrooge than Gandhi? Try explaining that you:

• Already have enough stuff.
• Are saving for the kids' college funds.
• Are on a strict budget.
• Want to be more mindful about the holidays.

When all is said and done, remember that you are an adult, and should have control and at least some say in your family traditions. A gift should come from the heart, not from a sense of obligation. And Great-Aunt Sally? At least she has all those Hummell figurines to comfort her during these difficult conversations.