This past weekend, records were set. Black Friday digital revenue was the highest in history at 6.22 billion dollars. Cyber Monday is on track to close out with around 7.8 billion dollars. (USA Today). Clearly, most of us are not trying to change gift giving by scaling back this year.

People are spending boatloads of money starting on Thanksgiving evening and through the following few days. We quickly shift from focusing on all the things we are grateful for to all the sales we want to shop and purchases we want to make.

change gift giving

Change gift giving

All of the money spent on gifts has led to people being in serious debt. According to Nerd Wallet’s 2018 Holiday Shopping Report, almost 40 million Americans are still paying off debts from last year’s Christmas gifts!

Overall holiday spending and debt are on the rise. The financial burden that consumers are facing is serious.

Living within your means

Our culture tells us we should have what we want even if we can’t afford it. We just charge it or make payments. The items end up costing so much more when you take into account the additional interest rates.

So why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we spend money we don’t have in the name of giving at Christmas? Is that really in the spirit of the season?

The guilt and overwhelm that comes with accruing debt does catch up to us at some point. There is a reason Dave Ramsey has made a trazillion (yep, I made up this word) dollars leading people to Financial Peace. His common sense approach of don’t buy things you can’t afford used to be a given.

However, we’ve gotten so far removed from that that we need to relearn what it is to live within our means.


What are we buying at the holidays anyway? Largely it is items no one needs and often don’t even want. We feel guilty getting rid of gifts so they sit in our homes cluttering them up. No wonder we are stressed and overwhelmed!

We’re spending money we don’t have to buy things people don’t need which in turn overwhelms our homes.

What would happen if we said we’re going to change gift giving? Would relationships suffer because fewer gifts were given? I don’t think so, or if they would I may question what the relationship is based on.

Creating memories

I talked with my kids recently about their favorite things about the holidays. Do you know what they both talked about? They reminisced about the traditions and experiences we have shared together.

My older daughter focused on our tradition of me hiding the gifts the night before so she could find them with her flashlight in the dark Christmas morning.

My younger daughter talked about how much she enjoys opening the drawers of our advent calendar (and getting a treat) each day in December leading up to Christmas. We talked about looking at Christmas lights, snow play, and seeing a living nativity.

Neither of them mentioned their actual gifts. Not even one present was mentioned.


When I think back to my own favorite memories growing up, it is our traditions and shared experiences that I remember most fondly. I loved when we would go cut down our own Christmas tree. That could be why pine is one of my favorite scents.

I also recall the present hiding my dad did as well as the year they bought us one gift each and hid clues that we had to follow to find the gift. My memory doesn’t revolve around the fringe leather jacket I received that year, but rather the joy of following the clues my parents had so thoughtfully created.

One change our extended family made recently to limit gift giving was opting out of buying each other’s kids gifts.

We instead pick an activity to all enjoy together. Last year we drove to the snow and had fun playing on sleds for half the day and then sharing a meal together.

Gift of peace

What if this year you gave your family the gift of peace? No stressing with buying too many gifts you can’t afford (or maybe even ones you could afford).

Kids are happiest when they get to enjoy activities and can spend time with family. Having memories of parents who aren’t overwhelmed and stressed over the holidays is a gift.

Avoid holiday debt and change gift giving. Create your family’s best memories this year through traditions, experiences and being together. Have open honest conversations with immediate and extended families. Honor each other’s needs and values.

Let’s pass on a legacy of living within our means and sharing traditions and experiences together over the holidays. That will matter more to your kids in the long run than any of the latest greatest toys (which by the way, I don’t even understand anymore. Why would I pay $70 for a stuffed animal in an egg? I digress…)

If you are looking to not only simplify gifts but your whole holiday season, check out the post I wrote on simplifying the holidays. You can also get the free Simplifying the Holidays Planner by filling out the form below.

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