How to Stop Buying Gifts for Extended Family Graciously- pink background - Three cardboard box gifts with red yarn tied around.
Cardboard box gifts with red yarn tied around


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So you’re on a budget this year. No problem. You’ve started shopping, bought stuff for the kids, teachers, friends, and then remembered your extended family members that always buy Christmas gifts for you and your family. Yet, it is not in your budget this year, but you are worried you will look bad if they get you a gift and you don’t buy them anything.

Now hear me out! I don’t want to sound like the grinch! In fact, I absolutely love giving gifts. I love it so much, that my husband asked me to cut back! And believe me, I understand his point, but the gift-giving madness needs to stop somewhere, right?

Moreover, wouldn’t it be nice to stop buying gifts for the extended family so you can save more this year? According to a study by Deloitte, in 2018, U.S. households spent an average of $1,536 during the Christmas holidays. That’s a big chunk of change and can add up quickly if you are buying for extended family as well. 

Keep in mind, if you want to buy for extended family, that is great too, but if you are on a budget, chances are you don’t want to ring in the New Year in debt. So finding ways to stop buying gifts for extended family graciously is essential to holiday budget happiness this year. 

Remember gift-giving is a form of love and nurturing in a relationship. If you are handing out $20 gift cards to Starbucks to everyone under the sun, you can see how this can become impersonal and lose its luster. Especially if you don’t have the money to continue buying for everyone under the umbrella term “family.”

Let’s face it, gift-giving can be stressful. Perhaps you are looking to restore peace this Holiday Season and stop shopping online for a few minutes to enjoy your kids putting up decorations this year. 

Whatever the reason you want to stop buying gifts for extended family, here are some tips to help you make your transition. 

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Tips to Graciously Stop Buying Gifts for Extended Family

#1 Be honest & Prompt About Your Situation

If it isn’t in your budget, politely send a note or email letting them know it is not in the budget this year to buy gifts for extended family and wish them Happy Holidays. Make sure to do this in a timely manner, so they will know you do not plan to exchange gifts this year and they can decide if they still plan on shopping for you and your family.

#2 Transition to a family gift

Buy a gift for the “family” that won’t break the bank. If you feel it is expected to buy kids gifts for your family members, you could buy a “family” gift such as a board game (usually great sales on these around Black Friday) or a bag of candy under $10. After a few years, you could just send a card without the physical gift. This will help you make the transition to stop buying gifts for extended family altogether and your family will get the idea as your gift gets smaller, eventually turning to a card. 

#3 Draw Names

Suggest drawing names at Thanksgiving and limit the gift to a set amount for everyone. This way you are only buying one gift and since everyone is doing the same, you will not feel guilty. This is a great new tradition to cut down on everyone’s Holiday stress and chances are, there are others in your circle that will be relieved you suggested this idea. 

#4 Give Coupons

Instead of physical gifts, suggest giving coupons to one another for services and skills that will help the other family out. For example, if you are handy, perhaps give a coupon to help fix something in the home. Or if you like to cook, give a coupon for one dinner at your house. These will be appreciated and also save your extended family members a lot of money, depending on your skillset.


#5 Suggest a “Family” donation

If you want to get away from the “gift-giving” aspect of the Holidays so you can just enjoy your time spent with loved ones, suggest a family donation in lue of gifts this year. You can easily organize a fundraiser on Facebook or collect cash to donate to a local charity. Remember to discuss this early and plan ahead. 

Even if your extended family is not on-board with this, you can still give to a family in need. Most local churches, mom’s groups, and schools adopt families over the Holidays and you can focus your energy on helping others and teaching this to your children. 

#7 Homemade Gifts

If you don’t want to entirely stop giving to your extended family, try making homemade gifts. Do you know how to sew, needlepoint, stitch, or bake? These could be wonderful, heartfelt gifts your family will come to cherish. My cousin made me some Christmas towels around twenty years ago and I still put them out as a decoration every year. 

#8 Expect Some Puch Back

I love giving gifts, and I would still buy my family gifts even if they told me they can’t buy them for me. I don’t expect gifts in return from family so not getting things back is not a big deal to me. However, if you are suggesting not exchanging altogether, expect some family members to still buy for you and your children. 

Remember not to feel guilty about making decisions for your family. Don’t worry about what others think about your decisions and stick with them without feeling bad. 

#9 Explain the Situation to Your Kids

Make sure your children understand why you decided to stop buying for extended family. Let them know so they are not confused at the family gathering. 

Try bringing them one of their Christmas gifts from you to open at the gathering while others are exchanging gifts. 

#10 Stick to Your Guns

Once you have made the decision to stop buying gifts for extended family, stick to it. Don’t feel pressured or guilted into gift-giving, especially if you don’t have the means. 

If your family doesn’t like it, there isn’t much you can do about it, and not everyone will agree with your decision so you have to be strong. 


What to Say When Someone Buys You a Gift After You Agreed Not to Exchange Gifts This Year

As mentioned above, you will still probably receive gifts from people you let know you were not going to buy for. You can politely say, “I thought we weren’t exchanging gifts so I don’t have anything for you, but thank you so much for the (insert gift). It was so nice of you.”  Be polite and move on. Not everyone will share the same feelings about gift-giving as you do and that is okay. To each their own. 

How to Stop Giving Gifts to Extended Family Members Graciously Final Thoughts…

Whatever your reasons for wanting to stop buying gifts for extended family members, I hope this post gave you some ideas to keep the Holidays fun and special, while staying on budget. Spending time with family is important, but the pressure of gift-giving can sometimes get out of hand and make the Holidays seem less magical and more daunting. Transition away from gifts for the extended family so you can enjoy your time this year and be present, without a present. Happy Holidays. 


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2 Comments on How to Stop Buying Gifts for Extended Family Graciously

  1. Money isn’t an issue but we still just got tired of buying things for extended family. It was a relief when we talked to them because they wanted to stop too. We do gift our kids and their spouses but not our siblings, nieces, etc. And my wife and me buy our own presents for ourselves, we always get what we want that way!

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