Tips to Pare Down Your Christmas List Without Looking Cheap

The holidays can be a social landmine. There are so many emotions and expectations tied up in gift-giving. Rather than risk offending someone, we often go overboard and end up with a gift list nearly as long as Santa’s.

Whether your budget is stretched thin or you are fed up with Christmas commercialism, there are simple ways to reduce the number of gifts you give without looking like a skinflint.

Following are five tips for doing this successfully.

1. Eliminate casual acquaintances from your list

The nephew you haven’t seen in three years who never says thank you for the holiday check? Cross him off your list. The neighbors who moved in 2008 and are your Facebook friends now? They don’t need a gift either.

People who fall into the “casual acquaintance” category probably aren’t expecting a gift and won’t even notice if you stop mailing them the annual fruitcake.

Have a couple of relatively inexpensive, but nicely presented, gifts at the ready in case you get a present from someone who has disappeared from your list. Examples of such gifts include:

  • Soap beautifully wrapped with a sparkly bow
  • A bottle of wine in a gift bag
  • Goodies such as jam or candies

For more inspiration on how to use holiday deals to buy discounted presents for the entire year, check out “Tips to Score a Year’s Worth of Gifts at Rock Bottom Prices.” You can also find cheap gift ideas on our Deals page.

2. Stop giving at family and office Christmas parties

Gift-giving expectations run the gamut during family and office parties. Some parties might not include any gift exchange.

At other parties, everyone is expected to give gifts to everyone else. That’s madness, and it is time to rein it in.

The key is to find like-minded people — such as a co-worker or cousin living on a tight budget — who will be allies. Once you find a couple of people who are ready for a change, approach the person in charge of the party and propose an alternative arrangement.

Emphasize to the host that you have loved past parties, but budgets are tight this year. Or, explain that your kids simply have too much stuff. Then, propose something different, such as “Secret Santa” arrangements or the “white elephant” game.

3. Consider the creative use of cards

We all know people we like, but don’t count as close friends — the postman, co-workers the next department over or the custodial staff at your kids’ school.

Rather than eliminate them completely, move them from the “gift” category to the “card” category. Read “The 20-Cent Greeting Card” for ideas on making something that’s both inexpensive and impressive.

If you’re short on time, hit your local craft shows to find some handmade cards. In my area, you can regularly find crafters selling cards for $1-$2 each. Write a heartfelt note and attach a piece of candy to the outside.

4. Use charitable donations with caution

Giving charitable donations in someone’s name can come across as either thoughtful or very cheap.

Typically, I only recommend this strategy if you know of a cause that is particularly dear to the recipient. For example, if Grandpa Joe died of cancer this year, you could make a donation to the American Cancer Society or a hospice in the name of the “Smith Family.”

5. Keep it real with those who understand

Finally, don’t be afraid to be open and honest with good friends and close relatives. Tell them you love the holidays but hate the commercialism. Or remind them that you lost your job and are flat broke this December. Perhaps you simply have too much stuff.

Whatever the reason, ask if you can skip the traditional gift exchange. You could suggest going to the Christmas concert, seeing the latest blockbuster, or maybe even ordering pizza and hanging out for the night instead.

Have you cut back on your holiday spending? Who got the boot and did they notice? Tell us about it by commenting below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
7 Free Tools for Saving More Money at Amazon
7 Free Tools for Saving More Money at Amazon

Use these websites and other tools to save money — or earn extra cash — when shopping at Amazon.

How to Achieve Your Financial Goals in 2020
How to Achieve Your Financial Goals in 2020

New year, new you. Get your finances on track with the help of these tools for investing, saving, budgeting and earning.

4 Streaming TV Services That Cost $20 a Month — or Less
4 Streaming TV Services That Cost $20 a Month — or Less

Here’s how to ditch cable and satellite TV — and save a bundle — without giving up your favorite shows.

This Is the Best Age to Buy Long-Term Care Insurance
This Is the Best Age to Buy Long-Term Care Insurance

If you wait too long to apply for coverage, you could be denied. So, when’s the sweet spot to apply?

14 Uses for WD-40 That Save Money, Time or Headaches
14 Uses for WD-40 That Save Money, Time or Headaches

WD-40 is handy in a lot more situations than you likely realize.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Whether you resell it for a big profit or add it to your own wardrobe, this type of clothing is a hidden steal.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia
This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds
Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?
Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?

Can an adult daughter tap into her late mother’s benefit?

11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It
11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It

Seriously? Fibbing about the weather is a crime? This and other little-known legal traps await the unwary.

Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?
Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?

Researchers say too many doctors are overlooking this potential source of hypertension.

13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy
These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy

These vehicles boast reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

21 Items to Cut From Your Budget That You Won’t Even Miss
21 Items to Cut From Your Budget That You Won’t Even Miss

Start off the new year by implementing these small-but-smart savings strategies. They’ll soon add up.

Taking a Multivitamin? Here’s Why You Should Reconsider
Taking a Multivitamin? Here’s Why You Should Reconsider

A new study has bad news for the millions of Americans who spend money on multivitamins.

Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore
Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore

Starting this month, your ISP no longer can bill you for this fee.

Longer Trips to These Stores May Raise COVID-19 Risk
Longer Trips to These Stores May Raise COVID-19 Risk

An airborne-disease expert recommends leaving this type of store within a half-hour.

15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021
15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021

Follow these tips to save, so you’ll have money for things that really matter.

9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry
9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry

Keep more of future paychecks by eliminating these budget-busting unnecessary expenses.

11 Huge Retirement Costs That Are Often Overlooked
11 Huge Retirement Costs That Are Often Overlooked

Does your retirement budget account for all of these costs?

7 Tricks to Cleaning Your Bathroom Faster
7 Tricks to Cleaning Your Bathroom Faster

These tips can get your bathroom sparkling with little time and no elbow grease.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.