Etiquette Help for the Holidays
Cutting Back on Presents
Q. To make the holidays less crazy and rushed, we’d like to give fewer presents this year and put a greater focus on just being together. But how do you convey this to people without sounding like Scrooge, and what do you do if someone gives you a gift and you have nothing in return? A heartfelt “thank you” doesn’t seem to cut it.
A. Before the buying frenzy begins, e-mail the group you typically exchange gifts with, tell them your wishes, as you’ve done here, and suggest an alternate plan. Maybe you limit presents to kids under age 21 or give to children and have each of the adults pull one person’s name out of a hat to buy for. Or get creative: “In my family, we had a year where everything had to be a re-gift, so no one was running around purchasing things,” says Smith. “Another time we did a sunshine theme and gave low-budget items like beach towels and summer reading books.” she says. “It takes the agony out of figuring out what to get for people, like grandparents, who don’t need another set of personalized golf balls.” It’s also fine to announce that you’re keeping things low-key this year (lottery tickets for everyone!). The key is to give plenty of advance notice, so people are prepared. “If I put a $100 gift under the tree and you surprise me with a Powerball ticket, I’m going to be ticked,” says Smith. There may be others who, like you, are dreading the holiday hustle and they’ll be happy you spoke up. Or the majority rule may be to purchase presents as normal. If you opt not to reciprocate, a heartfelt “thank you,” preferably in the form of a written note, is a perfectly appropriate response.