Why you should give up buying gifts (and a few reasons why you shouldn’t)
And a few reasons why you shouldn't

Why you should give up buying gifts (and a few reasons why you shouldn’t)

There’s so much in the press and online at the moment about how bad gift giving is for the environment, your wellbeing and your pocket. We’re here to delve deeper into gift giving, to get to the bottom of whether you should, and if so, what.

The History of Giving Gifts

Gift giving is thought to be one of the oldest traditions, dating back to the origin of our species. Even cavemen would give gifts to show love and affection towards one another. Ancient Egyptians would bury gifts with the dead in the belief that they would carry them with them to the afterlife.

In Medieval times, and still even today, dowries are given to the groom by the father of the bride to strengthen social bonds.

The Argument against Buying Gifts

In 2009, Martin Lewis, founder of Money Saving Expert, broached the subject of whether it was time to ban Christmas presents. It’s not all about whether it’s right or wrong as such, but more focussed on the monetary aspects. He feels we’ve disconnected from why we buy presents, as well as that it’s become a simple exchange. We end up buying a gift for someone not because we want to, but because they bought one for us. He also is against giving gifts that people don’t/won’t use. He sums it up like this:

” Done right, gifts can create real warmth, but it’s time to realise that, done wrong, it can hurt more than it helps. Perhaps the real gift is to release someone from the obligation of buying you a present?”

Although the overriding message is against gift buying, that’s pulled out more in the press to create a story. When you really dip into the context of what he’s saying, I think there’s a lot of truth in there. Let’s be honest. We all open presents, prepare a “I love it face” and never end up using it because it’s just not us. Some of us will give it to charity. Some of us will re-gift and some of us will simply throw it away. None of which are great for the environment in this day and age! And what a waste of hard-earned finances buying gifts for the sake of it and them never getting used.

The argument for Gift Giving

An interesting article in the New York Times about the Psychology of Gift Giving pulls out why it’s actually good to give gifts. Here’s a few reasons:

Helps define relationships and strengthen bonds
Reinforces our feelings for the recipient
Makes us feel effective and caring

There’s certainly something in this too. Many of us get genuine joy and comfort from giving a great gift to a loved one. Why on earth would we want to stop doing something that is so fulfilling?

And let’s be honest – none of us want the reputation as a scrooge. To be the one to suggest to a friend or colleague that you should halt the exchange can in theory go against the positive above. Isolating you and making you both appear and feel less caring. Not very attractive is it?


You can take away from all of this what you will, but I see it as fairly simple.

  1. There’s nothing wrong with backing out of gift giving when it becomes a chore or like for like gifting. Have the conversation with your recipient and agree to not buy for each other next time. Who knows, they might be relieved to not have to spend time and money looking for a gift next year!
  2. Reducing your giving too low can de-humanise you. Take joy and pleasure in hunting out the right gifts for your loved ones. And come to understand that if someone is easier and more pleasurable to buy for, it’s probably just right that you continue to buy gifts for them. It’s not a chore and you enjoy watching them enjoy your thoughtful gifts.
  3. Take a leaf out of Chris Barncard’s book and pick something you love. Buy one for yourself and your friend or family. Discuss with them upon giving how much you like it, why you bought it etc. You get double the feelgood factor as you get to enjoy something new. You also get to test run it before gifting it. And they get the comfort of knowing that you bought them something meaningful that you love too, not just a thoughtless token gift.

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