The holidays are a time for generosity and goodwill. I believe this to my core.
Despite having worked in a department store every holiday throughout college (or, maybe because of it), I am also someone who hates shopping. I hate the crowds, the overt consumerism and the ways retailers trick you into spending money, the exhaustive effort to find everyone the “right” gift, and the gobs and gobs and gobs of unnecessary stuff that piles up under our Christmas tree every year.
I am also uncomfortable receiving expensive gifts. I generally have everything I need, and I know the money spent could be genuinely helpful to someone in need.
The Charitable Request
Given these things about me, it’s no wonder that I came up with what I thought was a great idea several years ago: I asked my gift-giving family members to forgo giving me a holiday present and, instead, donate to a charity that is meaningful to me.
I spent hours researching charities, making sure I provided a diverse range of options and causes that might also spark my loved ones’ interests. I crafted a stylish note with a summary of each charity and instructions on how to donate. And then I presented my idea to everyone.
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My Plan Backfired
A couple of my relatives were lukewarm on the idea. A couple were downright irritated and made no attempt to disguise this fact. I was crushed.
I moped around for about a week, which isn’t exactly an ideal way to spend the holidays. And then, I tried thinking about this through their eyes.
After considerable pondering and discussion with friends, I came to realize that plenty of people aren’t like me. Some people equate picking out thoughtful gifts for others with “showing love.” By asking for donations, I was taking away a meaningful holiday tradition and an opportunity for them to show me how much I mean to them — and they didn’t like it.
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What I’d Do Differently Next Time
We ended up sorting things out that year. I did receive a few donations instead of gifts. But most relatives just stuck with what they knew: wrapped packages under the tree. And I reciprocated.
I’ve not made a similar ask since, but I do have a suggestion for anyone who would prefer charitable donations versus presents this year: Instead of rocking the boat with Aunt Mildred, quietly return the unneeded gifts after the holiday and make that donation yourself. That way you’ll keep the peace — and get the tax break.
Click to read more about tactfully telling your family you have a tight Christmas budget.
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