When to Say Yes or No to a Christmas Gift Exchange

This year my mom proposed nixing one Christmas gift exchange. We cancelled another one last year. My husband and I will be out of town for the first of two potential white elephant exchange. I haven’t decided yet whether to join the second one, if it happens. Frankly, I’m relieved to be sitting them out. So when do you say yes or no to a Christmas gift exchange?

Reasons to Say Yes to a Christmas Gift Exchange

You have room for the gift in your budget.
You enjoy shopping for something anyone will enjoy.
You enjoy the suspense of wondering what you’ll get.
You don’t want to upset a long-standing tradition.
Not participating will cause tension in your office.
Not participating will cause tension with your family.

Reasons to Say No to a Christmas Exchange

You can’t afford it this year.
You always re-gift whatever you get the next year.
You don’t particularly enjoy gift exchanges.
Several people in your office routinely sit it out.
It’s not a long-standing tradition, so no offense will be taken.
You’re trying to reduce the amount of stuff you own.

How to Say No to a Gift Exchange

When you decide not to participate in a Christmas gift exchange, you run the risk of offending someone. Some people might call you a Scrooge. Others might accuse you of being cheap. And others will just think you’re weird. Use these strategies to deflect the tension when you say no.

Explain that you’re committed to reducing your debt this year, and every penny counts. Most people can appreciate that you have a larger goal and will want to support you in that.

Explain that you’ve decided to give more to charity this year and will be using your normal exchange allotment for that purpose. How can anyone accuse you of being a Scrooge when you’re helping others? (You can use this excuse even if you can’t afford to give to charity.)

Explain that you’re trying to reduce the amount of stuff you acquire in order to reduce your environmental impact. Again, it’s tough for someone to make you feel guilty for that.

Explain that you’ve already committed to two exchanges and that’s the limit in your budget this year.

Explain that you’ve hated Christmas since you were five because your dad left, your dog died, and your house burned down all on Christmas Day.

If it’s someone you’re close to, be honest. If finances are tight for everyone who participates, that first no might be enough to get everyone to reconsider.

If you can’t say no, then weasel out of it later. This only works with a one-day exchange, not a secret Santa, but you have three options:

  • Claim you forgot to bring it, then hide in your office.
  • Schedule a client meeting for the time of the exchange.
  • Claim you have to take the dog to the vet, attend a school recital, or visit the doctor.

As a worst case scenario, call in sick that day. You can’t participate if you’re not in the office. True, you might miss the holiday lunch, but with all the junk you’ll be eating this holiday season, do you really need more cookies, cake, and pie?

Some Christmas gift exchanges are fun. If you want to participate, here are some ideas for affordable gifts.

  • Dig into the closet for something unused but useful.
  • Visit a craft store to make your own gift basket out of candles and ornaments that are on sale.
  • Visit Target or Wal-Mart to make your own candy basket with discounted candy.
  • Visit Target or Wal-Mart to make a spa basket with discount bath salts and soaps.
  • Visit the markdown endcaps to find close-out deals and super discounts.
  • Check the newspaper for Bed, Bath, and Beyond coupons. You’ll find great, affordable gifts there.

When deciding about a Christmas gift exchange, the most important factor to consider is your budget. If you can’t afford it, just say no. If you really need to save money, check out my holiday savings e-bookfor more tips.

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