Our family made a collective decision a few years ago that transformed what Christmas looks like in our house completely.
We decided that instead of buying each other presents either on a whim or begrudgingly complying with the vague request for ‘a new pair of slippers’, we would create a comprehensive Google Drive spreadsheet that had a tab for each family member. On this tab would be a wishlist — a useful guide for buying specific things people actually want — but perhaps, even more importantly, a ‘Do Not Want’ list.
I know it sounds like an incredibly ungrateful thing to do, but it’s actually been really useful. If you’ve ever been bought one too many of something then you’ll know exactly how frustrating it can be to have to smile and pretend that you absolutely love something that you asked for at one point in your life, but which no longer has the same appeal to you. Maybe one year you asked for toffee, and every year since you’ve eaten so much of the stuff that the very thought of eating it makes you feel sick.
With the introduction of the ‘Do Not Want’ lists — created each year before anyone makes a single Christmas purchase — we’ve avoided the slighted feelings that accompany misguided gift purchases sitting in a cupboard, never to be put on display or opened.
My family have had some fun with it as well — putting silly items on their ‘Do Not Want’ lists. For instance, my Dad’s ‘Do Not Want’ list this year says ‘vaping kit’, and ‘any reference to my 69th birthday party’. As well as telling us he doesn’t want any more football merchandise, my brother put ‘A camel or goat, or anything that could be used in a trade with an Arab Merchant selling spices and herbs from the far east’. It’s created a sense of camaraderie and joviality that kickstarts the festive season nicely, with our family members trying to one up each other in the humour department.
Disclaimer — one of the reasons it works so well is because I have a significantly sized family — I’m the oldest of six siblings. There’s obviously enough of us for us to be able to buy each other things from the ‘Wishlist’ and tick items off items without it being clear who is gifting what. If it’s just you and your parents then you might ruin the surprise somewhat. But if you’re OK with not being surprised with what presents you’re getting, I highly recommend it. It would also work well for a friendship group, who want to do a meaningful gift exchange but are either cash strapped or don’t know what to buy one another.
I haven’t thrown a single gift away in recent years — so while it might not exactly be in the spirit of ‘It’s the thought that counts’, it’s definitely been better for the environment and also my pursestrings as well. My money — at times when I’ve been living on a budget as a student — has gone further and been spent more meaningfully because I’ve been able to buy siblings a few small things they wanted rather than one big present they don’t really want or need.
Why don’t you give it a go? Let me know what you think of the idea in the comments below!