How to Tell Family Members to Stop Buying without being a Scrooge

Published on November 17, 2016 By Lauren

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  • This is Day 17 of the 30 Days to a Debt Free Christmas Challenge

    Check your email (sign up here if you aren’t on it) or our Facebook Group to get today’s challenge.

    Today’s big challenge – How to Tell Family Members to Stop Buying without being a scrooge!

    Chances are that if you are trying to make some major changes to the way your family celebrates the holidays, your extended family may not be on board yet.  In fact, I would be willing to bet that one of the reasons you have not made any changes sooner had a lot to do with the stress of trying to explain it to your extended family.  After all, how do you tell grandparents not to get any gifts for their grandkids?  How to you tell your siblings that you love them but don’t want to buy them gifts this year?  How do you explain what’s in your heart without starting a family fight?

    Here are four easy steps you can follow to finally have the conversation about changing how you do Christmas without being a Scrooge:

    1. Take the bull by the horns and have the conversation!

    Just be honest with your family.  Ask to meet with them in person, if possible, and just clearly lay out how you feel.  If you are worried about how it will go, you might have to be careful not to come off sounding defensive from the get-go, have hope that it will go well!

    You should be ready to handle a variety of responses, but you have to set the example of keeping calm.  If you just had a really successful conversation with your kids about changing Christmas, you might be able to piggyback on that and have the kids help you tell them.  Depending on your family dynamics, this news might be more well received coming from the kiddos.

    Finally, you can think about how to frame this information.  Again, it will differ by family, but you really have two choices.  On the one hand, you might do your best to explain that this decision is not about them, they are not to blame or being punished, etc.  On the other hand, you might frame it so that this decision IS all about them.  This would be presented in a way that you love them so much and want more TIME with them!

    2. Have a reason

    Be able to clearly articulate what you want to change and why you want to do so.

    • Are you hoping to have less toys cluttering your home?
    • Do you need to carefully manage your own budget?

    As long as your reasons are real and genuine and you can clearly explain what matters to you, your information should go over well.

    3. Have acceptable alternatives you can propose

    Since you are likely proposing a change which takes away some options (like gift giving, etc.), you need to put some new options on the table since your family is likely to still want to celebrate in some way.  If you are prepared to propose some ways which will also work for you, you can make the conversation more about all the things they can do and less about what they can’t.

    Depending on the type of change you are trying to propose, some options might be to:

    • Have a name drawing for the family instead of everyone buying for everyone
    • Host a white elephant exchange among the adults
    • Have a themed exchange.

    You might give options of ways to spend time with the kids, like a museum pass, a small trip, or dates with each child.  One year I gave my nephew tickets to Sesame Street Live instead of a gift – he loved it!

    Maybe your kids can pick charities they care about and offer those as donation options?  Maybe your family can shop with your child for items to be donated to those in need or to build a shoebox together. Donations can even be made in the child’s name.

    Speaking of donations, if your family insists on spending money, maybe they can add to a college fund or buy a savings bond.  If you have a great list of options, let your family choose what works for them or choose with your children.

    4. Be ready to make peace with whatever the outcome is.

    At the end of the day, if your family can’t get on board with your new ideas, you might have to be the one to get over it.
    Part of the reason you want to change your holiday focus is because the giving and receiving of stuff is not the point.  Much like you don’t want Christmas to be all about getting presents, you also don’t want it to be about fighting with your family.  See if you can come to a compromise, but also be prepared to be the bigger person.

    If your family insists on giving gifts and disregarding your requests, be ready to make gift suggestions as well.  Maybe you are ok with receiving books, school supplies, or new clothes.  Be ready to acquiesce on a few gift ideas if you have to.

    Also, don’t be afraid to end the conversation by letting them know that you love them, want to enjoy the holidays with them, and consider them a blessing.  It is more important to you to enjoy them than to focus on anything else.

    Ideally, your family would receive your request with enthusiasm, but sometimes it takes more than one conversation in one year to get the job done.  Just be sure to handle the conversation with as much grace as possible and hopefully they will too!


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