With the holiday season upon us, the malls are packed with eager shoppers looking to stuff their loved one’s stockings with all sorts of gifts.  It certainly can be rewarding to watch the looks on their faces when they open the gifts you gave them to find exactly what they were hoping for.  But for many people, the Christmas season is a time when common sense goes on vacation.  The season of giving quickly turns into the season of paying once the credit card bills start arriving and you realize that you spent way more than you could afford.

Making matters worse is when you feel obligated to give gifts to people even when you don’t really want to.  This could include people who provide services like your mailman or the trash collectors, your coworkers Christmas gift exchange, neighbors, acquaintances, or even members of your family.   When you have to buy presents for every Tom, Dick, and Harry you meet, your budget can really get thrown out of whack.  Plus, you’ll have to spend a lot more time running from store to store instead of enjoying the holidays.

So how do you tell people you don’t want to exchange gifts without looking like a Scrooge?

There’s no sense in beating around the bush or trying to drop hints.  That will only lead to misunderstandings and frustration when they don’t catch on to all the hints you’re dropping.

Instead of subtlety, go for the direct approach.  Of course you don’t have to come out and tell them that you don’t want to exchange gifts because they aren’t worth spending money on.  Just say that money is tight (even if it isn’t) and that you have to cut back on gift-giving this year.  In this economy most people will be understanding and accept that.  For all you know they might be strapped for cash themselves.  They might even be relieved that you came out and did what they were too embarrassed to do themselves.

And what if they are reluctant to agree to your proposal?  Well, you can either stick to your guns or offer them a compromise.  Suggest setting a price limit on all gifts.  It won’t eliminate your shopping expenses altogether but it will help you keep them to a minimum.  Of course the key is to set a price limit that you are both comfortable with and stick with it.

Another option is to only give gifts that you make yourself.  If you have the arts and crafts gene, that could be a great option for you.  If not, it’s important to remember that it is the thought that counts most.

If it’s your family that refuses to give up the holiday present bonanza, try convincing them to go in for a family grab bag instead of a one on one Christmas gift exchange.  Write everyone’s name in a hat and let each person pick one out.  Instead of buying presents for the entire family, you’ll only have to buy one.  Everyone still gets a present, and they don’t have to go into debt.