For years my husband and I have fallen into a pattern of continuing to buy gifts for folks with whom we are no longer close, such as former neighbors who have long since moved, to friends' children (who are now grown). Because our holiday gift budget has tightened, we have decided to forego buying for these individuals. How do we politely stop doing this without looking like scrooges?
Your question is more common than you think. With many family budgets already stretched to the limit, creating a gift "firewall" is becoming more widespread. Let those who will be affected know early (such as shortly after Thanksgiving), by sending a holiday card with a sincere handwritten note telling them how much you value their friendship, and what they mean to you.
Words spoken from the heart can be much more powerful than a wrapped present. A card without a gift attached should provide the hint. Also, if you donate to charity, consider doing so in their honor. Be sure to let them know this in your note.
If the person is miffed that they did not receive a gift from you, then I would question the friendship in the first place. By sending a note early in the season, you are more likely to avoid an awkward situation later on, such as them showing up at your door with a gift in hand.
In addition to putting an end to "pattern" buying for those with whom you are no longer close, another question often asked is how to get out of the office "Gift-O-Rama" or gift exchange.
For many, it is becoming quite an unexpected financial burden. Others see it as obscene to go through this ritual just because that is what the office has always done. They would like to see their hard-earned money spent on something more worthy, than what they consider a senseless gift exchange.
Do not feel bad or intimidated if you choose not to partake in the exchange. Simply and politely inform those involved that you will not be participating at this time. An explanation is not necessary.
Instead of a gift exchange, many offices are now deciding to donate to a charity or sponsor a needy child or family for the holidays. Comments from those who chose to do this say that it was a heart-warming experience. It provided a sense of purpose, unity and teamwork for office members by helping them come together to assist someone in need, instead of participating in a needless gift exchange.
Whether you want to get out of the habit of "pattern" buying, or reduce the amount that you purchase, when it comes to matters that affect your pocketbook, it is perfectly acceptable, and should not be considered rude, to be protective. Just be polite and honest.
Pam Harvit, M.S., is a corporate etiquette and protocol consultant. She is employed by Merck and Co. and lives in Charleston. You may e-mail your questions to her at phar...@suddenlink.net.