When I say I don't want any gifts, I really mean ... I don't want any gifts

This is way too minor for the Pit, so I’m putting it here.

Every year, before my birthday and Christmas, my mom and other relatives ask me what I want. And I answer, “Nothing at all, thanks.” And I really, honestly mean that. But nobody – especially my mom – will believe me, so since I’m not forthcoming with a loot list, they try to guess, and I end up with a load of stuff I neither need nor want.

My lack of desire for gifts is two-fold:

  1. I have simple tastes, and I’m happy with what I’ve got. I don’t make much money, but if there’s something expensive that I really want then I either find a way to pay for it (without using credit) or I put it on my “one of these days” list. Otherwise, I get by with simple things.

  2. My closest relatives are also of modest means, and can’t afford to buy the expensive things I might want, so I won’t mention those things. There are some less expensive, hobby-related things I wouldn’t mind receiving as gifts, but due to their nature (Dungeons & Dragons materials, rock & roll CDs, etc) I’m fairly confident that certain family members wouldn’t buy me those things anyway, on religious grounds. So I don’t ask for those things, either. Frankly, I’d rather see my relatives take the money they would have spent on me and use it to buy nicer things for my young nieces. Christmas and birthdays are for kids.

But they buy me stuff anyway, and I end up having to try to appear grateful. For example, my most recent expensive purchase was a brand new Specialized road bike. I spent about $1,200 for a high-end bicycle (well, higher-end than the box store bikes I’d been riding) that was exactly what I wanted. So for my birthday my mom went out and bought me a pair of bicycling gloves (I already owned a better pair), a digital speedometer/bike computer (which broke less than two weeks later), and a big, fat, gel-cushion seat cover (I paid for a very lightweight bike, and this seat cover would have added about 5% to the weight of the bike – and also defeated the purpose of the ergonomically designed saddle that came with the bike, so I didn’t even put it on). And so I end up feeling like a jerk because I don’t appreciate the gifts. Maybe I’m just being selfish. I don’t know.

So I think I’m going to try to head all this off by creating a standing “gift list” that will apply to both Christmas and by birthday. Do you insist on getting me a gift? Fine. Here’s a list of things I’ll actually find useful, and would buy for myself. Pick one or two:

  1. Fruit of the Loom (and only Fruit of the Loom - I like the way they fit) boxer shorts (Small)

  2. White, ankle-length athletic socks, any brand

  3. A ream of A4-sized printer paper.

  4. A 1.5-liter bottle of Natural Citrus Listerine

  5. A box of tea bags – black, English Breakfast, or Earl Grey

These simple things will make me very happy.

Sounds reasonable to me. You could sell all the other stuff and maybe buy the nieces something nice, too.

I think you should splurge on streamers for your handlebars, as well.

Why not ask them to donate to your favorite charity? One year my son asked for stuffed animals, which he took to a local Children’s hospital.

You’re sort of missing the point of gift-giving. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like it; the idea is that someone cared enough to try to buy you something. You can say “please, no gifts” but if someone decides to buy you something anyway, you just smile and say thank you. Don’t do the gift list thing unless someone asks for it; assuming gifts will be given and attempting to tell people what gifts you want is considered impolite unless specifically requested.

Appreciating the gift and using it are completely different things. It really is the thought that counts. The bike accessories, useless and inappropriate as they may be, came from somebody who took into account what they knew you liked.

Next time they ask, why not just say that you have what you need, you appreciate their thinking of you and that you’d rather they maybe got something extra for the nieces and nephews instead?

I think your gift list is swell. My dad is a guy who has everything and needs nothing but I just can’t bear watching him with nothing to open on Christmas day. If he wants some skivvies or a ream of paper and I could wrap it up and watch him open it Christmas morning, that’s fine by me.

Telling people you want nothing and need nothing just makes everyone involved sad - the gift givers who really want to give you something, and you, when you get stuff you don’t need.

Ask for things that involve their time and/or presence. Like my sister’s annual Christmas present to our mom is taking her grocery shopping one day a week, and since I’m across the country and can’t do that, I’ve made a commitment to call her every Saturday morning, no matter where I am. Or you could keep a list of books you’d like to read on hand; books are always good presents, and when you’re done with them, you can pass them on to other people.

I’ve had to get creative in recent years because neither my mom nor my MIL want stuff – they’re both trying to get rid of stuff – and yet they love to get gifts. This past Christmas, it was a few months of the Fruit-of-the-Month Club, in small enough quantities that they could eat the fruit easily before it spoiled; they were both thrilled, and again, it’s something enjoyable that doesn’t leave you with stuff you don’t want or need.

But I second the vote to ask them to donate to your favorite charity. Or sponsor a zoo animal in your name. There’s lots of gifts like that that make everyone feel good while helping make the world a better place.

I feel your pain. I have a family that insists on going overboard and buying me things I don’t really need or want. For several years I have smiled sweetly and thanked them profusely and played along.

It’s not helping, it’s only making things worse.

I’ve tried the ‘donate to charity’ but to no avail. They truly NEED to buy and wrap something.

Now I’m moving towards only consumable gifts. Insense, candles (not scented please!), gift certs for restaurants, etc.

I don’t need any more stuff. I promise I will continue to buy stuff for you, as you enjoy it.

I hope this year they get on board with the whole consumables thing!

Good luck to you let me know if it works out for you.

There is a great joy in giving presents. To deny anyone the gift of generousity is just wrong.

Like you said, give them some things you can use. Everyone can use another wallet, flashlight, umbrella, sun catcher, warm blanket, pair of slippers etc. etc.

Years ago, my famiily began drawing names. So, only one gift to buy, and one to receive. Each family member turns in a wish list, and we set a spending limit. It makes Christmas much less hectic/expensive and still preserves some giving-and-receiving. I find the holiday season much more enjoyable since we started that. Maybe your family will go for something like that?

Yep. if the family really won’t go for the “donation to good cause” type of gift, Bayard’s suggestion might work. It’s what I got my family to do - 'cos none of us had money to fling around anyway, but, you know the whole gift tradition thing was sort of ingrained … Then after only a Christmas or two of that, we moved to agreeing that people give to charity instead, and pretty soon the only people getting presents were the newly arrived grandchildren.

I guess that’s kind of my point, which is why I said, “And so I end up feeling like a jerk because I don’t appreciate the gifts. Maybe I’m just being selfish.” Selfish by wanting to deny them the joy of giving, that is.

Also, your name is strangely appropriate to this thread. My mom’s name is Annie, and we’re talking about ‘Xmas’ gifts (however, your post count and location tell me you’re not her :stuck_out_tongue: )

SInce my mom is the biggest “offender” (for lack of a better word) here: my mom and stepfather have been traveling with their 5th-wheel trailer and working at various campgrounds/tourist destinations for the last two or three years, so the only times I can actually see them is between jobs when they make their way back here (they’ll be here this week, in fact). My sisters and nieces live here in town, so I see them fairly regularly.

I enjoy spending time with my sisters and nieces, and I enjoy spending time with my mom and stepfather. But, unfortunately, not all at the same time. When the whole family gets together, they all want to “talk”. I’ve always been the oddball in my family, in that I’m not a talker. I have an extremely mundane job that doesn’t readily provide me with things to talk about in social get-togethers, unless you count complaining about my job/coworkers, and nobody wants to listen to that (and I don’t blame them). My extremely erratic work schedule doesn’t allow for much of a social life, so most of my leisure pursuits are solitary and don’t lend themselves to lengthy discussion, unless I’m in a group of people who enjoy the same pursuits. And I don’t watch television.

The result is that I’m a “show, don’t tell” person when it comes to conversation. So when somebody finally asks me “So, what’s going on in your life?”, I don’t have a whole lot to “tell”. But I have any number of things to “show”, such as YouTube videos that I think the rest of the family will find amusing/interesting, or thought-provoking songs that they will like. And while they’ll politely watch or listen to one or two videos/songs, I soon get cut off, usually by my mom or the oldest of my two sisters, with the explanation that people want to “talk”. So I end up feeling like they’re not really interested in “what’s going on in my life”. Well, sorry, these things are my life, and “showing” them is much easier than trying to describe them.

My stepfather is the exception. He and I share one notable thing: exceptionally high IQ scores (mine is in the “highly gifted” range, and he’s an honest-to-goodness genius), and so we are both good at, and enjoy, talking about “concepts, ideas, and theories” (as opposed to the “events” and “people” my mom and sisters prefer to discuss). If I can get him alone we have no trouble conversing, and he is actually interested in the things I want to “show”. Unfortunately, logistics mean that I rarely get him without my mom, and thus the whole family, since we’re trying to take advantage of what little time is available before they head off to their next destination.

How about adding your favorite non-perishable food (preferably something that would be a luxury–like maybe cashews or something) to the list?

Yeah, I can do that. The list in the OP is just the beginning of the list. I’m sure I’ll think of other things to add … like peppered beef jerky! (I do love me some peanuts and cashews, but I always eat too many and then I get a bellyache, followed by much flatulence and other gastrointestinal distress … )

If there is a restaurant you like, how about a gift card? You can tell them "Wow! What a gift! I get to eat out and I don’t have to make anything and clean up!?

You mention paper, but what about printer ink? That stuff goes so quickly and is so expensive.

So when my wife says I don’t need to do something special for Valentine’s Day, you’ve got my back when I go hang out with my friends instead, right?


Naw, actually, I understand what you’re saying. The problem is when people say they don’t want gifts, they don’t always mean it. Sounds like you do mean it, and can’t get that point across to them.

“I don’t want any gifts” sounds like you’re trying to push them away, when all they want is to do something nice for you.

Another way to say the same thing, while acknowleding their need for the satisfaction of familial generosity: “You’ve already done so much for me. It would mean a lot to me if you bought something nice for my niece instead.”

And if you head people off like this, every once in a while you might get surprised with something really nice and heartfelt. For example: I always used tactics like this to keep my friends in high school from buying me gifts, and it mostly worked. One of those guys, who I still keep in touch with, asked me for a recent picture of myself so he could make a digital portrait of me for my 21st birthday (Wednesday! Woooo!). I already know it’s going to be awesome, and I’d rather get one gift like that in 5 years than 10 gifts I have no appreciation for.

Actually, I did something similar for the friend I mentioned above on his 16th birthday. He’s a scratch DJ, so instead of giving him something stupid at his birthday party, I took him to a record store and bought him some vinyl records of his choice that he could scratch up. I don’t know how well that converts to your life, but there you go.

I’m with the OP. If I want it, I’ve got it, and just the way I want it. Unless I can’t afford it–and in that case I couldn’t accept it as a gift, really. Maybe if I had lots of super rich friends & relations.

But I think, for some people, making you feel obligated is the point.

I think time is the most important gift of all. In my office, if you work overtime, you either get paid time-and-a-half or you get double time off. It runs about 70/30 in favor of time. (and I should know–keeping track of it is a nightmare).

Suggest they spend some time with you doing whatever it is you like.Even an afternoon spent in the park or at the beach if that is what you want to do.

I mean I REALLY hate it. I’ve never, nor do I think I’ll ever fully understand the selfishness involved in the thought process of “I wanted to get you a gift, so I did. You now must smile and say thanks”. NO! No I don’t! How selfish is it for the people who don’t understand the fact that some people DO NOT WANT ANY OF THEIR JUNK! Everything that I want, I HAVE. I don’t want my family or friends to waste their time and money, because I will donate every bit of crap I get. Christmas is NOT about gifts. People always play the trip on you that “it’s selfish to tell people you want nothing”. But what about my god damn wishes?! I don’t want your crap?! I just want to see and spend time with you. Jesus tap dancing Christ. What is so hard to understand about that?!

This is why I officially HATE this time of year.