Not to stress you out, but Christmas is 18 days away. And not to make assumptions about you, but you probably still need to buy gifts for your mum, dad, siblings, nieces and nephews, friends, significant other, office secret Santa, book club white elephant exchange, and that one aunt who always gives you a snow globe.
As visions of dollar signs and online shopping tabs start to dance maniacally in your head, let us present an alternative. Save your wallet, your blood pressure, and frankly your soul, by not buying gifts for any of them.
Gift giving is nice in theory, but it's rarely a truly worthwhile exercise, especially when it comes to far-flung friends and relatives. You might love each other and care about each other, but that doesn't mean you know about the headphones or decorative pillows each other have been eyeing, and you probably don't share the kind of intimacy that allows you to say, "This isn't quite my taste, but thank you!" Which is fine and understandable! But begs the question: Why do we all put each other through this? What if we all agreed instead to just banish the ritual? Wouldn't that bring its own kind of holiday cheer?
Before you start to get clammy thinking about proposing this to your loved ones and subsequently being labelled a Scrooge, we have alternatives! Suggest, for example, pooling your money toward a group outing (did you know that experiences are very hip these days?), or having everyone pick their favourite charity and make some donations for each other. When it comes to your significant other, propose investing in something for you as a couple (be it a fancy coffee maker or a night out). Or you could take a cue from Lifehacker's own Nick Douglas and at least temper the gift-giving madness by instituting a family Secret Santa exchange, so everyone only has to buy one gift, which solves all sorts of problems.
Then there's the most radical alternative: Spending no money. There are plenty of other ways, after all, to outwardly express your love, gratitude and festiveness. Instead of a mass gift exchange, you and your loved ones could trim the tree, cook a big meal together, listen to Christmas music, or take a drive to look at all the neighbourhood lights. For long distance folks, there's Skype calls, letters, Facebook posts, and you know, other forms of human connection that aren't tied to consumerism. It might not be literally wrapped up with a bow, but as the old Grinch himself learned: Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store.
It should be said that gifts themselves aren't necessarily the problem - if you feel compelled to give, you should! Especially when it comes to people you really want to acknowledge such as teachers, postmen, the kiddos in your life, or your work bestie. The trouble is with the holiday-mandated exchange, not the basic expression of appreciation or affection.
If you do plan to try to forego gifts this year, start making moves now, and remember that the key is to not treat it like a death, but rather, the chance to do something new. You should prepare yourself to manage people's feelings (many of us are way too used to that already), but people will probably be less offended than you think, especially if you make it less about banishing a beloved holiday ritual and more about putting a fresh spin on it. Everyone is fond of saying it's the thought that counts, so whether you'd want to stop faking that thought, or want to find a way to better reflect it, no one can fault you for trying to bring some sincerity into the holiday fold.