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3 Ways to Stress Less About Giving

Gift giving has changed a lot in our home over the last several years. What was once a stressful, debt-inducing endeavor where I had to get a gift for everyone, is now a fun way to give intentionally to those closest to me.

The catalyst for this change was my challenge to give generously with only $5 and in the years following that Christmas, we’ve experimented a lot, including not giving gifts at all (hated that), only giving to our kids (also hated that), only giving our kids cash and making things for everyone else (meh) and other variations.

We took the things we loved and ditched the ones we hated and now feel pretty content with the way we approach giving, not only during the holidays, but for giving occasions around the year.

These are the few parameters we have in place that help us remember that giving is an act of love and not just an another item to cross off the list.

I encourage you to adopt one or more if giving is a source of stress or you’d just like to change things up a bit.

1. Make when possible

When it comes to giving with my family, we only do homemade gifts. What started as an effort to spend less has turned into a fun tradition. It’s really brought out my brothers’ creativity and it gives my mom an excuse to make my husband more cinnamon rolls.

I give almost exclusively handmade gifts in general, with the most popular being gluten-free chocolate chip cookies (these are the BEST, y’all), natural skincare items or salted caramel sauce.

I put it together in a cute little recyclable box, tie it up with some jute twine and voila! One or two days of making with help from my kids and we’ve got everyone covered.

2. Remember that presence is a gift

Things are a bit different with my husband’s family. Because we live farther away from them (we’re in the same town as my family and have dinner with them every Sunday), experience trumps stuff when it comes to giving.

Getting together and sharing a meal, each family contributing something to the mix, is much more fulfilling.

The same is true with our closest friends. We’d much rather treat each other to coffee or lunch so we can spend more time together because we value relationship much more than things that will clutter our home.

3. Be thoughtful of the recipient

I’m an INFJ and we are thoughtful to a fault, and will painstakingly obsess over consider the perfect gift for someone for months. Actually, that was a big source of my stress, so I try not to do that anymore …

Thankfully, this guideline is actually quick and looks a little something like this:

  1. Write out the short list of people who will receive gifts
  2. Thoughtfully consider/pray over each name and ask what kind of gift would bless them
  3. Write down any ideas as they come up then or over the next few days

This is a great way to put more intention into your gifts. It gives you a chance to think about the people in your life and what they love.

Does your mom often say that she would love the chance to spend more time with you? Has your best friend ever exclaimed with delight over something she’s seen you make? Do little kids love cookies?

Don’t make this hard, especially if they’ve explicitly said, “I really need and would like ______.”

Often the best gifts are the simplest ones.

A quick note on whiners

I’ve talked about this a LOT with people who are intrigued at the simplicity of our gift giving and the most frequently asked question is, “What about people who get mad when you try to do that because they expect a big fancy gift?”

Oh the entitlement!

My response is typically, if you don’t have to get them anything, don’t. Do you really need friends like that? However, I know that it’s sometimes a close relative and that doesn’t really feel like an option.

I’ve been fortunate not to have that issue, which I think has a lot to do with the third guideline. When you give a gift knowing what that person loves, it’s hard for them to complain.

If they do, you can explain that you’re trying to spend less, or be more thoughtful or whatever your reason is. And if they still complain, may I gently remind you that you most likely don’t actually have to give them anything.

But if you still feel like you do, perhaps set a little bigger budget for them and get them something they consider nice. They’ve got deeper stuff to deal with than can be fixed with homemade pie.

Choose your battles.

So the moral of the story when it comes to making giving less stressful? Be intentional.

While kids love tearing the paper off new toys, they get REALLY excited later when the novelty has worn off and remember they were given a jar full of their favorite cookies.

Most people don’t need more stuff – they’d rather have more time with you.

And remember, the gift is about them, not about you and your creativity, so if you’re father-in-law says the ONLY thing he wants is a Home Depot gift card, just get him one.

Don’t make it harder than it has to be.

Reading Time:

4 minutes





  1. Linda Sand

    Also, listen to casual comments people make. My Mom admired my necklace saying most are too short for her. She also commented that she’d never had a music box. So, I bought her a necklace like mine and a music box and she was absolutely thrilled! She also said you are never too old for dolls so her boyfriend bought her a doll and that made her happy as well.

  2. Alanna

    This was a good reminder for me. I’m an INFJ too, and I put SO much pressure on myself to find the perfect present for someone. And since I have a small budget, it becomes stressful and not very fun. I think I will just get my list and pray, and buy/make whatever I think will work, and do my best to not overthink it.

  3. Christine

    I love this! I’m an INFJ and obsess over gifts, too. But one thing I’ve come to embrace is that it’s ok to get people the same thing year after year… My grandma loves oranges, so we always get her a mail-order box of oranges. She looks forward to it every year, and I don’t have to spend time agonizing about what to get. Easy! 🙂

  4. nic

    Aaaand the INFJs slink out of the woodwork. (I’m one too. Solidarity.) The past several years I haven’t had time to stew and fret about the perfect gifts, but this year I do have a bit of mental/emotional space, and the stewing has reached a fine boil. This piece is spot-on and timely.

    PS LOVED this: ‘They’ve got deeper stuff to deal with than can be fixed with homemade pie. Choose your battles.’

    • Nina

      Thanks Nic! 🙂

  5. June

    Great article, especially for us INFJs! I think I’ll be making pepper jelly as neighbor gifts this year. The one year I did it, I was really happy by how simple and beautiful it turns out.

    I think my problem is that we have so many out of town family. My brothers always give my kids extravagant gifts and I feel such pressure to reciprocate for his kids. So I obsess and obsess each year!

  6. kari

    Yes! I didn’t know this gift giving obsession was a INFJ thing! But, I’m an INFJ and the most stressful part of Christmas (and any birthday celebration) are the gifts! I can buy presents, wrap them up and spend the next weeks and days wondering if that was really the right gift and will they like it or should I get them something totally different? Argh! It’s so draining. The last two years, I have tried to be more intentional about thinking small and personal with gifts. I also have started to just give books to most of my family members. I don’t really care too much if they don’t love the book or don’t really get around to reading it. I confess that I simply enjoy thinking about pairing books with people. And for those that aren’t readers, then they get a gift certificate with a small food gift. Narrowing down the categories has helped it feel less overwhelming.

    • Nina

      Great idea, Kari!

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