10 Reasons to Hate Gift Giving

I’ll tell you a little secret, I hate gift giving. *GASP* Well, maybe the title of the website gave it away ;). If you’re here to reform an old grump, I cannot say this will be of any help. Anti-gift givers do have good arguments for disliking the customary tradition of giving gifts.

I would also like to say: I get you. Your feelings are valid. It’s OK not to like giving gifts.

For everyone else who doesn’t get it, this article should bring the two opposing sides together a little closer. Some people feel so pressured about giving good gifts, that they seek out ways to become better gift givers. If that’s you, check out my article, “How to be a Great Gift Giver”.

So for all of you who hate giving gifts and hate buying presents, read on! I think you’re going to feel validated after reading this!

FYI, a dislike for gift giving can have psychological aspects to it – so check that out. You might just hate gift giving because you lack some gift giving skills 🙂

Table of Contents

Sheldon Cooper, the Original Gift Hater

I’ve had some fun binge watching some old Big Bang Theory videos. In Sheldon’s classic rant, he gives his opinion about gift giving, summing up his frustration of society’s expectations:

The entire institution of gift giving makes no sense. Let’s say that I go out and I spend $50 on you – it’s a laborious activity because I have to imagine what you need, whereas you know what you need.

Now, I could simplify things, just give you the $50 directly and then you could give me $50 on my birthday, and so on, until one of us dies leaving the other one old and $50 richer.

The character of Sheldon Cooper, TV sitcom, The Big Bang Theory

Sheldon makes a good point. How many of us feel we are in an endless cycle of giving? It’s these type of ill sentiments that leaves the GGS website trying to reach for “improved” gift giving.

The List: Why We Hate Gift Giving

These are the list of reasons that I came up with that pretty much summarizes how most of us feel “about the institution of giving gifts.” It’s not necessarily about the gifter being completely insensitive, there are solid reasons behind their aversion of giving.

Do any of these hit home?

  1. The pressure to find the perfect gift can be overwhelming.
  2. It can be expensive, especially during holidays and special occasions.
  3. Some people feel obligated to give gifts, leading to a sense of duty rather than genuine generosity.
  4. Gift giving can create a sense of competition or comparison among recipients.
  5. Receiving unwanted or thoughtless gifts can be disappointing.
  6. It can perpetuate a consumerist culture focused on material possessions.
  7. Some people feel stressed about reciprocating with a gift of equal value.
  8. Gift giving can be time-consuming, especially when trying to find something meaningful.
  9. It may lead to environmental concerns due to excessive packaging and waste.
  10. The commercialization of gift giving can overshadow the true spirit of generosity and thoughtfulness.

There you have it – some pretty solid reasons why we hate giving gifts. Below I will further expand on some of the topics in more detail.

Woman with her arms crossed in front of her chest, communicating she doesn't approve of gift giving.
Are you a gift hater? You’re not alone!

Giving the Wrong Gift Makes Us Look Bad

Let’s face it, there’s a good chance of “gift failure” involved. We get the wrong size, the wrong color, it’s not special enough or personalized enough. There is a whole psychology around gift giving which can leave us appearing in a bad light in the giftee’s eyes.

We may be perceived as not clever enough or rich enough. Gift giving can put us in an emotionally vunerable situation. Who wouldn’t want to avoid that?

Gift Giving is Hard – Because We Care Too Much

It’s number 1 and 8 for me, folks. I don’t want to give a ho-hum gift, I want to give a great and memorable gift. It may be my perfectionistic tendencies (OK, it’s that) that have me stressing out about the gift hunt.

I lose sleep and time over debating on what gift to go with. There are land boundary disputes that get resolved quicker than me coming to a final purchase. I’m in my own little gift hell. I take some of the responsiblity for bringing it on myself, but on the other hand, I despise some of the societal gift expectations.

Man with frustrated look on his face.
Are you frustrated with buying presents and gift giving? There are many reasons we hate to give gifts.

No Money for Gifts!

I have a real gripe with this one. This typically is what gift exchanges are, they set a budget limit so nothing get out of hand.

Then there are the one-direction gift giving: weddings, baby showers, birthdays. I always fret “Do I look cheap?” “How much should I spend?” Ugh!

Then there is the very real problem that you are on a tight budget. Take for example a grandparent living on a fixed income. Here are some examples to approach gift giving when you don’t have the money, or are limited on money:

  • bow out of a gift exchange
  • make a homemade gift, incorporating sentimental elements
  • bake food that is a favorite to the gift recipient, or you have a reputation for
  • join in on an activity together, like attending a play or sports event
  • do an act of kindness, chore, or assist with research, walking the dog, organizing something, run the person to an errand – or just more frequent visits
Woman with a frustrated look on her face.
No money or on a tight budget? It’s hard or impossible to be generous when funds are limited.

Giving the gift of time is more valuable than any monetary gifts. Creating memories is what 99% of people will treasure. Most people will respect your stand on trying to give a meaningful gift that doesn’t cost money.

I recall when a woman in a nearby town asked my sons to help move something heavy in her home. It never dawned on me that older persons have a lot of things that they physically need help with. Coincidentally, I took two phone calle the other day at the nonprofit I work for, both asking for help. The gift of help doesn’t just apply to senior citizens – think of pregant women, someone moving to a new town and not knowing anyone, or someone going through a medical crisis, like dialysis.

In both situations, senior women were needing some “light housekeeping” and just companionship. Gift giving is about really zeroing in on the needs of others – think about that when money seems to fall short.

The Pressure is On: Family and Society Expectations

Believe me, I know how hard it is to engage with family that have different opinions about gift giving. It’s even harder having a conversation about pulling back on gifts. If you find yourself in a position to give a gift in another culture or country, there is a large chance you will make a mistake. The Travel Opinions blog does a wonderful job of offering a guide on cultural gift giving etiquette around the world.

I’ve found that simplifying gift giving and rethinking gift expectations greatly relieves this problem. Sometimes you have to move forward with your beliefs, regardless of the opinions of those around you.

Woman with hands on her face, disheartened about gift giving.
Family, workplace, societ, cultures – giving gifts under these related pressures makes gift giving no fun!

The workplace is a common source of frustration to anti-gift givers. There are retirement parties, weddings, birthdays, gift exchanges that lead to disagreement. It’s hard to bow out of chipping money in without looking like a heel.

One staff person led the cause for “adopting a family” during the holidays at another agency. Every staff person was to pick from a list of items the family needed or wanted. It is absolutely a nobel cause. Unfortunately, I ‘ve seen the other end of needy families taking advantage of the system. I’ve also seen where staff really can’t afford this, but feel pressured to give.

Those bad experiences shouldn’t leave me cutting back on my generosity. However, I did have to cut back. The social pressure in the office to give took away from the other planned giving I had already been engaged with. I simply said “no” to the company project.

I’ve also said “no” to the endless parade of fundraisers from staff. This was easy, as I started tallying the asks from one individual was topping off at several times a year. Stand your ground, there are probably other like-minded people that are glad you did.

The Stress of Finding Gifts for Difficult People

Let’s say this all together: “It sucks!”. This is a situation where we really are good people with kind hearts – not so much for the person we are trying to buy a gift for. If you can’t quite put your finger on why you hate gift giving, you might have encountered one of these situations:

  • gifts for ungrateful child/adult
  • gifts for person hard-to-please/picky
  • gifts for person you hate

I really hope you haven’t had to deal with this, but I can understand if it enforces your negative feelings about gift giving.

Man overwhelmed with the stress of buying the right gift.
Trying to buy gifts for hard-to-shop people is frustrating!

The Thoughtless Gift Giver

We have all been on the receiving end of thoughtless gifts. I clearly remember a gift from my childhood that left me disheartened.

It was a Christmas gathering at my grandmother’s house, with the usual presents and gift exchanges. To put this in context, I was a “tween” girl, excited about clothes and makeup.

What did I unwrap? It was a gaudy, gold and chunky necklace, with a turtle of the size not to go unnoticed. I couldn’t really say who would ever wear it, it did look childish. The gift certainly left me with a big question mark stamped on my head. I looked up to see my female cousin (the same age) opening a kit for doing her fingernails.

I felt so small and unimportant. It didn’t help that everyone thought I was younger than I was, even compared to my younger siblings. The TV show The Middle, where the daughter, Sue Heck, is repeatedly overlooked in life, helped summarize this phase in my life.

A woman with a frustrated look on her face.
Have you been accused of being a thoughtless gift giver?

That necklace was kept out of respect, but my feelings were hurt everytime I saw it when I opened my jewelry box. I finally threw it away, never regretting the act. Geez, I even tear up writing about it.

That’s how painful it is when someone gives you a thoughtless gift. It hurts 10x more if it’s your husband, boyfriend, parents, etc. You may hate gift giving, but you have to crack that door open of being a good human being.

Gift Giving Puts the Focus on Material Things

I soooo hear you. I think I speak for us all whe I say if I see one more “As Seen On TV!” gizmo on a store endcap, I’m going to scream!

Material posessions weigh us down, roadblock us, and confuse us as we try to deal with the clutter in our lives. If you are a minimalist gift giver, our whole gift-giving culture is sure to frustrate you.

The thing about our gift giving insanity, is that there are all types of personalities and personal preferences involved. Our job is reach that sweet spot with others – the compromise where we all feel heard, understood, and can enjoy an event, without the pressure of not living up to other people expectations.

The Gift Wrap Up

I had two goals in this article: for the gift giver to feel validated, and the person in their life to understand them better. I hope I have achieved both.

Give from the heart and when it makes sense.


Renee Cavvy
Renee Cavvy

Renee brings over 30 years of gift giving experience to holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, workplace and faith events. Every life moment is cause for celebration or those times in life when we need the "the gift of support". Her mission: Let's all be better in appreciating one another, put an end to meaningless gifts that clutter our lives, and give from a place of love and kindness. This midwest mom (and grandma) offers novel and creative ideas to do gift giving better!