Money at 30: Can You Opt Out of the Holidays?

We all know that the holidays are supposed to be a time of giving and happiness. But, if your 20s were anything like mine, that was rarely if ever the case. Instead the holidays brought stress on multiple levels, including worrying about who I’d need to exchange gifts with, how I’d pay for said gifts, and how I would politely tell my parents I wouldn’t be visiting yet again. That’s why I’d repeatedly attempt to opt-out of the holidays, putting up social media posts announcing my decision.

Did it ever work? Not really. However there are a few things you can do to at least get closer to that goal.

Suggest a Secret Santa

Buying gifts for all of your friends and family members can really add up. Instead, what if you could just purchase one, receive one gift, and call it a merry Christmas? That’s the logic behind the popular “Secret Santa” concept.

When I say it’s popular, I mostly mean among groups of friends and co-workers. That said, I don’t see any reason why it can’t be applied to families as well. In fact, when my wife and I first got married, we decided to do a Secret Santa exchange among her siblings — hey, there’s even an app for that (you can also try sites like I thought this worked well but we’ve since moved on to another method, which I’ll tell you about next.

Try a rotating gifting list

Once we got away from the Secret Santa exchange, my wife and I still weren’t financially ready to purchase each of her siblings and their spouses individual gifts. That’s when she came up with the idea of alternating between which half of the couple we’d buy for each year. For example, the first year we purchased gifts for all the women in the family, last year it was the men, and now we’re back to women again. This has allowed us to upgrade the gifts we’re giving without busting our budget.

Of course, while the boy/girl thing works perfectly for our family, you can find other methods of breaking down your shopping list. Perhaps dividing your friends and family alphabetically would work? Or by birthday? Favorite color? Whatever you do, just make your plan clear to everyone so they know whether or not to expect a gift.

Ask for cash

Yes, cash is often viewed as being the ultimate in lazy gift gifting but it always made the most sense for me. After all, while I didn’t want to ask my parents for money any other time of the year, the holiday offered a free pass in that department. Thus, whether I was looking to fund a vacation in the new year or just add a little cushioning to my bank account, cash was at the top of my wishlist for many years.

The problem is that my requests weren’t always met. Therefore you shouldn’t count on getting cash no matter how many times you ask. Additionally you should still stick to a holiday budget and not overextend yourself with the hopes of paying for it afterward.

The Nike method (Just do it)

Finally, if all else fails, you shouldn’t feel bad about telling your loved ones that you simply can’t afford to participate in holiday gift giving. While this can be difficult, you shouldn’t let others pressure you into hurting your finances. Ultimately the holidays should be a joyous time and there’s nothing joyous about debt.

As much as I love the spirit of the holidays, there were plenty of years where I wished I could have opted out of much of it. If you’re feeling the same way, maybe it’s time you tried one of these ideas to help some spread holiday cheer while honoring your budgetary restrictions. Whatever you end up doing, I hope your holidays turn out to be merry and bright.


Kyle Burbank

Kyle is a freelance writer and author whose first book, "The E-Ticket Life" is now available on Amazon. In addition to his weekly "Money at 30" column on Dyer News, he is also the editorial director and a writer for the Disney fan site and has recently starting publsihing his own personal finance blog at

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Hi Kyle!

Would it be also possible for you to mention as a tool that can be used to draw names for secret santa? I would really appreciate it.

Kind Regards,

Bridget Hearn

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