Households battling through the cost of living crisis may feel obliged to buy gifts they cannot afford this Christmas warns Martin Lewis. As the country battles through the post-pandemic cost of living crisis, the Money Saving Expert founder has urged the public to “get off this gift-giving treadmill”.
He referred to his first blog on the subject which was published a decade ago: Is it time to ban Christmas presents?, and urged people to avoid “unhappiness, debt and worry”. With the festive season full of Christmas socials, secret Santas and gifts for loved ones, Martin called to ban “unnecessary” gifts and “tit-for-tat giving”.
Speaking to viewers on a special Christmas preparation episode of ITV’s The Martin Lewis Money Show Live, members of the public were asked to rally together. He said “Let’s work together to ban unnecessary Christmas presents – not for your spouse, not for smiling children under the tree, but that ever-expanding list of friends and cousins and teachers that we feel forced to buy.”
The show flashed back to a clip of a talk he did in Liverpool, in 2018. It said:“ Christmas has become a retail festival, and it shouldn’t be. Christmas should be joyous, but causes some people unhappiness, debt, and worry.
“Now, many people feel obliged to buy gifts for others that they know they won’t use, with money they don’t have, and cause themselves stress they don’t need. And I think part of the reason for this is that we have disconnected from why we give gifts.
“Now, gift-giving originally, anthropologically, was actually a form of social banking. But with Christmas, it’s a zero-sum game.
“I give to you. You feel obligated to give back to me at a similar value. Now, to fulfil that obligation, we do tit-for-tat giving, which means people end up with tat.”
He goes on to suggesting that the “gift of giving” could be deemed selfish as it can mis-prioritise people’s finances and create a financial burden, reports MoneySavingExpert.com. He says giving someone a gift “effectively forces” people to spend money in return.
He continued: “What I think, it is time for us to get off this gift-giving treadmill. I think sometimes the best gift is releasing others from the obligation of having to give to you.
“Let’s work together to ban unnecessary Christmas presents. Not for your spouse, not for smiling children under the tree, but that ever-expanding list of friends and cousins and teachers that we feel forced to buy.
“Do right now, if you’re watching, use me as your excuse. Agree to make a ‘prenupp’, a pre-Christmas no-unnecessary-present pact. Or at least do a secret Santa and cap it at a fiver or tenner, or even better, say: you know what? I’m not going to give gifts to that extended list, I’m going to give to charity instead – less pressure.
“Less pressure, less cost, less debt, and I hope more joy. And the reaction here shows you might feel embarrassed to raise it, but most people feel the same way.”
After the clip ends, the finance expert says to question whether giving a gift is a “help or a hindrance”. He said: “You know, watching that back, I don’t think it has ever felt more pertinent and personal than it has this year, amidst a cost of living crisis when many people are struggling.
“And so I think what I would ask that we all try and do is when you are thinking about somebody, giving somebody a gift this year, ask yourself truly: is my gift a help or a hindrance? And if it’s a help, give it with joy and give it with love. And if it’s a hindrance… stop.”