Vicky Spratt | Deputy Editor | Monday, 30 November 2015

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'Why I'm Giving Up Christmas Presents For Good'

The Debrief: Remember at school when you'd get your mates (all 15 of them) a present each Christmas? Vicky Spratt explains why those days are long gone - and why she's ditching the gifts for good this year

I’m not giving any of my friends Christmas presents this year. And, we aren’t doing a Secret Santa either. ‘Scrooge!’ I hear you say…well wait…hold off and hear me out. 

Do you remember the days, back at school, when you used to get your best mates (all 15 of them) a present for Christmas before breaking up for the holidays? Do you remember going back to school, in Baltic January temperatures, and everybody asking ‘so what did you get?!’ 

Things have have changed a bit since then haven’t they…well there was a recession, for one (but let’s not get into that). And now we all spend most of our money on rent. Gone are the days when Christmas presents were the only thing that people talked about. 

About two years ago my friends all had a conversation about the pressure of gift giving in the festive period – we decided to stop doing it. Partly because none of us had any money but also because we are all lucky enough to have everything we need anyway…more clothes than we care to admit to, more books than we have time to read, more lipsticks than anyone could possibly need etc. 

Giving presents is a zero sum game anyway, especially within a friendship group – you swap gifts of a similar value with people and sometimes you end up with something great that you didn’t know you needed or wanted until you unwrapped it, but, often that’s not the case. You basically spend money in the knowledge that you’ll get something of the same value in return. 

We decided that we would much rather spend time together, because that’s actually the most valuable thing to us these days, than money on things we didn’t need. Since then we’ve been planning things to do and marking out time for each other at Christmas. 

Far from feeling like a bunch of misers I’m going to put it out there and say that the decision to stop exchanging presents has actually brought us closer together. We’ve been creating memories and inventing traditions which, hopefully, we’ll keep for years to come. So, here are a few ideas for things you can do with your mates or significant others this Christmas instead of exchanging presents… 

Make Time to Reminisce 

When you leave school, finish university and start working life gets really hectic. You don’t see the people you used to see every single day when you all lived together as much as you’d like and it really sucks. 

Last year my friends from uni got together and decided to start doing ‘friendmas’ annually. Every year, in August, we plan to book in a day for December when we’re all free. We ring fence it and everybody promises to turn up. Last year we went back to the town where we studied, we booked our train tickets in advance for around a tenner each. We walked around, got nostalgic and ended up in the pub. 

Once we were at the pub we had some drinks and then one of the gang announced she’d written a quiz. The questions were about all the things we had done when we were young, foolish students like ‘which one of us was caught banging on the window at KFC, begging to be let in at 2am more than once?’

The whole day cost us about £30 each and it was the best. We’ll be doing it again this year. 

Go Somewhere You’ve Never Been in 2016 

Instead of exchanging presents why not get together, at someone’s house or over dinner, and book some cheap flights for a weekend away next year? Give yourselves something to look forward to! 

It’s hard to find the time last minute and attempting to organise time away with friends can end up being a logistical WhatsApp nightmare or a long email trail that nobody can be bothered to read. 

Use Google’s flight tool which is arguably better than a website like Skyscanner, to brings up all the cheapest options. 

To give you some idea of where you could go in March 2016 on the cheap…

Copenhagen for £26

Stockholm for £31

Berlin for £43 

When you’re feeling a bit flusher in the new year book an Airbnb closer to the time. 

Go for A Long Walk Somewhere Really Beautiful

Lots of things get unbearably busy at Christmas (pubs, restaurants and high streets) but the great British countryside is so massive that you’re guaranteed to be able to find some space. 

Why not get out of the city, pile into a car with your mates or jump on a train and go on a coastal walk, a hike or maybe even get all Pagan and go to one of the UK’s 16 Neolithic stone circles? 

Apparently, Avebury in Wiltshire is actually even better than Stonehenge. 

The National Trust has loads of great ideas for walks all around the country ranging from beaches to ancient monuments.  

Also, guys, nature is free. The walk won’t cost you anything so you can splash out on a country pub lunch or pint together afterwards. 

Clothes Swap 

Be honest…what percentage of your wardrobe do you actually wear? Get your mates together at somebody’s house over the festive season, buy a bottle of something each and ask everyone to bring a couple of things they don’t wear along. Put everything in the middle and do a clothes swap – cheaper than buying something new for yourself and definitely better than buying somebody something they don’t actually want and, actually, pretty fun. 

Go Somewhere You’ve Never Been Together in The City You Live In

This one’s for the Londoners but you could do something similar in your own hometown. 

In London how often do you actually feel like you’re making the most of the city? There’s so much great stuff to see and do that it can actually be quite overwhelming. 

Block out a day in December, get your girl gang together and do something like…

Get the tube out to Epping Forest and go for a walk…

Go to the Barbican Conservatory because it’s brilliant…

Go and see a play at Shakespeare’s globe for as little as £5

Finally, Do Some Volunteering 

We’ve never actually done this but one of my pal’s brought it up this year. You could sign up to volunteer with some friends over the Christmas period. Crisis, for instance, need volunteers from December 23rd until the 30th and they have centres open across the country. 

Like this? Then you may also be interested in:

Google Just Made It Loads Cheaper (And Easier) To Go On Holiday

9 Not-Shit Secret Santa Gifts For £9 Or Less 

Non-Lame Christmas Markets To Visit This Winter

Follow Vicky on Twittter @Victoria_Spratt

Tags: Christmas