How To Completely Change Your Birthday

What would you say to me if I told you that I disliked receiving gifts? I’m not talking about all gifts. I’m talking about the ones I consider to be a waste of money because they render as useless.

How To Completely Change Your Birthday

I think we’ve all had gifts we received for Christmas and birthdays and seen them as a waste of money. But before you start thinking how ungrateful I sound, hear me out, because I’ve had an idea which I hope many of you will join in with me.

Nobody likes wasting money, do they?

No! Especially when they’re on a tight budget.

What saddens me most is witnessing people spending money on unwanted gifts because they feel they have to buy you something. With so many people less fortunate in the world, wouldn’t that money be better spent helping those most in need?

For years, I’ve donated some of the unwanted gifts I’ve received to charity shops. Unfortunately, because of lockdown, some charity shops are no longer able to take donations because they’ve nowhere to store new stock.

So, how do you ask people politely to stop wasting their money on Christmas and birthday gifts you didn’t request?

Have you encountered this situation?

A few months, weeks, days, hours, minutes before your birthday or Christmas, you hear the words ‘What would you like for Christmas/ your birthday?‘ Because I loath replying or hearing the phrase ‘I don’t know,’ I alway have a list ready. However, I still don’t always get the items on my list and sometimes end up with something I’ll never use or which has me scratching my head as to why it was purchased.

I’m lucky. But you may not be as fortunate as me.

I’ve always been one of those people that if they like something, buys it. It hasn’t always been like that. Like many, I’d have to save up to buy some of those items. And as somebody who dislikes being fussed over, buying what I want when I need it works perfectly for me.

However, as I’ve grown older, I find it problematic telling people what I want for Christmas or my birthday.

Allow me, therefore, to reveal the idea at the beginning of this post, which solves my dilemma and will change your next birthday (if you join me in this challenge).

Get writing or asking.

I wrote an email to my family members asking them not to buy me birthday presents. Instead, I asked them to choose a charity and donate the money to them.

Some family members didn’t like this idea, saying I had to have something, while some said they’d instead give me money to donate to a charity of my choice.

But that wasn’t what I was asking them to do!

I kindly asked them to donate the money that they would spend on me to a charity of their choice. That way, I’d feel great about money going to be spent on me, instead going to charity. I hoped it would make them feel great for donating to a charity of their choice. After all, we all feel good when donating to charity, don’t we? I saw it as a win-win situation.

Don’t allow people to knock your idea back.

Although my idea didn’t seem to go down well initially, I did get my way.

My family got together and money earmarked for my birthday presents has been donated to the Llanhilleth Miners’ Institute Covid Response Food Pantry. Here are the details.

The Llanhilleth Miners’ Institute Covid Response Food Pantry

So not only will the donations help in setting this new charity up, it will also help with some of the costs to run the programme. That makes me feel so good.

I realise that not everyone will want the money spent on their birthday presents donated. So even if it’s just the money for one present, think of all the good it will do if some of you ask for birthday money to be donated to a charity.

When your next birthday comes around, think about asking at least one person to donate the money they would have spent on you, to a charity of their choice. Just think of all the good you’ll both be doing in helping those less fortunate than you. Not only that, but I guarantee it will make you both feel great too.

How to completely change your birthday.

If you want to completely change your birthday (or Christmas 2021), ask everyone who buys you a birthday and/or Christmas present to donate the money they’d spend on your gifts to a charity of their choice. That’s what I’ll be doing in December 2021.

Will you take up my Birthday challenge? How would you feel if somebody asked you to donate the money you would have spent on a birthday or Christmas gift to a charity? Let me know by leaving me a comment and join the discussion.

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45 thoughts

    1. I had the same reaction to buying birthday presents for me. However, I got my way with mine. Whether the rest of the family will follow in my footsteps remains to be seen. I hope they do.

  1. It’s a great idea, Hugh. I’ve seen it pop up on Facebook, close to my birthday, where Facebook suggests I pick a charity of my choice, so friends could potentially donate to that charity for my birthday.

    But… as you know. We live in a van. Far, far away from family and friends. Birthday and Christmas gifts are not a part of our lives. We sometimes receive money from our parents for these special events and we buy camper parts or dog gear with it. Things we need. Or, we save it for a very rare eating out/take out occasion.

    I have a nephew who feels like you do. (I’d feel like this as well if I lived in a house in a normal world.) He doesn’t want people to spend money on him or to waste materials that destroy the environment. He wrote a letter to his family (Christmas is big in that part of the family): if they really wanted to give him something, to regift him something they had no use for or to donate something useful from their household to his to repurpose it.

    I hope you’ll have a lot of people following along with your idea as in most families too much goes to waste!

    1. I love the way your nephew has gone with receiving gifts, Liesbet. It’s another bow to the arrow of getting people to stop wasting money on items that are not wanted and which only gather dust. I dread to think what portion of these gifts end up in landfill sites.

      I hope my idea takes off. I’ll certainly be doing this again when Christmas 2021 arrives. And I won’t be taking ‘no’ for an answer from any member of the family. And if they do buy me anything, I’ll simply return it to them.

    1. Thank you for letting me know about the Alpha-1 Foundation and asking people who give you birthday gifts to donate to the charity instead. I hope my post will persuade many more of us to think about birthday gift donations to a charity.

  2. A great idea like many others as you get older receiving a gift doesn’t always give that same feeling of joy as when you were a child and maybe we can recoup that feeling by following your example or one similar, Hugh…

  3. Great and timely topic with Christmas passed Hugh. I like your idea and as a family we have stopped gift giving to any other than grandchildren and their parents requested some money instead of a gift as the children became older and therefore trickier to buy for.

    I hesitate any time asking people to donate anywhere because I do not have enough to do that on any kind of regular basis and my husband gets a bit annoyed that some charities have a commission taken out by the organisation who manage the donations.

    I was looking at my Christmas scrapbook from a good many years back and apparently I donated to a welfare agency overseas so the family member received an appreciation card from that group.

    I do cards to all the grandkids and kids (OK they are adults!) and put photo memories inside and a lovely message.

    As we are ageing the words and pictures count much more as treasured gifts!

    Cheers from Australia.
    Denyse.

    1. The only donations I do regularly are the ones I take to the charity shops, Denyse. However, the lockdown has meant that all charity shops have had to close in the UK. When they did open (between lockdown), I had difficulty donating to many of them because they had no room for new stock. I do know that some organisations do take a commission, but I’ve seen a real shift since lockdown of many no longer doing so. After lockdown and the current pandemic, let’s hope that they reconsider taking any kind of commission from the charities they represent. I’m certainly less likely to donate to any organisation that takes a commission from donations.

      Photo memories always bring smiles to my face. I’m a big fan of homemade cards and gifts, especially when made without any money spent on them.

      Thank you so much for joining the discussion with us all, Denyse.

  4. I have found this to be true that many adults don’t want things for their birthdays. Experiences or just getting together with family is enough, though harder these days with various country shut-downs. Both my adult daughters have birthdays this month. I asked my oldest daughter (mind you, she makes 6 figures as an aerospace engineer) and she replied, “a few things, but nobody can get them for me because I’m picky.” One year she liked a “beach” theme for decor in her new apartment and to this day, 13 years later, her aunties are still buying her useless “beachy” dust collectors! Donating to a reputable charity is a wonderful idea, Hugh. Our world is a better place with ideas like this! And happy birthday!

    1. I totally get what you say about those ‘beachy’ dust-collectors, Terri. I had the same experience months before Christmas when I mentioned to a member of the family how I was having problems getting hold of a white chocolate bar that was in the shape of a reindeer. So imagine my surprise when said member of the family kept buying me this particular chocolate reindeer every time she shopped. Whist I appreciated that she’d managed to find it, it got rather overwhelming. On Christmas Day, from the same family member, I got a white chocolate snowman (five times the size of the reindeer chocolate), but it was a brand of chocolate I don’t like. “I couldn’t get you any more of the chocolate reindeer, so I got you this instead,” she told me. Nobody else liked that brand of chocolate either, so it ended up going in the bin. What a total waste of money! However, it’s taught me a lesson not to mention anything to this family member again. It seems some people literally latch on to what you say and never let go, resulting in them wasting their money.

  5. I love this idea. We also did this at Christmas years ago. We used to buy gifts for our friends’ kids but they got way too much stuff. I suggested instead of buying gifts for the kids, we take that money and donate it to a charity that will give a Christmas to children who otherwise wouldn’t have one.

    1. One of the things that started the ball rolling on the idea in my post were the children I saw who had no gifts this Christmas, Michelle. Not only that, but many also did not get a hot meal on Christmas Day. It got me thinking about what I could do to help. Hence, I came up with the idea.

      Even if children are lucky enough to get a few gifts at Christmas time or on their birthday, just think of the difference it would make if just one of those gifts was donated to a child who gets no gifts. Can you imagine the smile on their face at being given a gift? Maybe we could go further and donate one gift a child would get, to one who gets nothing? That’s an idea I will move forward with next Christmas.

  6. We gave up on gifts years ago after trying Chinese Christmas exchanges and regifting. Kids have all grown up or out of town. I may send a box of homemade goodies but that’s it.

  7. I’ve had friends who have asked not to get Christmas presents but donate to their favorite charity or any charity. I actually enjoy doing that, investigating various charities before I send them money. As an older person, I do not need more ‘stuff’ in my life, just friendship and fun.

  8. I really like this idea. Like yourself I’m in a fortunate position when I want something I just buy it.

    I’m going to suggest this for my birthday in March.

  9. I may be one of the few who doesn’t get unwanted presents. Basically, between my siblings, we agreed on not making Christmas gifts. Therefore we are a bit more generous and thoughtful for each other’s birthday. However, I like your idea a lot and it motivates me to ask everyone to give me money which I would donate to an institution I’d pick in advance. Or I’d let them choose to donate to an institution of their choice. Even thoughtful presents are not really necessary since I may have so much more than those people who are supported by the institution I would choose to donate the money. Great idea, Hugh!!

    1. I saw asking my family to chose and donate to a charity of their choice as a way to make them feel good about what they were doing, Erika. Needless to say that all but one family member has since told me what a good idea it was. I hope the one remaining member of the family will come on board when it’s her turn. However, if she insists on buying gifts, I’m going to take Janet’s idea (in the previous comment) and say that I’ll only accept a gift purchased from a charity shop. Then I’ll probably donate that gift to another charity shop.
      I’m so pleased that my idea in this post has motivated you to do something similar. Thank you.

      1. That’s another great way to handle gifts. I am thinking of the general idea of donating gifts or forwarding them to less fortunate people. There is so much potential on how we can share kindness, if we only make the effort to think about it.
        I thank YOU, Hugh!

  10. For three years the adults in the family have done secret santa – which is fun, if everyone is getting together! 2019 we had the proviso that all presents would be bought at charity shops and it was amazing what we all managed to find. For this year’s Covert Covid we couldn’t really do charity shops as lots of them were closed. A low price was set with an option to post or order from Amazon as we didn’t know if we would all be stuck at home. We did not all do posting and a couple of us still haven’t had our presents!

    1. I like the idea of buying gifts from a charity shop if people still insist on buying gifts. At least the money spent is going to a good cause. But, as you say, all the charity shops are closed now, so I’m glad I also suggested donating to a charity.
      I hope those parcels arrive.

  11. Although we still exchange cards, my friends and family no longer exchange gifts, and we haven’t for years. I find that Christmas is so much more peaceful and my birthday, coming soon after Christmas, is no longer a burden for those who have just gotten through the holiday season. I recommend this to anyone! I guess if there are young kids involved, gifts may still be in order. But, at some point I think they will be old enough to understand that rampant consumerism and our throw-away culture may not be best for our planet.

    1. I completely agree with what you say, Janis. I think there are already many out there who do not exchange unnecessary Christmas or birthday presents. Even if no gifts are exchanged, it would be great to donate a little of what they would have spent to a charity of their choice, though.
      Happy belated Birthday to you (if it’s just come and gone).

  12. Hi Hugh, this is a great idea. I’m at the point where I don’t really want anything on my birthday’s.

    Many years ago I suggested this to family at Christmas time and it went over like a lead balloon. People were spending a lot of money on gifts I just wasn’t going to use. Finally I started putting the gifts I knew I wouldn’t use in a box right away and off they went to our local Hospice Thrift Store every year.

    I just discovered this year an organization that is similar, but opposite of your thoughts. A gift card can be purchased from this company for someone. Then the recipient of the card uses the card to make a donation to the charity of their choice. I love this gift idea. It’s especially nice for the person on our gift lift who already has everything.

    1. What’s the name of the organisation you mentioned in your comment, Lea? It sounds a great idea and one I may use at Christmas this year (proving that 100% of the money goes to the charity).

      I would have carried on donating to my local charity shops, but with them all being closed during the lockdown, none of them is taking any more donations until further notice. Hence my idea in this post.

      1. Hi Hugh, that makes good sense about the charity shops. They are open here, in Florida now. But what I wrote about above happened a long time ago.

        The organization is called Tisbest. Here is a link to their site
        https://www.tisbest.org/

        I don’t remember how I found them but right before Christmas I got an e-mail to enter a drawing to win one of their gift cards. If I won it was $50 that I could donate to any charity I wanted. I won!! Woo! Hoo! I couldn’t find my charity and sent them and e-mail. They were quick to respond and very helpful.

        There is also an organization called Charity Navigator that rates charities. There are others like them but Charity Navigator is the only one I’ve ever used. Here is the link: https://www.guidestar.org/profile/13-4148824

        Charity Navigator is also a non-profit. Just so you know that ahead of time.

        1. Hi Lea,

          Thanks so much for sending over the links.

          I could not find them on a UK website, so I’m adding a link here of an organisation based in the UK which does the same thing. They do charge a small fee for printing vouchers/cards, but that’s the only cost. All the donation goes directly to the charity.

          https://charityvouchers.org/

          I think it’s a great idea if somebody wants to give the gift of donating to a charity of their choice.

          Well done on winning the drawing competition.

          We’re in full lockdown in the UK, so even the charity shops are closed. And with the current infection rates and the death rate also climbing, I can’t see them opening again for some time.

          Stay safe.

  13. We don’t really exchange gifts, but a birthday card most definitely. For the younger ones in the family we give money. Older ones it depends if it is a significant birthday then flowers or money or just simple.

    1. Birthday cards are great, but I’ve always found that any money given to me just goes into my wallet and never ends up being spent on anything I really want. Not that I use cash these days. Almost all purchases go onto a card, and I use any cash to pay the window cleaner. I suppose I could donate it to charity, but I hope the idea I’ve given in this post will make those who no longer have to buy a gift feel better for what they’re doing.

        1. When I was younger, I loved getting money and putting it into my Post Office savings account. As I’ve grown older, I see being given money for my birthday or Christmas nowhere near as exciting. It ends up disappearing with nothing to show for it — however, no more. It now goes to a great cause without me even having to handle it.

  14. This is a good idea. Our family has done something similar in the past. Then we just stopped exchanging gifts and only give to the children. It is silly to buy things people don´t need or want. I will however always accept chocolates or flowers. xo

    1. Thank you. I’ve done the same with some family members and only buy presents for the children, but close members of my family still insist on buying each other something for Christmas and birthdays. I see this idea of getting them to think twice about it and hopefully helping those less fortunate.

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