Americans are spending more and more on holiday shopping. Am I the only one with gift fatigue?

A customer with holiday shopping bags.
Gift guides and big holiday sales abound. It this too much? (Getty Images)

’Tis the season for spending. And — if we’re being honest — receiving quite a few presents that we probably didn’t want and definitely didn’t need.

This time of year, websites and newsletters are filled with a gift guide promising to help you find the perfect present for everyone on your list. And according to these articles, your list is long. Teachers, day care workers, colleagues, bosses, cousins, cousins-in-law, mom friends, college friends, the great-aunt you see only once a year.

It feels like the holiday gift guides rolled out earlier this year, and they were more specific than ever. “A gift for your least-favorite person” read the subject line of one newsletter that landed in my inbox in mid-November. Why would I be buying something for someone I didn’t like? And the gift suggestions are sometimes just plain weird. A shoe-stretcher shoe tree. A tortilla blanket. A set of 10 Art Deco escargot sticks for $567.

How did we get to the point where we feel like we must buy everyone — even people who make us feel meh — a gift? And how do we stop the madness?

At the same time, every store seems to be offering some sort of discount to get shoppers to buy more. It’s hard not to be swayed by the dramatic discounts, with some retailers offering holiday sales well before Thanksgiving. Despite rising interest rates and stubborn inflation, Americans spent a record $9.8 billion on Black Friday this year and then an additional $12.4 billion on Cyber Monday. I read an insane stat that during the peak hour of Monday’s shopping extravaganza, Americans were spending $15.7 million every minute.

But all this spending has us stressed out. A recent survey by the found that 51% of Americans are somewhat worried about their ability to afford holiday gifts, and 23% reported being very worried about affording gifts. An additional 39% expressed worry about affording holiday meals. It’s not surprising considering that Americans expect to spend an average of $875 on the holidays this year, including gifts, food and decor.

I’m not looking to shame people for indulging in a little retail therapy right now. With so much bad news dominating headlines, it makes sense we might want to drown out the sadness by doing a little shopping. But I can’t help but wonder if there’s another way to celebrate the season that doesn’t require us to acquire so much stuff.

It’s the stuff that makes me so crazy. I know people mean well, but so often when our shopping lists are too long, we stop thinking about what someone might really enjoy and just try to buy them anything so you can cross them off the list and move onto the next. Then there are those friends and family members who are incredibly picky (raises hand) or they really do have everything, and it’s a struggle to find something they will like. You can scroll a hundred-and-one gift guides and still not find something your discerning dad will like this year, so you default to something impersonal just so he has a present under the tree. My guess is your dad doesn’t need another set of novelty golf balls or a tie or an oversize photography book.

I know I sound most ungrateful, but I’d estimate 95% of the gifts I receive are not things I would have bought myself. I don’t like scented candles. I don’t need another picture frame. I have enough mugs. And while I sometimes see a pretty set of napkins or a cute sweater that I do like, the truth is, I don’t really need more napkins or sweaters. If anything, I need to unload some of the extra stuff crowding my life, not bring more things into my home. Can I get a gift card for a home organizer this year?

Once you receive a gift you don’t want, there’s the mental load of deciding what to do with it. These things clutter shelves and collect dust, until you choose to regift them or hand them off to a charity shop, resell online or, worse, just toss it because you know no one else wants the gift either.

It’s even worse with the kids. Toys are relatively inexpensive — $5 for a pack of Hot Wheels, $15 for a Barbie, $30 for a Star Wars Lego set — so it’s easy to want to buy kids everything on their wish list. And the grandparents in my life certainly try. But we just end up with SO many toys! What child can possibly play with all of them?

There is a lot of advice on the internet about how to stop the influx of toys, including the clever gift-giving recipe of “one want, one need, something to wear, something to read.” But has anyone successfully given this recipe to a grandparent, and they followed it? And what is a “need” exactly? I’m sure my kid would say he NEEDS more Pokemon cards. I would say he needs socks. With either gift, one of us is going to be unhappy.

The trope of Christmas being overly commercialized has been around for decades, and yet it never seems to get old. Rewatching A Charlie Brown Christmas with my 7-year-old this year, I was struck by how much I relate to Charlie Brown and the malaise he feels about the holiday. He helps his sister, Sally Brown, write a letter to Santa, and she is fully embracing the excess of the season, much to Charlie’s dismay. Sally tells Santa she’ll take cash if he can’t send gifts. “All I want is what I have coming to me,” she says. “All I want is my fair share.”

I don’t have a solution to the crush of holiday gifts we don’t want or need, but I wish I could figure one out that wouldn’t offend the people I love. I appreciate their generosity. I just wish it wasn’t taken to excess. Gift giving and receiving is not one of my love languages, so it makes me seem like an extra-big Scrooge this time of year. But I can’t help but think there are better ways to spend our money, especially when there are so many people in need. Could we at least skip the adult gifts and as a group make a significant donation to a charity? It feels to me like that’s a better way to spend our money than on a silk sleep mask. (An aside: Do people really wear these sleep masks because they are on every gift list!)

I imagine we’d all feel a lot better if we spent a little less on presents and focused on the important stuff around the holidays: spending time with loved ones and being grateful for the things we do have, not the things we need to buy.

Lindsey Stanberry is founder of the Purse, a newsletter about women and money. She’s formerly executive editor at Fortune and author of Refinery29 Money Diaries.