How do deal with gift-giving as your families and finances change?

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While discussing family gift-giving for the holidays, my husband and I discussed our changing lives and the changing lives of our families. Things like: Now that our brothers are over 21, do we still get them presents? And how do we tell them we don’t want them to use their limited funds to get us anything? And can we not get them presents while still buying my younger siblings presents? And what about when our siblings have kids too? We can’t afford to buy 10 kids quality presents as well as all of our other people! Plus, I don’t want our kid coming home with a truckload of gifts.

We discussed how we dreaded buying things for our parents: they, like us now, are financially comfortable enough to buy the things they want or need and anything we buy or make them ends up being clutter. We contemplated asking them exactly what they wanted and buying/making that, but buying a gift we were told to buy feels silly and more like a strange business transaction than a thoughtful gift. We also seriously contemplated gifting them “experiences,” but all the options we thought of were outside of our budget.

So my question is this: How have other Homies dealt with gift giving as their families and finances have changed? Have any of you been brave enough to get rid of gift giving completely and how the heck did you broach the subject with your families? -Angelle

Ah, the joys of being an adult during the holidays. My favorite solution to this: Yankee Swap or white elephant gift exchange. Of course it only works if everyone is together for the holidays. Everyone only needs to buy one gift, but everyone leaves with something new/fun/stupid/useful/silly, and I’ve always had fun doing this.

But that’s just me, what about you guys? How have you adulted gift-giving as your family has grown?

Comments on How do deal with gift-giving as your families and finances change?

  1. We ran into this problem years ago. I was 16 for our first exchange and all my siblings in their 20s. We stared a themed secret Santa (this year, it’s slippers or socks!) with all the siblings and also parents. At the time, we still got our parents gifts and they still bought for us. Now, as we are all well above 20, we don’t exchange separately with parents. All siblings, husbands/wives, and our parents draw one name to buy a gift for. With the little kids in the next generation now, the siblings each draw a name (or 2 if necessary) so they only buy for one niece/nephew. The holidays seem to be much more enjoyable once we simplified! Everyone was on board for wiping out all other gifts. This year we decided to contribute funds to a giant family photo instead. Good luck!

    • that’s what my family does and works great for us too. this year is “make something” (if you can) and last year was “gag gifts”. our youngest is 15 right now, but my cousin and I just got married so we’ll likely be adding little ones in the coming years. I’m not sure how much it will change with a baby, but we probably have at least one more christmas after this before that becomes an issue.

    • I love this idea. Exchanging gifts with my in-laws is always a challenge. I wish they would go for something like this to prevent us from having to try to figure out what they want/need.

      I remember my family used to do something similar. At Thanksgiving, all the adults drew names for the secret santa. They still gave gifts to us kids, but they only bought one gift for another adult and I believe there was a dollar range so everyone got something of roughly equal value.

      • We do this too! With my immediate family we do a name draw (which you can opt out of if you don’t feel it’s a year you can afford to participate). We admittedly also still do stockings, but my Mom and Aunt take such joy in doing them, that we haven’t been able to wean off of that yet. We did discuss dropping gifts altogether this year, but my mom loves having them under the tree, so this was a good compromise.

        My husband’s family still does gifts all around, but I’ll be curious to see how that shifts.

    • For people who don’t have a set invite list for Christmas, my husband’s family does a White Elephant style gift exchange ( that way 1) no one gets screwed if their gift giver doesn’t make it 2) people who don’t have the budget/interest can easily opt out of giving and recieving gifts by just not bringing one 3) people can be added at the last minute because as long as everyone who participates brought a gift there will be enough for everyone 4) it’s a fun “party game” that people not participating still tend to enjoy spectating (we can get a little cut-throat :-P)

      Kids still get gifts. You join the exchange at 18 at which point you stop recieving gifts from parents and grandparents (and Aunts and Uncles if they chose to give gifts).

      • We did this with my extended family for maybe 8 years before it fizzled out and we stopped exchanging gifts. We put the cut-off at age 12 because the teenagers wanted to play. The age range and some people putting in dumb gifts made it harder (as did having too many people for trades – more exciting gifts changed hands too many times), but if everyone is a good sport, it’s all fun!

        My sister put in a bunch of romance novels she had read, and my cousin’s roommate’s Mom (an unexpected addition!) absolutely loved receiving them! It’s a great way to give gifts to those you don’t know so well.

    • This is what I do too. I learned to make a very good nutllea fudge and caramels and that is what the family gets every year. They all look forward to it and ask for it. There are 4 kids under 18, this year they are getting movie theater tickets and a large (movie theater sized) box of candy each.

    • I do this too! I make some delicious homemade chocolates. Once you get the nack of making chocolate, you can make dozens for like, less than a dollar. Seriously, I spend more on the boxes and mini muffin trays in which to put the chocolates than I do on the actual chocolate.

      • yas.

        i’m going a little fancier this year – i’m doing a couple of candies, loaf cakes, and cookies – but still, it’ll be lots cheaper than buying things that just take up space. everyone likes food…and i know all their allergies…so why not save myself a bundle and put effort into it?

        hell i wish more people would do that for me. i would freeze all the treats and snack on them for the rest of the year!

  2. Gift-giving is my favorite part of Christmas. I LOVE coming up with new and fun ways to celebrate. Here are a couple of my favorites:
    1. One year, I told everyone that for Christmas, I wanted them to give me a movie that was important to them in some way. I got a really eclectic mix of new stuff to watch, and everyone really enjoyed the trip down memory lane. Plus, super cheap. You can do this with CDs or books and it’ll be just as great.
    2. I did a lot of research and picked a charity for each person on my list. Then I wrote them a letter explaining that for Christmas, I was giving them a choice–a blank check. They could put their name in, they could give it to anyone they wanted, or they could give it to the charity I picked. And I explained why I liked that charity for them. It gave me the chance to tell them how I feel about them, and it gave them the chance to get a gift for themselves or give it away. The only downside to this was waiting forever for checks to clear. Upside is you can put in any amount you want. I think I did $20.
    3. For parents and grandparents, photos are usually a great gift. Make it fancy by framing them or making a collage or a photo album. That saves them the hassle of finding a way to display a bunch of prints.
    4. One year, I got everyone a specific gift and stuck them under the tree without labels. They each picked a gift, unwrapped it, and everyone had to guess who it belonged to. Surprisingly fun.
    5. I’m a big fan of wishlists. If you tell me you want bunny slippers, well, chances are good you know I’m getting you bunny slippers. If you tell me you want bunny slippers, a pack of good watercolor pencils, and a lava lamp, then I can pick and still surprise you.

    Gifts are nothing more than something from your heart to theirs. If you think things aren’t what they want, think outside the box. Does your town have any fun movie theaters? Grab a gift card for two tickets. Do they have kids? Offer babysitting. Are they busy clearing out the stuff in their house? Give them a really big cardboard box full of trash bags and cookies (and possibly a bottle of wine). Do you bake or cook? Make them their favorite pie or casserole.

    Of course, if you have a really large family, none of these ideas may work for you, or your family may be as desperate to get away from gift-giving as you are. The best way to handle that is to talk to them.

  3. I buy gift cards for my parents and two best friends. I send a bouquet of flowers to my grandparents. The flowers are usually a good option for people who already have everything – lets them know you’re thinking of them and they have something to pretty up a room.

  4. I’ve a large family, but my siblings are all adults now and many with multiple kids. My list of Christmas gifts to buy was getting intense. So we all agreed to do a name exchange. Now each year I buy for one sibling and his or her family. That’s really helped me not feel too overwhelmed and keep in budget.

    • This is how my big family (six kids) handles it too. The first couple years we left my parents out of the exchange (so we all still got something for them and they got a gift for each of us) but later on we folded them into the exchange too. We did a random name draw the first few years also, but now I arrange who everyone will give to, avoiding having repeats too close together. My husband has fewer siblings (four kids) but they all still give to everyone, plus two sets of parents as his mom and dad divorced, plus his grandparents expect something while mine do not. Finding gifts for his side is much more stressful.

  5. We’ve done gift exchanges in the past. This year we are doing a weekend trip with the immediate family where everyone pays their own way. This way we still get to have fun experience together but don’t have to stress over gift giving. We are all buying gifts for my nephew as it’s his first Christmas.

  6. My family has always been big on gift lists. Since our birthdays all fall between November & January, the lists work for both birthday and Christmas. The lists are usually 10-20 items long and everyone coordinates with each other as to who is buying what. This worked great for years until my husband and I moved into a small New York apartment and realized we couldn’t sustain that amount of gift receiving. The way I convinced everyone to stop buying us gifts was to announce that I would no longer be buying them anything. My brother had problems with it at first saying that it’s the thought that counts. I asked him to write me a nice letter or something instead. Turns out that’s harder than buying a book or DVD so I haven’t received anything in several years from him yet (maybe one day I’ll get that letter). My mother has a harder time with it mostly because my parents still exchange gifts with my brother. Some years she has made a donation in our names to a charity we support. Other times she has given us gift cards for iTunes or something like that. This year she bought us a sewing machine because she knew I was shopping around for one. The gifts have become far less frequent and far more useful/thoughtful in my opinion. It’s no longer stuff for the sake of stuff. And I don’t feel guilty about not giving them anything because I was clear about my expectations early on. We don’t have children yet but we don’t give gifts to the nephews anymore either so hopefully that will discourage thousands of toys being sent by grandma if kids ever make it into the picture for us. We’ll see…

  7. Once my siblings & I were adults with our own partners, Christmas became quite a gathering – 9-10 adults just in the immediate family, and now there’s two kiddos as well. Our solution was a Secret Santa among the adults, with a price limit that was fair to everyone’s budget. I also usually pick up a little something for my parents, since they always host.

    Gifts aren’t required for the little ones – my parents spoil them plenty, plus their own parents will, but most of us get them a little something anyway.

    One thing that I’ve done is handmade things that will be used up (so they don’t take up space long-term) – a set of spices for barbecuing, lemon sugar scrub for dry hands, cookies or other sweets, etc. My brother-in-law gave out handmade Christmas tree ornaments one year, which I thought was cool – you always see it at Christmas, but then it lives in storage the rest of the year anyway.

    I’ve also put together little gift bags for kids using stuff from the dollar store – stickers, colouring pages, maybe a little toy, and something useful like a cute winter hat. One of my nephew’s favourite stuffed animals when he was little was a duck that I bought on a whim at the dollar store – he loved it so much that my sister asked me to go back and buy a couple more for the eventual day that he would lose Ducky and be heartbroken.

    RE: experiences being too expensive – you could make up a coupon for a movie outing or something, possibly? Also, hit up Groupon and see what’s available to you locally.

    • We started doing secret santa with my family as well! We draw names after dinner on Christmas for the following year with the rules that:
      1. you can’t pick yourself
      2. you can’t pick your significant other (we assume that everyone is buying their SO a separate gift)
      3. you can’t pick the same person you drew the year before (some people in my family are SUPER hard to buy for).

      Our family does a $100 budget.

      We’ve found it makes the gift buying process much easier and less stressful. This is our first year with a new generation (my son) so I’m not sure how we’re going to handle that down the road.

      • We use the same rules and it works out pretty well. We do our draw in mid November at another annual family gathering (not Thanksgiving, but that would work!), which means we get about a month to shop. I can’t imagine having to keep it a secret all the next year! I can barely keep it together for a month 😉

        The additional rule that I insisted on is NO GIFT CARDS! Because honestly? I think gift cards are often used as a last resort “oh I couldn’t be bothered to put in any effort to find something” gift. I’d be a little hurt if everyone else is getting cool, thoughtful gifts but then the person who had me gives me a gift card…knowing my siblings, I can totally see that happening 😛

        • Yeah, we had a problem one year where my brother forgot who he had, so we all had to reveal our person so he could process of eliminate it.

          I only do giftcards as gifts for people like my son’s daycare teacher that I see and what to give something but don’t know well enough to get a real gift.

          • With regards to the gift card thing, just remember that some people really do like them! I always have gift cards on my Christmas wish list and for the first few years we were together my husband never got me any because he thought they were impersonal. When he finally got me a gift card (which I think was to Victoria’s Secret for Valentine’s Day) he was shocked at how excited I got. I’m just saying don’t count them out entirely for people you’re close to because I don’t care who they come from, I live for gift cards!

          • In my family we have a non involved party (it used to be an older kid, old enough to read and weird but too young for secret Santa) be the official “holder of the list”. If anyone forgot their person you could call the list holder. Now that we have no kids old enough, my boyfriend does it (this is a serious”no ring no bring” secret Santa affair)

            Since someone forgets every year, this works great for us!

        • See I disagree with that- last year I really wanted a fit bit, so all I wanted was gift cards because I’m not going to ask for that when the limit for grab bag was $50. I didn’t need anything, and there wasn’t anything that I wanted other than that. So with two $50 Amazon gift cards I got exactly what I wanted. I think it depends on the person/family, but with my family everyone tends to want gift cards because they want to put the card toward a big ticket item that they really want but can’t quite afford yet. I’d be happier knowing that I gave someone a gift card so they can get what they really want/need instead of getting something that might collect dust because I wasn’t aloud to get them a gift card.

          • That’s a great point, absolutely! Next year I think I’ll mention an option – if someone really wants gift cards toward something, they can say so at the time of the name draw. Thanks for the idea 🙂

          • Hubby and I did this too one year. We wanted a new TV really bad (ours was really small and slowly dying) so we asked for Best Buy giftcards, and then used those as a down payment on the TV we wanted. It saved us money on something we really wanted, and everyone gave us something that we could use. It was really win-win.

            And my daughter likes giftcards to barnes and noble because she loves books so she can pick exactly what suits her fancy. Some family thinks its not very personal, but it makes her SO happy!!

  8. My family is very small (parents and younger sister). We all exchange gifts. In recent years, my parents only want things that are consumable in some way (things like wines, gift certificates to nice restaurants, tickets to concerts or the theatre, etc.) My sister and I usually get each other amazon gift cards. Every year, my parents pay for our cell phone bills for the upcoming year as our Christmas present. So, in my family, we have basically completely gotten rid of clutter-y gifts.

    On the other hand, my in-laws have a bigger family, and we don’t exchange gifts with everyone. My MIL has 4 sons. Three of those have wives. Three (not the same three) also have kids. So, when we get together, there is: my MIL, 4 sons + 3 wives, 4 grandchildren (and at least 2 grandchildren have significant others that they bring) + 4 step-grandchildren. At some point, the decision was made to only buy presents for my MIL and the grandchildren under 18. My MIL has a special “adults only” holiday party around Christmas, and once you are old enough to go to that party, you don’t get a gift any more.

    • Whaaaat. Paying the cell phone bills for the year ahead is such a cool idea!

      One year (back when we all had pay-as-you-go phones), I remember my parents gave us gift cards of credit for our phones, which was honestly SO HELPFUL at the time.

      • It is for serious the BEST present. It is so so helpful, and I do think it is a really thoughtful gift! (I’ve also gotten on this kick where I only ask for things I need as presents – for my birthday, my parents bought me new sneakers, and I was ecstatic! My sister gave my husband a new down pillow last Christmas, and he was soooo happy)

        • Even though it might not seem like an exciting gift, pre-paying a bill is great as it allows the receiver to use their money on something they’d like, when they have the time. Way back in the day my parents used to pay a certain amount to my grandparents’ or great-aunt’s electric bill so they’d have a credit for a while.

  9. When I was a kid my extended family would draw names from a hat – or hats, really, since the grown ups did one and the kids did another. This usually happened by mid-November since it wasn’t guaranteed that we would all see each other for Thanksgiving (or if we forgot, it would just happen at Thanksgiving) and gave time to take advantage of sales. Back when all the adults were married, the gifts were done by couple (Aunt A and Uncle B would buy for Aunt C and Uncle D). There was an agreed upon price cap too. This way everyone got something but there wasn’t a ridiculous amount of crap being exchanged (and shopped for – as a responsible grown up now, I hate how time consuming thinking up and shopping for a bunch of gifts can be).

    Now we do a Yankee Swap, which is much more fun since there’s less pressure to find the perfect gift for a given person.

  10. I’m lucky and my family has a long standing policy on this. My huge close knit Irish Catholic family decided years ago that it was financially impossible to buy presents for everyone. So the rule is basically this. If your in grade school you get a gift. If you are an adult you don’t. All the kids go in together to get a bigger present for the various parents/ grandparents. And everyone sets what they can afford to give. This way we don’t evenly split a present where several people can’t afford and others could easily afford more. This year my siblings and I decided that we would set a new rule. We wouldn’t be giving our nieces and nephew gifts at all. We’d instead do a larger donation to an agreed upon charity. Again each family would decide what they can afford. So basically this year we’d be giving a group gift to mom/ step dad and dad/ step mom and then one large donation in honor of the entire family.

    • I love the family donation idea! I’ll keep that in mind for the future as my siblings and I tend to be on opposite ends of the financial spectrum it makes sense for everyone to pitch in whatever they can afford.

  11. Between my husbands siblings and partners, we all draw names.
    For the nieces and nephew we just stick a price limit on it, like $20 each.
    The kids are all under 4, so they’re pretty thrilled with anything really.
    For his parents and mine, we also put price limits on it, but there’s usually a lot more thought that goes into the planning of the gift. They all appreciate the intent and love behind a gift more than the gift itself.

  12. We have done various things over the years:

    1) With my in-laws, until recently, we all got everyone presents. We sent out a wishlist ahead of time, and people tried getting things off of that. The wishlist could be added to throughout the year, and for some members there was a rollover of gifts that weren’t given one year were added to the list the next. It started to get unwieldy and expensive when we all got partnered up, so we went to couples gifts. We did a $100 limit (which could easily be $50) and most of the gifts were things for experiences. Groupon & Living Social were lifesavers. For $50 we could get something that was a $75 value. We’ve enjoyed giving the gift of different restaurants, distillery tours, a glass blowing class. All things that the receiver would probably never have chosen on their own.

    2) In my family, we have done a gift exchange with a $25 limit. It started 10 years ago when we were all more financially strapped, but this year we looked around and realized that I/my honey were the only one following the ‘rules’ and so we decided that since our family is small now (only 4 people to buy for) we’ll do gifts for everyone or couples gifts if we find something else. We upped the limit to $100.

    3) My extended family does the nice white elephant gift exchange (yankee swap?) game. We cap it at $25 and usually end up swapping bottles of wine, chocolate boxes, fancy cheeses, teas, etc.

  13. My family has gone through several changes as far as gift giving.
    When I was a child every single person bought a present for every single other person. This was financial hell for my parents who had the least amount of money and a young child. Eventually, they spoke up and the gift giving trend changed into a secret Santa for the adults, and everyone got something for the children. Once the children were no longer children (upon either reaching the age of 18 or graduating college) they were added into the secret Santa pool.
    Years later when my grandparents passed away and my cousin took over Christmas Day festivities it got turned from secret Santa into Yankee Swap and that’s how it is to this day. I still exchange presents with my parents but not our wider family.
    In my husband’s family though, we’re still expected to buy gifts for his adult sisters and vice versa. I have honestly never liked anything they’ve picked out for me so I’ve turned to asking for gift cards. But, I really would like to brooch the subject with my husband that maybe it’s time to stop exchanging with them since they are grown women with jobs that make more than ours do! Just because they live at home still doesn’t mean they’re “children” anymore.

    • We have the same gift routine with my mum’s extended family: presents for children under eighteen, and a gift swap game for the adults. The gift swap game is hella entertaining once everyone has had a few drinks.

      • Oh yes, drinks + gift swaps = hilarity every time! Do you guys ever have themes to your swaps? Sometimes we’ll do a gift card year, a food year, an desktop calendar year, etc. That year was really funny because my cousin’s very buttoned up father ended up with a “You Might be a Redneck” desktop calendar!

    • Ugh, yes at the in-law sibling thing. We have to buy for my husbands brother and his wife who live with their 7 year old in my in-laws basement. I don’t see why we have to buy for each other when there’s kids to buy for.

      • Same here! His younger sisters don’t have children so I think sometimes he still sees them as “kids.” Kids who have higher paying jobs and drive newer vehicles than we do … anyway, I digress. But we still have to get a gift for his older sister, her husband, and all four of THEIR children even though their oldest is nearly 20. I feel like we should only be buying for the actual children who are two, eight, and seventeen.

        • My husband’s family only buys for the “kids” and what that means, is the youngest generation. That used to be us up until a few years ago when his step brothers had kids. At that point we were both in our 20s so the gifts we did get from them, were simply things like bottles of wine or gift cards, so I think we were getting low on the priority list anyway (all the “kids” were in 20s and 30s).

          My family, my brother and I are still the youngest generation, so my parents keep getting us gifts. I am interested to see if that will change when we start having kids.

          I don’t do gifts for anyone except for my immediate family (dad, brother, husband) and the nieces/nephews because they are kids and it brings joy to their lives and blah blah blah. All the adults can screw off, I mean, why would an adult get mad about not getting gifts for Christmas? Why should anyone feel a *need* to get that person a gift, like “Thank you for your companionship, here is a gift celebrating my love and adoration for you, because nothing says love more than a potted plant.” (That’s why I think edibles are the best gifts, they are homemade and personalized).

  14. We changed our approach to gift-giving the year we got married. I was a B.Ed student, my husband was working part-time in retail, and we were broke as fuck. Our approach went as follows:

    Older adults: Christmas cards. Relatives that own their home and cars and have zero student debt do not need more stuff. A lovely Christmas card is still a joy in the age of mass emails and facebook shout-outs. Now that we have a kid we throw in a photo of her, and sometimes a homemade ornament (but not always. I’m single parenting this year while my partner is at school so we’re skipping the extras).

    His parents: this gets trickier, because my partner’s mum and dad are hoarders. Give cards get lost, consumables go to die in a cabinet somewhere, other gifts stay in their original packaging and I get the sads when I realize that hand-knit scarf has never been worn. We try to keep it small, with a max budget of fifteen for each parent, and go for something that’s heartfelt yet no big deal if lost. This year we gave antique salt and pepper shakers with the logo of their fraternal organization, and a box of chocolates from our daughter.

    My parents and siblings: experiential gifts. This year I am taking my family to see a play. My immediate family has also started the conversation about switching to group gifts, but that’s Christmas 2016 at the earliest. I opted for a preview performance to keep costs down.

    His brother, sister-in-law, and their kid: They live far away so we do the gift card route, otherwise we would spend a fortune on postage. I have learned to set FIRM LIMITS on the amount of cash we can spend on gift cards.

    Kids: I have a pile of cousins that we have to buy for, so I try to build my present stash throughout the year, and limit it to $10/kid. Consignment stores and regifting are my friends. Scholastic book orders have also come in handy! Other kids I try to strike off my list; as much as I love the girls I used to nanny, I know they don’t really need more stuff from me.

    The rest: Cookie boxes. I like baking, people like cookies. If they don’t like cookies they can pass them along!

    Other ideas: My partner and I have Visa Rewards points, which we usually redeem for gift cards to places like Chapters and Winners, which then fund our gift giving. I also save change throughout the year for Christmas spending (including charitable donations). I also have no problem with re-gifting or buying nice second hand gifts. Not everyone feels this way, but my kid is not going to know that her wooden cash register came from a consignment shop and not Toys R Us.

    Long story short: don’t be afraid to cut people from your list, or to change traditions. Have the awkward conversation about spending limits, or about ceasing gift exchanges when adults are concerned. Go handmade, local, experiential, or charitable if you want to do something different. But cross things and people off your to-do list. I have started a Christmas “fuck it” list and I’m feeling much less stressed about the holiday.

    • Yes to second-hand gifts! If you have $15 to spend on me, I’d rather you hit up the used bookstore and get me five or six books than hit up B&N and get me one. The story doesn’t go away after it gets read!

    • In regards to sending gifts far away- I bought something from Amazon and had it sent to my cousins 5 year old and did not have to pay shipping. And I think I paid $5 for gift wrapping. He got exactly what he wanted and I didn’t have to pay an insane amount to ship it!

  15. On my mom’s side of the family we’ve been doing the white elephant exchange for a couple years now and it’s worked out great. My grandma still gets gifts for the grand kids and great grand kids because no one can talk her out of it.

    On my dad’s side only the younger kids get presents, the older crowd gets a gift card or something really small usually from my grandma.

    • My grandmother is the same way! Her and my grandpa are not included in the grab bag because she flat out refuses to stop buying gifts for everyone. Her exact words were, “if you include me than don’t be pissed when someone gets two gifts, because they’ll get the grab bag gift and the gift I was planning on giving in the first place!”
      Little old ladies can be so stubborn lol.

      • I have this problem as well. My grandparents are included in our swap but they ALSO still buy gifts for their kids and grandkids (but not those who have married into the family) which they totally don’t have to do but I don’t think they’re gonna stop anytime soon, lol. (Also, we as grandkids are expected to buy something for them too which drives me crazy. I want to talk to my dad this year to see if we can possibly phase that out and we all just go in on a big group gift for them)

  16. I finally broached this subject with my mom’s side of the family this year because buying for all of my adult siblings (some of which I see once a year) was getting hard. I talked everyone into doing a secret santa (excluding my mom and stepdad because they insist on getting all of us gifts). It’s a step in the right direction as far as I’m concerned. We didn’t put limitations on gifting for the next generation (our kids and niece) because I feel like buying kids things is one of the best parts of Christmas.
    It’s hard to balance things as adults. My sister and I have had a “only homemade” gift rule for the last several years and that has worked out nicely. Some years we didn’t exchange gifts at all and that was okay too. It should be about the time spent not about spending money on clutter.

  17. We started doing name-draw Secret Santa years ago, as my generation of kids reached adulthood, and then after 15 years or so of that, we went to the Yankee Swap. That took the enjoyment out of it for me, as the point of gift-giving, I find, is in thinking about the recipient and figuring out something that they’d want or use or just enjoy. And if all else fails, you get their parent, spouse, or children to ask them what they want and get that for them. Secret Santa was great because you only had to do that for one person instead of everybody. With the Yankee Swap (although it was called Kris Kringle in our family), everyone now ends up with something that they know they didn’t want or care about, except for my mother’s gift, because she always buys a giant handful of lottery tickets and wraps them.

    (My family does not share my attitude about gift-giving, it seems, as it never occurred to any of the extended family to ask my mother about what I wanted or to go to my Amazon wishlist. Which is why they hated Secret Santa and like Kris Kringle.)

  18. In our family, now that all of the cousins are over 21, we just do one big Yankee Swap with the aunts and uncles and cousins & grandparents. We still buy for our grandparents (I would love to phase this out) and I still buy for my parents & brother & SIL, and now the nieces and nephews but not feeling like we have to buy for all the cousins etc has helped a lot. It’s also cut down on the amount of gifts. My grandparents still buy for all of the grandchildren even though they definitely don’t have to and I think most of us feel that they shouldn’t be.

  19. We’ve compromised and will be doing consumable gifts only this year. So baked goods, candy, tea, coffee, soap…simple stuff that will get used/eaten.
    My husband and I weren’t sure what to do – for financial and ideological reasons, we didn’t want to exchange typical gifts this year with family. But we understood that banning gifts wouldn’t go over 😛 so we suggested food as a money-saving alternative, and all our parents and grandparents agree. My siblings are all adults now, but I could see this working for younger family members to (and their parents can always give other gifts too).
    My husband and I will be getting each other a small gift. He needs a new watch; I’m not sure what he has planned for me, but if he asks, I need slippers! We are trying to keep things simple. Now I know we’ll just need to bake some delicious cookies and banana bread, wrap them up, and that’s that.

  20. On both my mom and dads side of the family we do a grab bag/secret Santa for anyone over 18. Anyone under 18 gets gifts from everyone. Grab bag gifts are limited to $50, and gifts for kids are $25

    The only time this was an issue was when I turned 18- my parents were the firs to have a kid (I’m an only child) and all my cousins are almost 10 years younger than me. My aunts and uncles felt bad that my parents would be buying gifts for all their kids, but they wouldn’t have to buy for me. So I didn’t do grab bag until I was 25 when I got engaged and they were like, “yea your a real adult now.” Lol.

    • This is sort of what happened to me but for different reasons. When I turned 18 I was in college so my grandparents, aunts, and uncles decided that I was still a “kid” because I was living at home, didn’t have a full time job, and was still in school. Once I graduated college and was in the real world is when they stopped giving me Christmas gifts.

  21. We’ve only got a small family, so I buy something small for my 5 nieces and nephews, a joint parent for my parents, and joint presents for my 2 brothers and their respective other halves. And then my husband of course. Last year I got my brothers a bottle of wine and a cake of nice chocolate, with a label on it that said “For when the kids go to bed” – they really appreciated it!
    My husband’s family all live overseas, so we only buy for his nephew who is 2, for his bday which is Christmas Day. When we’re over there, it’s Secret Santa draw, because his family is HUGE!

  22. Our family cut out gifts for each other (all the adults) several years ago & instead we put what we would normally spend on each other (say, $20 each) towards a weekend away somewhere, usually we rent a lake house. It’s a great excuse to get together for a mini vacation later on in the year, & it doesn’t break the bank. The best part is that it takes the focus off of material things and puts it where it should be–spending more quality time together.

    For the kids we’ve each been buying for all the nieces & nephews but our ever-expanding family prompted a conversation I started recently where I suggested drawing names (like we used to when we were growing up for all of our many cousins). Luckily it was met with huge support & everyone’s on board–in fact we decided that after this year no more gifts at all except the vacation fund. We still buy for our own kids, my parents still buy for their grandkids (little thoughtful things) and we have a few circles of friends that we exchange with, but nothing big & it’s a huge stress reducer (not to mention time & money saver) not having to get a zillion gifts every year. My husband & I just get each other little things for our stockings.

    For a different idea for those you do have to buy for, one of the best & most unexpected gifts I ever got was a housecleaning service. 2 hours paid for that I could set up any time I wanted. What a brilliant idea & something I had never splurged for myself, but now I do occasionally to keep my sanity. They have groupons & living social type things with local companies I’ve seen so this could be done fairly inexpensively (and you’d be supporting local businesses too–bonus!)

  23. My family used to draw names but as the family got bigger and even most of my nieces and nephews got to be teenagers we switched to a nice white elephant. My parents buy a gift for the grand kids 10 and under and ever one else brings a gift around $20. The only rule is it can’t be something you wouldn’t want to take back home with you. There’s always a prett good mix of stuff; lotion,legos, kitchen accessories, movies, games, and one year a hamster. It’s been really fun.

  24. If I find my list is too large or I have to get a gift for someone’s new sig. other, I usually go for movie tickets and a box of a candy I know they like from Target or 5-Below. If you don’t know, you can always ask the treat and it doesn’t give away the surprise. Plus, most companies offer some kind of discount on movie tickets through employee/union perks.

    • Yes on using union/employee/member perks to buy things at a discount rate. I get a decent amount of movie tickets through my cell phone plan. If you work in retail, there is also a chance of incentive prizes that can be re-distributed as gifts. My husband had all kinds of gifts cards given to him as rewards for selling well when he worked at Future Shop.

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