Dear Amanda and Suzanne:
In the last few years, my holiday gift list has multiplied exponentially. There are lots of little nieces and nephews to buy for now, and my siblings still insist on exchanging with each other and me.
I would be happy to not get a thing while trimming the list wherever possible. Any advice on how to scale back without coming across as Scrooge?
–Santa’s on a Budget
Amanda: I’m a big fan of the round robin method. Suzanne and I have done it with our group of friends from college and their kids and I’ve done it with my family. The important part of the round robin is that in order for it to work correctly, you need to set some parameters — how much will be spent per person (and people have to promise they will stick to that amount!), whether or not the children are a part of it (or maybe you have one round robin for the kids and one for the adults), will it be a secret process, etc.
In the gift exchanges I’ve done, every person buys for one other person. So if there are five members of your family, you buy five gifts (and will receive five in return). Deciding who gets to buy for who is part of the fun and there are many ways you can figure that out. I’ve employed a few:
- Alphabetical — Anna buys for Craig who buys for Jennifer who buys for Sam who buys for Anna
- Age — 2-year-old “buys” for 7-year-old who “buys” for 15-year-old who buys for 26-year-old who buys for 2-year-old
- Random — pulling names from a hat or stocking
- Use an online site like Elfster to handle the gift assignments
To really add to the fun, consider introducing a theme — maybe the gifts have to be a book or something that starts with the first letter of the person you are buying for.
Suzanne: Here’s how we did it in my family a few years back. My sister and I agreed that there was no need to exchange gifts among the adults when we each had a niece and nephew to buy for. So we focused on the kids and left it at that. My brother who is seven years younger than me and doesn’t have children wasn’t quite on board. Of course, I was still buying gifts for him and his wife since they didn’t have any little ones, which meant that he felt the need to reciprocate for me and my husband — in addition to buying gifts for my son and daughter. I think we finally got it straightened out last year and everyone is happy now.
Another idea for forgoing gifts is the tradition we started with my husband’s brother and sister-in-law. Instead of waiting for them to catch up to us with children (we just made it even this year) we agreed to pick a date between Christmas and New Year’s Eve to go to a really nice steakhouse — just the four of us — and enjoy a night of good food and conversation instead of exchanging token gifts.
So you might consider something along those lines to help in trimming your holiday gift list. And if all else fails, be brave and take the initiative to skip the gifts for a year even if there’s not a consensus. They’re bound to follow your lead next year.
Has the gift-giving spun out of control at your holiday celebrations or is your thinking that more is better? How do you and your family handle gift exchanges?
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