Christmas Budget Organization

Julie_MI_Z5November 26, 2006

Is anybody else cutting back the Christmas budget this year?

DH decided he wanted to give his nieces and nephews cash this year instead of gift cards. Ok, whatever. Makes no difference to me, it's his family. So he went to the bank to get cash and I already had the money-holder Christmas cards. Well, first he decides to reduce the amount 20% this year, for an undisclosed reason. Ok, whatever. Makes no difference to me, again, and it's his family. THEN he decides to tape a silver dollar in each one for no apparent reason, like a bunch of teenagers and kids in their 20's are going to be impressed by a 1970 silver dollar (he said he wasn't going to give them the "good" ones). Ok, whatever. Makes no difference to me, but I think it's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Then he starts putting them in envelopes and sealing them and I *have* to ask... Did you sign the cards??? Oh of course NOT. OK, that DOES make a difference! LOL Then he doesn't so much as write a "Merry Christmas" in the card, which you think he would since instead of taping the silver dollar on the blank part of the card, he tapes it over the part that has the printed "Merry Christmas". Can you tell he's never been in charge of the Christmas gifts before? ROFL

If he was going to pick this year to be tight with money, I don't know why he didn't just try to convince his sisters to give up the whole fake-gift exchange totally (I've tried before, but they just make me feel so awful about even SUGGESTING that we do stop... but really it's ridiculous since everyone gets gift cards).

So this morning I figured out the reason he MIGHT be cutting the budget is his one niece got married (add her husband to the list) and her new husband has 2 kids (add two more to the list), so we've gone from 7 to 10 this year and he wasn't willing to spend the extra money! Too bad he sealed the envelopes or I would open them up and make up the difference.

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We have cut back as has most of the extended family.

Really I just like to buy for the nephews who are 2 and 4, but I do get my sister, brother and mom something and DH takes care of his family. My brother and BIL get gift cards and the ladies usually something bath and body like...this year its pedicure sets which I think they will like as they always want to do pedicures that week and don't have their supplies with them. The nephews are getting $20-$30 worth of gifts, about 1/2 from last year. We used to do a very extended family gift exchange, but stopped that last year. In fact, I would be happy to just buy for my mom and nephews.

DH is spending about the same as last year, but this year I gave him a preloaded MasterCard debit card to do his shopping...he is the opposite of your DH!! He buys for second cousins!!

    Bookmark   November 27, 2006 at 2:03PM
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Julie, I sort of like his "dwindle down" strategy. He cuts the amount, and it seems less interesting or valuable. Eventually, they'll say, "why bother?"

(though I'm w/ you, the silver dollar thing is not one I'd have picked)

    Bookmark   November 27, 2006 at 2:21PM
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Yes, we are. Everyone has everything he or she needs or wants so gift cards and a few handmade items. this year.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2006 at 7:13PM
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We're cutting back too. I have a set amount for each of my kids. They are each also getting a small bit of cash (teens). I buy for my mom (but my dad hates gifts so I get something they both like or will both use). We used to do a grab bag for the nephews/nieces on my side but sometimes it didn't work out. Now I bow out of that and just give the 7 of them (ages 22 to 2)$10 cash. Who doesn't like cash???

We do a grab bag on husband's side for kids. Each kid picks a kid. We spend $25 for each gift. We pick on Christmas for the next year and hang it on Grandma's fridge the whole year.

We also buy for my mother in law, usually a gift certificate to QVC (her favorite) or a month's worth of trips to her hair dresser.

This year, DH and I agreed to get each other a nice TV for the living room as ours is 10 years old and not in the best shape.

Other than family, we buy for my boss and a few of my husband's coworkers. We send out about 100 Christmas cards to friends and family.

I took advantage of lots of websites with free shipping over Thanksgving and I'm just going to sit back and wait for my gifts to arrive.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 4:49PM
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Without trying to seem Scroogish, I eliminated all extended family gift giving when I had my child.

My husband and I give to my parents (his are deceased), our child together, and his 2 children. I have 6 siblings, most with children.

When I was young, with no children of my own, and making more money than my sibs, I felt obligated to send stuff. But the gifts I could afford were basically the "plastic nasty" cheap toys.

No parent or child needs those cheap, really breakable toys in their lives. It becomes clutter, and after a day's play, the kid doesn't even want it.

So my view is I'd rather spend the money on one or two significant gifts for my own child, and let my siblings do the same for theirs, rather than exchanging cheap crap the kids really had no long-term interest in.

My sibs were really upset but I had to tell them straight out "I will NOT send any gifts for your kids or you, and I will RETURN any you send to my child or us." Part of this was because they would send a gift to my biological son, and ignore my husband's children, but also, it's just too much stress for all concerned. And they did seem to expect significant gifts from me, because my husband and I both made more money than they did.

Gift cards do eliminate the "cheap crap" aspect of the gift-giving, but can seriously drain the wallet!

I do understand that this post will make us seem either "greedy" or "unwilling to share the wealth", but that's really not the case. I feel I have an obligation to MY nuclear family. My siblings are all in their 40's, and if they're relying on Auntie Mary for making their Christmas a good one, well, they're seriously misguided.

The gifts we give in our nuclear family tend to be really practical - sleep pants for our son, maybe a DVD or two, for us it will be a new refrigerator, since ours is 20 years old, LOL. Other gifts are a new set of sheets and a new blanket for our bed - also needed, and the surprise will be the color. My DH will likely get me a new springform pan I've had my eye on. Our "fun" stuff comes in the stockings - I will likely get some bath oil beads, my husband will get some leather work gloves, and my son, who is studying Eastern religions, will probably get a cat shaped Bhudda We keep the gift-giving to a really minor part of Christmas, although every single thing is wrapped, and everyone has gifts to open, both in the stocking and under the tree. And we have a blast opening.

So a long rambling reply, but I really think that people try to give too much to too many people, and it really makes no sense! I'd much rather have a "significant gift" from my parents, than a bunch of "had to get you a gift" stuff from the extended family.

Just My Humble Opinion - take it or leave it. But once I did, my life became so much simpler.

Mary C

    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 6:40PM
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No, you're fine Mary. I'll say what I said last year. The best gift my SIL ever gave me was suggesting we all stop exchanging gifts (which were ending being gift cards.)

DH and I decided not to exchange gifts this year. We are both hard to buy for and end up disappointed anyway. At 50, we've hit that point that we just buy what we want, when we want to purchase something rather than trying to tell each other what we want and never getting is correct anyway.

I had informed DH when we were first married that if a gift came from Costco, it wasn't a gift as far as I was concerned. It just meant that he hadn't bothered to go anywhere else and purchase something for me. Kind of "while I'm here" thinking. I tell him not to think. It gets him in trouble.

DS told me he needs jeans and he did NOT want them for Christmas. Ungrateful little poop.

I have taken all of the kids out and they each picked out something for their dad, so it's not like he won't get anything under the tree. Now, he just has to get something for his aunt and we are all finished with the shopping. I did find a hiding place for the Santa gifts this year. We have off site storage for DH's records, so we need to get them out of the trunk until a day or two before Christmas.


    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 10:02PM
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Not scroogish at all!! Every year I chip away at the whole extended gift deal. One year I hope to do the same as you. I would rather just get together with family, have some good food, play games and/or watch movies. I don't need and I am betting they don't need more stuff. Actually I would rather take that $$$ we would spend on each other and adopt a family who truly needs some things.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 11:12PM
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Patches, adopting a family is a great idea. I tried convincing my family and my husband's family to do the same. Last year they all said it was a great idea, but then everyone has gone out and started buying gifts for eachother instead. We have so much, why not buy for people who have nothing???

    Bookmark   November 29, 2006 at 1:51PM
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The adopt-a-family idea didn't go over well with my two SIL's when I tried it a couple years ago. Their response was, "Well if YOU don't want to buy gifts for OUR families I guess that's OK but WE will still buy gifts for your kids...." like I was THE MEANEST person in the world.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2006 at 6:22AM
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I know what you mean...I just don't get it. I have slowly been cutting back. We no longer buy for any of my aunts, uncles, cousins or second cousins and over the past few years I have cut the amount that we spend on my immediate relatives and nephews by half. I have convinced the men that we should stop the gift giving but my sister and mom I don't know if I ever will be able to convince.

DH still thinks he needs to buy everyone in his family something because they buy us something. I said to him, "I bet they buy us something, because we always buy them something and its a vicous circle!".

    Bookmark   November 30, 2006 at 11:36AM
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Several years ago we set up a gift exchange with my extended family. With 9 adults and 2 kids, it was just too much, especially when we only see each other once a year. So my cousin and I conspired and each presented the idea to our sides of the family. We still buy gifts for the kids. But for the adults, we each buy 1 gift under $20. It gets wrapped and set out. We draw numbers and the first person picks a gift. The 2nd person can either "steal" the first gift or pick another. You go around and around until each gift has been "stolen" twice or no one is left who wants to swap. It's a lot of fun and a whole lot cheaper than buying for everyone.

If we don't get together for Christmas, we simply don't exchange gifts at all.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2006 at 12:49PM
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I proposed a name-drawing that MIXED grown-ups and kids. I thought it would be fun (for one thing, there are too few kids). W/ requirements to snoop and spy, and pry info out of your "target's" other family members, etc.

People like the idea, but somehow it didn't end up happening. I'll have to bring it up again--but maybe draw names now for next year, so we've got all year to gather ideas.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2006 at 1:52PM
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The "all year to gather ideas" sounds good on paper, but wouldn't work with the inlaws. DH's family pretty much only gets together at Christmas. That's how we finally eliminated the adults from the gift list... everybody was just getting gift cards and decided it wasn't worth it.

P.S. If YOU are buying me a gift this year, do NOT get me a restaurant gift card! LOL I don't want to sound ungrateful, but anybody who knows me knows I do NOT really like to eat out, and everyone who knows me knows I LOVE shopping at Kohls and Home Depot's garden center (hint hint LOL).

    Bookmark   December 2, 2006 at 6:57AM
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I wish, hope and pray that my MIL would cut back. She is the queen of garage sale shoppers and spends all year looking for bargains in her home state which is 800 miles from where we live. By the time the holidays gets here, she has "gifts" for us that we neither want nor need AND which can't be returned (not that I could even return them due to the distance). Am I going to be politically incorrect on Jan 1 when I tell her politely that I don't want gifts in the future and I'd rather she'd make a charitable contribution to her favorite charity? This is a sensitive one with my husband. We do give one combined gift to MIL and FIL, usually tickets to the theater which they both enjoy. How do I handle this one or do I bite my tongue and say nothing?

    Bookmark   December 2, 2006 at 7:21AM
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If shopping for bargain gifts for you and her son is your MIL's greatest pleasure in life, say "Thank you" and get rid of them at your earliest convenience.

Or if she just like shopping, start getting all excited about how your internet friends have this GREAT idea for ALL the family members to give the gifts of CHARITY TO OTHERS for Christmas. Start talking about how you WISH "your" gifts could go to Toys for Tots (or pick something else, doesn't matter). Tell her you're telling EVERYONE how GREAT it would be if you and your husband's families gave TOYS TO CHILDREN instead of presents to you. See if she goes for it. She might... she still gets to shop!

    Bookmark   December 2, 2006 at 11:54AM
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Or if she just like shopping, start getting all excited about how your internet friends have this GREAT idea for ALL the family members to give the gifts of CHARITY TO OTHERS for Christmas.

We've been cutting back slowly for years. Us kids are fortunate enough to make good livings, so we tend to buy what we want (which, frankly, is not all that much). My mom still seems to think that buying gifts for everyone is necessary, but none of us kids need anything she could afford to buy and we know it's a stretch on her budget. I think my mom ties the gift-giving to being able to provide for her own. Anyway, aside from the Christmas gifts my mom already purchased this year, we somehow agreed that this year's gifts will be donations to charities made in each other's names -- with the proviso that we explain why we chose that charity to represent that recipient.

My only hesitation is that many charities don't seem to understand that a donation may happen only once. I'm afraid they'll expend whatever money we give them in an attempt to get us to give more.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2006 at 10:31PM
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Julie, Thanks for the idea. I have to plant the seed starting Jan 1.

I am a person who tries hard to avoid waste and would love to see someone's charitable resources go where they really are needed. My MIL is a garage sale/charity shop addict (I'm not exaggerating) and feels obligated to buy something at every sale she attends. Unfortunately, in my experience, not all sellers sell items that are worth having. Too often, that's what ends up under our tree.

Steve, You may very well end up on a permanent solicatation list but you do have the choice to request being taken off mailing lists. Also, think twice about providing your phone numbers if you want to avoid solications.

Thanks internet buddies, I'll be dropping loud hints as soon as the new year starts!

    Bookmark   December 2, 2006 at 11:59PM
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I'm not real crazy about the charity giving disguised as a gift thing. It still just seems to be shuffling money around to me.

What I've done to satisfy my own thrift store shopping urge is to participate with a forum which connects families in need. Gently used items are wanted. Not junk, but gently used. I signed up to do a young family with five kids. The mom provided their sizes and likes to give ideas and for the past couple of weeks I've been searching out the thrift stores for appropriate items. I did buy a few new things like socks, some small toy items and games, but otherwise the clothing, books and toys are all in good shape. The mom needed a coat. She isn't being picky, but just mentioned that she likes blue. I finally found a nice blue coat in a large size. I had to do a couple of small repairs and sew on some new buttons, and then picked her up gloves, a hat and scarf. The boxes are all ready to mail tomorrow.

It's so easy for me to just write a check that sometimes I don't feel like I'm doing anything. I realize the charities need the money, so we'll do that also, but this gets my "do gooder" need met for myself and since I don't need to buy much for my own family, I get in some additional shopping time in my favorite spots.


    Bookmark   December 3, 2006 at 3:47AM
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If you're creative, you can eliminate the one-time giving, eternal solicitations problem. For example, if your mother loves to cook, buy bags of groceries and take them to the church that is the local "food pantry" in your area. If your sister loves clothes, call the local battered womens shelter and ask what they need. If your brother is a NASCAR fan, buy a case of matchbox cars for a group collecting for children. See what I mean? No paper trail! For national organizations, I think a bank check would work?

    Bookmark   December 3, 2006 at 6:27AM
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I think as a whole we all need to stop this insane giving and remember that to be together is the best gift of all. We (a few years ago) stopped the extended family thing. It just got to be too much. We still do our 2 boys, MIL, and 2 nieces. For each other we choose something that we want togethter...and this year that might be nothing...we just built a huge pole barn and the bank account is kinda empty.
We do make it special to be together and eat great food, laugh and enjoy the season.
I too was the scrooge of the group but after a while it was ok..
Now if I could just get MIL to stop buying all the guys soap on a rope and cheap gloves we would be doing something.!
Karen L

    Bookmark   December 3, 2006 at 12:55PM
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Good points, Julie! I should put on my thinking cap ...

There's also subterfuge. :-) One year my (now-ex-)wife and I made a donation to the local animal shelter -- in the name of one of my wife's stuffed animals. We started getting calls to the house from this charity, asking for "George". Not being great fans of telemarketers, we passed the first few calls off with "George can't come to the phone now." Then the mail solicitations came in (in fairness, only from the animal shelter; they didn't sell the name to anyone else). Finally, the next time they called, we filled them in on the secret. To our surprise, we found it was not uncommon for people to donate in the name of a family pet with the family surname. We all had a good laugh about it. And I think my ex still donates to them.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2006 at 9:36AM
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TOO FUNNY! The animal shelter would have been an easy one. If you call ahead they'll tell you what they need most (animal food, office supplies, etc.) and you can put a big red bow on it and drop it off.


    Bookmark   December 4, 2006 at 6:12PM
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About charities --

My DH works for an elderly couple who make donations to a raft of charities, often as holiday gifts.

He has called each charity on the behalf of this couple and told them to send ONE mail solicitation a year, in November or December. If they send more than that one mail solicitation or call them on the phone, the couple will cease their donations.

It has worked.

As for the two of us, we have picked out one joint present and one gift apiece this year. Our real "gift" will be hosting one or more single adult friends for Christmas dinner.

I think I have trained my adult siblings not to send gifts anymore. I asked several years ago not exchange presents anymore. At times, they have ignored my request. When this happened, they got a thank you note in exchange -- I did not run out and buy a present and send it to them. This was difficult to do at first, but I'm really glad I've done it. It is sooo liberating.

A friend of mine a long time ago taught me this:
Gifts are supposed to be *gifts* -- which have no strings attached. Gifts are not supposed to be *obligations* that must be reciprocated.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2006 at 1:42PM
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