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We have a very big family. Gift giving gets very expensive with Christmas and all the birthdays, etc. We are trying to buy a house and our income in a lot less then others in the family. Is there a polite way to bring up the "let's not exchange gifts" conversation? I'm a little embarrassed by this, but we really can't afford to buy gifts for aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. We've tried the name drawing, but everyone else ends up buying for everyone anyway.
Sorry, didn't see the last of your post until I posted mine. Then I would just come right out and say it. It is difficult to buy for everyone, why don't we just buy for the kids instead?
Name drawing - as you said - doesn't always work because some people still feel obligated to buy for everyone anyway.
I'm also trying to save up for our first house and we just had our second baby (I've been a SAHM for over three years now, so we're also on one income) so I know how tight things can be. Last year we just didn't have the money to buy something for everyone, so here's a few things we did instead:
1) Instead of buying gifts for people my three year old and I baked gifts instead. We made all kinds of cookies, handmade chocolates, etc. and packaged them up really nicely. I thought they'd be much better than some little gift that I wasn't sure someone would like. They went over well (who can resist yummy food) and I think it was really appreciated because my son helped me. The tags on the gifts had a picture of my son baking the gifts (proof that he helped!), which everyone thought was cute.
2) Instead of buying individual gifts for everyone, we also gave some family gifts. Think items like a movie basket (filled with a DVD, popcorn, etc.) or a new board game.
3) I haven't tried this yet (the kids in the family are too young) but instead of giving them all gifts of stuff (I know their parents don't need more toys cluttering up their rooms) my gift to my nieces and nephews will be a Christmas party. I'll have a bunch of them over and we'll do some fun festive activites and we'll also do some sort of craft or plan a talent show for the kids to give to their parents as gifts for Christmas. We have the kids over periodically to hang out with their cousins anyway, but this one will be special because I'll send out special invites, decorate the table, have place cards, whatever. It'll also give my brothers and sisters some time to do some last mintue shopping. I already take one afternoon with my son to make gifts for other people, so adding in a few extras kids and a few more craft supplies isn't time consuming or expensive.
You may feel awkward about bringing up the subject of no gifts - I know I would too - so maybe bring it up casually sometime, like after the holidays when everyone gets their first credit card bill :) This way it won't really be a request, just something you mention while talking about the holidays and hopefully you'll find that a bunch of family members also feel the same way.
For years we were breaking the bank because of a large family then plus a spouses family. We (brothers and sisters) got together and decided that we really didn't need to buy for anyone, but our mother and the kids. We then decided to just let the kids draw for one another. If you have one kid, you draw one kid name...two then two names, etc. We all bring potluck on holidays and then we aren't stressed and broke!
My dear nana (bless her) also found this time of year hard because no matter how many times she asked for "no gifts" the family just kept on giving, so she covered and decorated two boxes, one for male and one for female and during the year bought and wrapped very inexpensive gifts ie soap and face washer,stamps and pretty paper,handmade items she made herself recycled items ect (plenty of ideas on this site alone) placed them into the boxes and every one had a lucky dip. You could also have a childs box if you have a lot of children in the family. Hopfully your family will understand that its the thought that counts, not the cost of the gift
Not only is it a money issue at our house, but we also have too much stuff. Why don't you suggest that everyone donate whatever amount they are comfortable with and buy gifts for a needy child. If you collect a large sum you could buy for more than one child or an entire family. Some people like to shop so either let that person do all the purchasing with the money collected or instead of a cash donation they can donate a gift. We do this where I work and everyone enjoys seeing what their money bought. Also, we know that the gifts are needed and appreciated.
One idea is to give one gift to each family, something they can enjoy together, like a board game or movie rental coupons.
I love giving gifts. I am probably the "uncooperative" person who gives "excessively." I don't give big gifts, but I do give little gifts to lots of people at Christmas-- family members, co-workers, friends. I don't expect anything in return, I just like to making people happy. Sometimes people will give me a small gift a few days later in return-- something obviously "regifted." This is so silly. I don't know why they think I want something in return.
If a person wants to give you a gift, let them give it. They probably enjoy seeing the delight on your face when you open the gift and they probably don't really care if they get something in return or not.
Gifts should be GIVEN, not SWAPPED. Eye-for-an-eye gift giving is just not the way it's meant to be.
I have a comment about the Chinese Christmas idea. It may be fun to do it this way, except to the person who bought the gift that keeps getting traded for something better. I would think that would cause hurt feelings. The way this could be fun for everyone is if gifts are of the "white elephant" variety. Everyone goes to a charity store and gets the tackiest thing they can find, then it can be repeated with the same items next year. It's a "green" idea as well. One family I know has been trading the same hideous lamp for years. It is now a tradition, their rule is that the lamp must be displayed in the recipients home. It's great for a year round laugh, and a great reminder of the love the family shares.