Asking Family To Not Exchange Gifts


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 "lets 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.

Lindsie from Bath, NY



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By kimberly 1 34 07/18/2006

we went thru this a few years ago, and with a rather large family we were going into debt over gifts! we brought up that since the family is so large, instead of trying to buy gifts for everyone we would start drawing names instead. if you dont want a gift, you dont put your name in the hat. instead of the 20 something gifts, we now buy only 3. (since there are 3 people in our family)

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By kimberly 1 34 07/18/2006

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 dont we just buy for the kids instead?

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By Pammy 1 17 07/19/2006

We do something we call "Chinese Christmas" I have no idea how it got that name but here's what we do. We have a very large extended family so this can get quite silly but fun. Each person brings a gift for a person of the same gender as themselves at a set price range, we usually say about 30.00 but you can go over if you choose. You wrap it but don't label it at all. We put all the gifts under the tree and then draw numbers. The person who drew the #1 goes first and picks a gift to open. After that #2 opens a gift and then can chose between the gift they opened and the gift #1 opened and trade gifts with person #1. Person #3 picks a new gift out of the pile opens it and then can keep it or trade with person 1 or 2 and so on. So if you end up with a hot item it can get traded around a lot. Sometimes you end up with something you like so you try to slide it under your chair and hope everyone forgets about it, LOL which never happens!! It is tons of fun, tugging over gifts, it gets loud!! After all the gifts are opened the person who was #1 gets to pick from all the gifts since they didn't have a choice of trade in the beginning so drawing the #1 is the best!! We have so much fun doing this, it doesn't cost you a bunch and is a great way to get everyone interacting. Afterwards you can still trade off or do what you like and sometimes that happens too! Works better than just boring old drawing names for our big family!!

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By Miss Jen (Guest Post) 07/20/2006

We had the same problem and I finaly came out with it one year and almost everyone of the wives has come to me since and said "thanks! I wanted to speak up but couldn't find the courage!" I can't think of one person I know that will turn their nose up at extra cash at Christmas time. It also might help to bring it up now before the holiday season is in swing or if you feel it is too late for this year bring it up in the spring of next year. Good luck!

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By (Guest Post) 07/20/2006

Justanothercowgirl...we did that at a work Christmas party, then when all was said and done and everyone had their gifts and was asked if everyone was happy, then it was said, "Ok, pass your gifts to the person on your left"! Whoaa, talk about noise! It was fun and all the gifts were great anyway!
Our family draws names, which is a big help. I would draw names and stick to only the names you draw, who cares what everyone else does. Or you could make your "extra" gifts. Homemade breads, cookies, fudge or crafts are always nice. Do you have a breadmaker....everyone loves homemade bread! Who says you have to spend a lot of money? Isn't it the thought that counts?

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By Trix (Guest Post) 07/20/2006

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 neices 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.

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By Syd (Guest Post) 07/20/2006

Get an agreement from family members to just give to the little children.

That is really what Christmas is about. Gift giving has become so commercial and the time it takes to shop for gifts that people really don't need can be a time consuming chore. If people want something they just buy it.

A few years back my children, and grand children and us, agreed to just give to our great grand children. It has worked out so well. We love it! So does everyone else.

It is understood that everyone comes to our house for Xmas dinner and to a house which was always heavily decorated ... now it's for the great grand children. For the little kids it was like Wow! Now they expect it ... so we will do it as long as we can.

We are no scrooge's by any means. This is working for our family ... it may not be for everyone.

Give a token gift of cookies or brownies, etc.

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By Michele (Guest Post) 07/20/2006

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 ect. We all bring potluck on holidays and then we aren't stressed and broke!

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By corrine 1 07/20/2006

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

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By christi 93 320 07/20/2006

I had to do this a couple of years ago and I found one of the best things is to do it early, before people start buying gifts and start getting in the christmas spirit. Some people were disappointed in it but, I just explained that money was tight for not only us but them too. We decided to get only for the kids. This not only applied to Christmas, this year it also applied to Mothers day , fathers day and birthdays. For mothers and fathers day, I made them an extravagant dinner that they loved. For my moms birthday I made her a CD of songs that she would have had to buy about 10 CDs to get all the songs she wanted. She thought that was her best present. This year I have collected a bunch of jar recipes. You know the ones that you put everything in a jar and they add a couple of ingredients and have a wonderful dessert or bread. Also I always make Christmas cookies and candies and I go to the dollar stores and get pretty containers real cheap and fill them with my candy and cookies and everyone loves them.

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By Lindsie 7 9 07/21/2006

Thank you everyone. These are all great ideas!

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By Ronda 2 23 07/21/2006

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.


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By SARA (Guest Post) 07/21/2006


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By Debbie Dzurilla 28 1,124 07/21/2006

Our gift exchanging has dwindled over recent years and I must admit either my husband or myself just got brave and said enough's enough....I don't see the need for adults to exchange with ea other. We all have too much "stuff" anyway and what is the fun of writing a list and then getting exactly what you asked for that you could have gone out and bought yourself! Then, after we adopted two children, we cut out all exchanging with any siblings, nieces/nephews and believe me, there are many with both sides of the family and now we just buy for our own children and our two mothers. Now I enjoy Christmas again! Gift giving can actually be stressful. My husband's side of the family still does all the exchanging but they can do what they want! Life is too short to do things you really don't want to! Once you let go of doing some of these things that you think are expected of you, you will feel such peace!

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By melinda 1 146 07/21/2006

Something we have done on my husband's side is we do homemade gifts---we aren't crafty people, but just a simple gift is what we do. The first year we did it I made everyone goodies and put them in a nice rubbermaid container, something they could reuse for something else. Something I would like to try in the future is Christmas Bingo---bring one gift per person put it in a paper bag and play Bingo for the gifts. You can always mark if its for a male or female, but that sounded like a neat idea!! And I thought that the gift didn't need to be new, but something nice---not white elephant gifts. Hope this helps!!! I think Christmas gifts is more fun for the kids than adults----we can always go out and buy what we need!!

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By (Guest Post) 07/21/2006

i would start buying just cards for every 1 no matter what age they are , neighbours, inlaws, kids grandparents best friends etc
the only person u need buy for is a/ your wife or husband and if u ask them they might not want a present and B/your kids end of subject there is a old and valuable saying the people that mind dont matter and the people that matter dont mind

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By (Guest Post) 07/23/2006

My mother-in-law, who loved gift giving at Christmas, refused to cooperate with my husband and I when we asked them to cut down on the presents. We could not afford to purchase like she did and we were embarassed we could reciprocate. We asked for her cooperation and she agreed. Well, she just went ahead and did what she wanted to anyway. We thanked her for the gifts reminding her of her agreement to which she responded I can do whatever I want to with my own money. So the next year we requested the same cooperation. We also told her we would give away to charity anything we considered excessive and we would let her know which items had been donated. We told he she could save us this trouble if she just donated to a charity of her own in our name since we couldn't tell her how to spend her own money. Well, we had no further problems with her cooperating. Some people just don't care what others needs are, only their own.

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By Carol Churchill (Guest Post) 07/24/2006

Buy/make one gift per family. There are many good ideas on the internet.

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By Allison (Guest Post) 07/26/2006

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.

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By Debbie Dzurilla 28 1,124 08/30/2006

I might add to this discussion that another reason we wanted to stop the gift exchanging is we have too much STUFF! We are just over-run with material things in our house and don't need more stuff to set around. Anything we do need, we can buy ourselves and choose it ourselves. I was getting to the point of really not looking forward to Christmas. There is too much stress involved with the gift exchanging....too much time spent on shopping. Now I can get back to enjoying it again. Oh and our kids get some garage sale items from "Santa"....they don't know the difference!

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By halifaxgal (Guest Post) 06/09/2007

Our family struggled with this for many years. We have a pretty large family and we had the same issue and we weren't sure how to say we didn't want to exchange anymore. A few years ago, I suggested that rather than exchanging gifts, each family would all donate a set amount of money ($50) and we would buy for a needy family. There are quite a few of us, so it gave us enough money to buy lots of groceries and Christmas gifts for the children in that family. We picked a day in December to do our gift shopping, had a pot-luck meal at one of the houses and had our children wrap the gifts for the family. It brought home the meaning of Christmas for our children, plus gave us a fun family day to spend together. It was much better than the stress of figuring out what to buy for the person who has everything they need and helped our children understand that Christmas is not about getting....but about giving.

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By Sandy 6 128 10/27/2009

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.

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By Su 2 22 10/28/2009

Re: Sandy's "white elephant" Chinese Christmas. I don't know where it got the name either, but our family has a lot of fun with this. One year after a remodel of our house, we put a "house" in a box! We had wood for 4 walls, floor and roof, shingles for roof, vinyl tile for floor, and wall paper! My sister got it and put it all together and made a cute bird house! In our clan, the suspence builds all year to see who ends up with Uncle Ed's funky old slippers! ;-p LOL Great fun though!

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By Catherine 6 20 10/29/2009

We've tried the 'draw a name' routine and for a few years it worked, but some people just have to give gifts. Our current solution is to all still give to the children, but the adults in our family do mainly food gifts. One sister-in-law makes fudge we all look forward to. Last year we had cookies, bars, brownies and breads. I made several kinds of soup (what else) and froze it, and let people pick the kind they preferred. Just had a big cooler outside and people took the soup on their way home from my Dad's.

In the past we've had homemade jams, pickles, herb vinegars, flavored oils and hot fudge sauce. Even if you don't cook, buying someone a food item they would consider a treat doesn't have to break the bank. I gave a couple of tins of smoked mussels to my father-in-law one year and you'd have thought I gave him caviar!

My dad loves marmalade, so all year long I keep an eye out for unusual varieties like grapefruit or lime and give him a basket with several jars. If you do the gift giving at the family level, it's a start at weaning people away from individual gifts; and if the gift is edible, it's not adding to the overload of 'stuff' we don't need.

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