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November 18, 2011


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To deal with issues like this,

1) I try to remember first the general principle that giving/getting gifts are NOT the central goal of the holiday. I thinking about how I cannot "make" someone's holiday & in that way make myself their most important relationship even if I give them a car! That would kind of be saying that I think the people I give gifts to are money-grubbers which I think is disrespectful.

In that context, trying to give the most awesome gift to someone is kind of a competition or a contest which I don't think is good. I think that a gift first needs to be considered in it's proper role in your relationship to the gift receiver.

This takes the pressure off--nobody is going to disown me as a friend, parent, or family member if I make a mistake about what they want.

2) Also I know I have to stay within the "range" of gift value that they expect vis a vis the relationship and what other types of gifts they are getting from their family members, otherwise it makes it all about me & my relatively high income/net worth compared to them. For example I don't want to give my sister a gift that is more expensive and more desired by her than what her husband is probably going to get for her. I think I have to be respectful of her primary relationship in that way.

Even if I'm dating a guy and I really really want something particular, I'm likely to just buy it myself. Unless he asks and I know he can afford it. Otherwise it's putting too much pressure on the relationship I believe. I don't date a man because he spends money on me!

3) Re gifts for my kids, I also try to de-emphasize gift giving as the main event of Christmas by getting my kids cool presents that they want at other times of the year too. I don't like the idea of saving up all spending and treats for one time a year, because then Christmas becomes all about the treats and big presents that they might get.

So for example, if I decide that our family would enjoy a big screen TV or video system (& obviously if I decide that I can afford it), I'm going to buy it at another time of the year (and such things are also cheaper when purchased at another time other than just before Christmas). Same for things like cell phones & books for my kids--I got them when I thought they needed them or would benefit from them, not as a "present" that only comes at Christmas. I do get my kids lots of cool things at Christmas too, but they're usually smaller items not major expenditures. To figure out what they would enjoy I also ask my kids to browse through educational and other toy catalogues and so on before Christmas, and "make a list for Santa"--but they know that Santa will just select from the list & won't get them everything on the list.

I'm hoping that by doing this my kids will focus on the family together time that occurs at Christmas, rather than "just" on the gifts.

For the last three years,, I have 'politely' requested of both my sister/brother-in-law and my parents to skip DH and me in the adult gift exchange. Of course I also told them to do what they wanted between themselves (after all, just because one party is 'opting out' doesn't mean that everyone must!). It's not awkward if they do exchange w/out us since they do it out of our presence.

We do still allow the gift exchange for the kids, but I ask them to not do anything too extravagant. And to the grandparents (from the kids), each gets a small gift such as a restaurant gift card of $25 or a nice bottle of wine.

I feel that the holidays are stressful enough. I wish I could convince DH's parents to do the same.

I take note througout the year when I am out and about with my kids, and pick up things along the way that they have shown an interest in.

Out of town family is the hardest to shop for, and I still haven't figured out a way to get what they want!

I come from a relatively small, non-gift exchanging family, but my husband's family is HUGE and does exchange gifts. To help me get through the holiday season, I've asked them all to set-up wish lists. Then I just go to my gift organizer over Thanksgiving, go down the list, and buy for everyone.

By doing it that early, I also get free shipping (a must since we live in another state), and the gifts arrive on-time and are "just what they wanted"! Oh, we also use my husband's Amazon credit card points, so the gifts are paid for by our annual card use.

Oops cut off my last line.

Another idea we have tried is to have kids write lists for others but not themselves. Writing a detailed list for your sister or cousin is just as fun but keeps the focus on giving not getting.

We stumbled on the "Shop for Others" point last year and it worked really well. My parents had picked out some items (in the adverts) for our kiddos that in many cases were not age appropriate. We offered to go shopping with a budget that they set if they would watch the kids. Christmas rolls around and the kids our so jazzed with their gifts from Nan and Pop, which made my parents even happier. They have already approached us about doing it again this year.

I've done #1 for a while. Every year I ask my sister what her kids want. Works great.

I also love the wish lists. You can add anything from any site, not just Amazon, and it takes the guesswork out of what may be needed or wanted. My dad, however, will not build one, and he lives out of state so I never know what he needs. So I will get him something consumable (coffee/tea, food baskets, etc.) that he can use at home or take to the office.

I think difficult people to buy for will end up not receiving as many gift compared to easy people to buy for. For example, I would not even consider buying anything for those who have everything they need because they have everything.

I love wishlists. I have one set up for my son on my account, so all I have to do is email the link. My parents haven't been so quick to use this, but other friends and families appreciate the easy gift guide.

So far as gifts for people that have everything, I try to give them something consumable that I know they'll use. For example, my dad and stepmom (who have plenty and are able to buy for themselves whatever they want/need) are on weight watchers, so I plan to bake them some WW-friendly goodies. I know they'll appreciate that more than some trinket or yet another book!

I always had my kids make out a list for Christmas. I assured them they would get one item from that list and one I had personally picked out. Thanks to grandparents, we only got our kids 2 gifts each Christmas and whatever was in their stockings. My son was amazed one Christmas and asked how I was always able to get something he really wanted without his list. He didn't realize that Mom & Dad can see throughout the year what excites them.

Now, they live 600 miles away and the last time I bought Christmas presents, it cost more to mail them than the gifts cost. So, I have been sending gift cards. My daughter will use cards from any craft shop and my son from any book shop. The others I need help with, son-in-law, daughter-in-law and her mother and aunt. So. my son said the best way was to just send a check. I did this last year, but am not too excited about it. May try the gift cards again.

I generally ask for what people want for gifts unless I know (they have hinted) before. I hate to be the person who excitedly gets you a present that you hate but have to pretend to like just to make me feel better.

When in doubt, I take them out to dinner.

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