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can't really afford gift giving

My husband and I recently moved here after also recently getting married... we are both job searching and are living off a little bit of savings.

My question/issue is this: his family is huge. In the past, they all gave gifts to each other about $50/each. Because of the addition of husbands/wives/children, last year they did "couples" gifts buying one $50 gift per couple. This year they cut it down again doing like a secret santa so each person buys for 1 other person. But that doesn't include children and his mom. That also doesn't include my family, of which we only get a gift for my parents and small gift for my brother.

 They are already talking that they didn't like only giving to one person this year and want to go back to giving to everyone or at least the "couples" gifts. We should not have even been able to afford what we gave this year, but felt bad not doing so. If this turns into something bigger next year and we still can't afford it, what should we tell them? They aren't the type to appreciate homemade gifts or gifts much under the specified budget. So it would probably have to be all or nothing. It's too much for us. We don't expect gifts to us if we can't give to them. But they never understand our financial situation. Please help!! Thank you!

Re: can't really afford gift giving

  • Give them a Christmas card with a tag inside saying you made a donation to a charity in their name. You do not have to state the amount just that a contribution was made. If they do not understand your situation, then they should understand people that are even less fortunate then yourself.
  • thank you for that idea! i sure like it, but again who knows if they would. then they would just say, well if you need the money why are you spending it. they have an excuse for just about everything. the other thing is we couldn't even afford to fly home to them for Christmas (or anything) this year. it was our first Christmas away from our families. again, my family understood. his just complained that we weren't there. I feel that if they wanted us there enough they could have skipped on giving us anything and pitched in to buy our plane tickets. it feels really hurtful how they act to us. my husband doesn't see it bc he has lived with it all his life.
  • You are welcome.

    As for next Christmas, you have a year. By then, your finances will be back in order, both have great jobs and be giving everyone great gifts to prove it! That's the power of positive thinking for you! ;)


  • Christmas isn't about spending $50 per couple.  That's insane!  Your family should know your situation and be kind about it.

    Spend what YOU can per person.  I start buying little by little now, so I don't have to spend so much when the time comes. 

    I think it's so sad what Christmas has become.  I remember getting a container of Play-Doh for a gift and being happy with that!  It's the thought that counts.  Keep telling youself that.

  • That sucks, but the good thing is that you've got a year, so at least you can plan ahead. Watch for sales. Find a couple of things throughout the year and put them back for Christmas. Maybe you can make it look like you've spent more than you really did. There's nothing wrong with being a smart shopper, and they don't have to know how much you paid for things.


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  • Your dh just has to say "sorry, we're not participating in the gift exchange this year."  He needs to say it early - in like, September, before people have purchased gifts. 

    If they say "oh, it's not are a scrooge...." Stand firm!  I had a gift exchange with my cousins, and they complained that I was a scooge when I wanted to back out one year (meanwhile, previously I had bought gifts for them when I was working and they were in college and they were broke college kids and bought nothing for me), so I caved.  Then a few years later, they complained "this is getting too expensive....lets give up the gift exchange except for kids" Uh, ok.  When it was out of MY budget I was a scrooge, but when its out of YOUR budget, it's ok to stop?!?  I was pretty mad, but really should have been angriest at myself.  So just a heads up not to give into peer pressure to keep spending money! 

    Personally I would still buy for his mom (something in your budget, not necessarily $50), and purchase small (not $50!) gifts for the kids.  Remember, no matter how old kids are, some of the coolest gifts can cost less than $10 (I'm assuming there aren't a lot of kids).  Or, if there are too many kids to buy for individually, buy a board game for the kids to share.  Of course, that is your choice, and if you both are still not working, then don't even do that! 


  • Ditto suebear 100%.  Your DH needs to tell them early on "we will not be participating in the gift exchange".

    Let them give you grief.  And actually- I'll bet that you still get a few gifts.  But you smile, graciously say "thank you" and you do NOT feel guilty for not having anything in return.  You told them you aren't taking part - it's on them if they still buy you something.

    I do also agree on still giving the mom and kids gifts.  But otherwise, bow out and stand strong on your decision.

    "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."
    ~Benjamin Franklin

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  • I agree Christmas has gotten pretty crazy... it should be about spending time with family rather than how much is spent on gifts. My husbands family doesn't even have a lot of money yet they insist on these what I think are stupid gift giving guidelines. I think they could spend their money much more wisely but who am I to tell people what to do. Anyways, thank you for your input!
  • I have been having issues with my IL's over this.  DH's side of family is nuts with gifts and with over 20 on his side to buy for it was getting out of hand.  and when I first approached them not to do gifts you would of thought I had done something terrible.  Every year I get the same thing about how xmas gifts were important.  What they were truly missing is the true meaning and it was meaning of being together.  Last year at this time I told them listen, next year no gifts, just family stuff.  I found we had to fully put gift giving in our hands and start our own traditions on how our family will go about the holidays to make each other happy unlike tryinggot make others happy.  Running around like a nut, looking for money to make due around holidays wasn't a happy time for me and DH, but now its much better. 
  • image Ms_Matched:
    Give them a Christmas card with a tag inside saying you made a donation to a charity in their name. You do not have to state the amount just that a contribution was made. If they do not understand your situation, then they should understand people that are even less fortunate then yourself.

    I LOVE this idea!  When my DH and I got married, instead of presents, we picked 4 charities that meant a lot to us and asked for donations to be made in lieu of presents.  We did these for two reason:  1) I was raised to always give back if I had the means to do so, and 2) my husband and I lived together before we got married, already combined two households and STILL needed to have a garage sale (and probably need to have another one!) in order to downsize to 1 household worth of items.  

    I know that some people donated more than others, simply because we were told some amounts by people...but it is not the monetary amount, it is the thought.

    You could donate to the men's or women's shelters in their name.  It might show them that  there are people, at Christmas, who don't even have a warm bed or holiday meal to go home to.

  • Don't lie and say you gave to a charity when you didn't. (This reminds me of The Human Fund fro Seinfeld)

    Just don't participate and tell them that you are unable to participate due to finances. Be upfront.

    DH has a large family and we used to get bigger/better gifts from them and now the tide has changed and we give the bigger gifts. (many of them aren't well off as they used to be or they have kids, etc)

    It doesn't bother us one bit that our gifts don't match. Heck, this year we didn't even get a Christmas card or a gift fro any of them. (it was a bad year for all of them) It is better to give than receive . . . we love giving and don't even care what we get in return.

    Just send a Christmas card and don't worry about it. If you want to buy a small book for the kids, great. If you just want to buy one present for your Moms, great. Do what you can . . . don't feel forced into soemthing and don't lie saying that you gave to charity when you didn't.

  • image stumpy:

    Don't lie and say you gave to a charity when you didn't.

    Whether it is $5 or $5,000 that is donated, it's a charitable contribution. Like pp stated, t's the thought that counts!
  • image Ms_Matched:
    image stumpy:

    Don't lie and say you gave to a charity when you didn't.

    Whether it is $5 or $5,000 that is donated, it's a charitable contribution. Like pp stated, t's the thought that counts!

    I agree it is the thought that counts. When I first read it last night, it sounded like you were suggested making a card that aid you gave to a charity when you weren't really going to. (a la la Human Fund in Seinfeld)

    It just read that way to me, but you certainly can give a card that said you donated if you actually donated. (it must have been late and I misunderstood what you meant . . . sorry!) Because I have heard other people say just write a card when they had no intention of ever giving to charity.

    DH's Mom has given to doctors without borders on our behalf as well as bought 1/2 a cow for some farming project in Africa. (I don't remember the name of that one)

  • Yanno what?

    Why not just exchange with very immediate friends and family next year? I am sure everybody else will not mind.

    Are you artsy or crafty or a good baker? Give a craft -- a decoration for the tree perhaps -- or cookes or a baked good.

  • well unfortunately immediate family is still a lot of people... that is actually all we do right now plus husbands/wives but his family is big. and i'd love to make/create something as i sometimes do for my own family, but nope his family thinks that's even worse then getting nothing! i know it makes no sense!
  • Also, RIGHT NOW is the time to stock up on gifts. Buy for everyone before January is over.  It's not what you spend, it's the value that the family seems stuck on.

    Look at all the cool Christmasy things that stores have for 75-90% off.  Cookie jars - sweaters - and more. 

    1/2 price books has new books also that are fun and very cheap.  And if they don't like it, oh well.  You did what was required

    Who has toys right now for 75% off?  I'd hit them up.

    One year I found Christmas throw pillows at Walgreens that were really very nice.  They were like between $5-10 originally, that I got for <50-cents each.  I bought all they had for the price of one!

    Check out ALL clearance shelves every time you go into a store.  If something would work, get it for them, put their name on it and don't look back.

    Also, I've found some really nice things at garage sales, especially glassware.  Clean it up with soap and water and there you go.

    I say make it a game.  See how much value you can get for the least price.  Good luck and have fun.

  • PS - one time our walmart was closing out on one kind of wine that was about $15 a bottle, on closeout for $1

    Guess who bought every last one - and it was good, too.

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