We started doing the donations about 10 years ago- every family member makes a donation to one or more charities and then explains in their holiday note to whom they donated (and maybe why). It is a lovely expression of love and still very personal as we hear what everyone values. We typically give to the same few charities but add one extra whether it be “book boats” in S.E. Asia, or Wounded Warriors, the World Wildlife Fund, or this year a UNICEF program for unaccompanied minors crossing borders seeking asylum.
My partner and I do most of our gift plotting together, regardless of side of the family. Usually whatever we get is a joint decision. Ze does more in-store browsing, and I do more online deal-hunting. Ze almost always comes up with the gift ideas for my mom (who loves for us to fix something up around the house as her gift–we buy the materials and my partner does the labor all as part of the gift).
I’m really not into holiday gift giving. No one in my enormous blended family regularly buys presents for me or my spouse or our kids. Although the in-laws occasionally send a token gift for the kids.
I send a present to my mom and her husband because she takes a fit if I don’t. However, she seldom acknowledges it and almost never reciprocates.
I send a couple of my many many nieces and nephews gift cards (usually $75-150). I used to get presents for all of them as well as for my siblings (step, half and full). However I got tired of never getting any thank yous from any of them or their parents and was annoyed that none of my siblings ever gave presents to my kids.
So, basically, I feel guilty when I don’t give presents and unappreciated when I do. Need to work on managing my feelings better…..
I am super lucky have gotten out of exchanging gifts with everyone except my boyfriend. My strategy with him is basically to grab something gift-like out of his hands at the cash register and pay for it myself. I then allow him to use it before the holiday in question if he wants. And I also keep his Fine Homebuilding subscription current.
But there are other exceptions to the no-presents philosophy. I got my mom something for her 65th birthday. She’s been traveling and has a doo-dad display case, but it’s getting full, so she’s starting to get much smaller things, like pins. So I made a fabric wall-hanging that she could stick pins to.
And any time I see a perfect present for someone, either I get it or, if I’m not sure or it’s not appropriate for our relationship, I tell them about it (send them the link if possible) so they can decide for themselves if they really want it. Usually I’ll just say, “This made me think of you.” On my trip to Spain I decided to try to find things for everyone in my family.
I will also subsidize siblings for once-in-a-lifetime family trips.
This year I’m planning to send out a holiday letter like my favorite uncle does. I know some people hate those, but I love them.
I MUCH prefer to gift as and when I spot the perfect gifts, I don’t enjoy the feeling that gift giving is mandatory. That said, I’ve learned to make some peace with the Christmas gift giving, at least this year.
New this year, my extended family is doing an exchange ala the saran wrap “ball of fun” (pinterest thing). I was very relieved not to have to try to figure out what to do for the adults! For the kids, it’s not my favorite thing ever but it’s probably a good idea.
I get all the grandparents photo books of the kids, and my spouse a bottle of good bourbon. I get the kids one medium/big present each (this year magnatiles, pastels/art paper, and some fancy t shirts) and a couple books for one nephew (obligation, not desire to buy stuff…). The magnatiles were actually a grandparent gift a couple years ago, which I kept aside, and the pastels were free from the library. I may be cheap.
I hate Christmas shopping with the fiery heat of a thousand suns. Make that a million suns. When we stopped exchanging presents (siblings, etc.) it was a whole gift in itself. I get what is on people’s Amazon lists, pretty much, but purchase it locally. Done and done.