We thoughtlessly set our 2018 Christmas presents for DH’s family at $50/nibling/sibling and $100 each for Nana and Grandpa, give or take (the Braille book subscription we give a niece is actually $100 and we donated another $100 to help defray the costs). I’m not sure why we did this, that’s just what seemed like the right amount of books when we started with the youngest cousins. In terms of monetary expenses for us these days with both of us working and the house paid off, this is not a big deal. Our December expenses are high, but our January expenses are usually lower than usual so it works out fine (also in the last paycheck this year we got a little boost from no longer having to pay SS tax).
But then DH’s brother’s family spent the same amount on us(!) which seems really excessive on the receiving end. DH’s brother’s wife doesn’t have an income and both their kids are special needs. But DH’s brother does have seniority in a union job so maybe it doesn’t put a crunch in their budget either? They have a very nice house that is packed with toys and other stuff and an SUV and so on… In terms of consumption, they seem to be doing well. (They never opened up 529 plans for their kids and eventually we gave up nagging them about it, so we can’t stealth-give there.)
I’m embarrassed at how long it took me to figure this out. Since we’ve started being able to afford stuff, most of my anxieties about gifts have just disappeared… I no longer care how much we spent or if I get crappy gifts (though I still do prefer things off my amazon wishlist). DH’s sister’s family is much lower income than we are (though as she’s been gaining seniority and step-raises, they’re above median household income now) and I would have noticed if they’d started matching what we spend and felt bad right away, but she’s started giving etsy-level crafts (among other things, she’s got some kind of setup where she can make designs for t-shirts– one of DC2’s favorite presents last year was a shirt that you can color in with washable markers and then wash and re-color… she also made Disney-themed family vacation shirts for everyone last year) which I think makes everyone happy.
Anyhow, I told DH to bring up that they don’t need to match our spending with his brother sometime when they were alone over break and to let him know that they really don’t need to spend the same amount, or if they prefer we could cut back on them. (The problem with that being that we actually enjoy getting stuff off their wishlists because DH wants his brother to play those games and I want SIL to read those books because she has good taste in books.) DH did and said that BIL basically brushed it off, so maybe it’s ok?
What do you do about spending on presents when there are income disparities in the family? Do you feel like you have to match what the other person spends, or is it more about your constraints?