If you have questions about this change, you're in the right place. Our editors, experts, and community of change optimists have answers!
Cutting back on holiday gifts?
My husband and I come from big families, and we're really trying to save money right now (who isn't?). We usually exchange gifts with our siblings and their kids, but this year we'd like to just give to the kids. I'm a little embarassed bringing this up with everyone, but it will really save us a lot. How should I broach the subject with them - should I send an email, call?
Don't feel embarrassed! I think EVERYONE is feeling the economy pain right now. Definitely consider a Secret Santa -- it's fun for everyone and it saves you some serious cash. Now that my siblings and I are all getting older we have implemented a Secret Santa amongst ourselves and significant others -- we love it! You'll have fun and you will be glad you didn't blow your savings on gifts. Happy Holidays!
My dad's side of the family took to doing Christmas angels about a decade ago. At last count there are about 20 of us grandkids. The best part of it is that every year we change up the theme. One year all of the gifts had to have been purchased at a garage sale. Another year they had to be home made. This makes it a bit of a challenge and everyone likes to get involved.
Our family switched to just buying gifts for the kids and grandparents a few years ago. Sometimes though a gift is given and it's a bit of a surprise because you have nothing to give back. I've found though that these unexpected surprises go to the core of the holiday. Giving without reciprocal expectation has great personal value.
My family is huge (my mom has 7 siblings, all with children, go Catholics!) so we usually have the Xmas discussion every Thanksgiving. Since the family keeps growing, in recent years, we have done "Xmas Bingo" instead of regular gift-exchange. Basically people bring small prizes ($5 gift cards, candy) and we play bingo! It's actually a nice change and really fun!
You could suggest an alternative like that? Or secret Santa?
Why should you be embarrassed for being financially responsible? The likelihood is that your siblings are also struggling and may be very receptive to the idea.
My suggestion is to call your siblings and suggest that you'd like to just do gifts for the children this year. Instead of buying for your siblings, perhaps you can bake them some cookies, or do some other small homemade gift that might carry more meaning than store bought gifts anyway. If it's been a while since anyone's seen recent photos of you and your family, pull out the camera and make some scrapbooks. That way you have a little something for everyone, but you really only spent money on the kids.
Don't do email though. That's too impersonal and your siblings might feel resentful that you couldn't talk to them about it. They're family, they'll understand. If they've got a Joneses complex then you might get a little rebuttal, but put your foot down and let them know you just can't afford it this year.
Call the sibling with the most power-the queen bee, if you will. Get her on your side...the rest is cake!
Seriously, though, you aren't the only family in this bind. Large or small, gift giving adds up. Perhaps you could do a rotation—Family A buys for B, B for C and so on. That way everyone gets one gift and no one feels left out. Or agree to buy one item for siblings to share, if they are close enough in age.
Whatever you do, stand by your decision to cut back on spending. It's not worth extending your debt just to please family.