≡ Menu

You Can Buy This For The Teens

My husband and I were late to marry and have children. So, his brother and sister and their spouses have children considerably older than ours (all teenagers while ours are in preschool). Over the past several years, we have been given missives about what to buy for the nieces and nephews for Christmas and, within our limited budget, we have tried to buy what they want (our first mistake, I know) and make the children happy.

Last year, SIL decided it was getting too expensive to buy presents for all of the kids. I wholeheartedly agreed. I suggested that children get presents until 8-10 years old and after that, if we wanted to have a drawing, great, or if we just wanted to get together and have a family holiday, that was also great. She was adamantly opposed. She decided (and bullied everyone into), having all of the kids draw names to buy presents for the other kids.

Well, based on the fact there are three preschoolers (who can’t get each other’s names because you can’t have a sibling’s name) and four teenagers, guess what all of my kids got for names? You guessed it!
We have the teenagers to buy for. Today I get an email from SIL (since my kids have her two teenagers), that reads:

Dear Cousins,

The holidays are approaching and I just wanted to remind you that you have Cousin A and Cousin B to buy a present for! I’ve asked them what they would like and the list is below. Remember–no giftcards as they aren’t any fun to open!

Happy Holidays! Love, SIL

All the gifts are between $50-100. With three kids in daycare, all of the gifts are way beyond our means. When we’ve been asked for suggestions for our kids, it is for playdough or craft supplies or a book. Certainly not in this price range!

I don’t know what to get them and it frustrates me that this “plan” which was supposed to eliminate everyone having to buy all of these expensive gifts really means that everyone else got to skip the expensive gifts (only one person besides us has to buy for teenagers) and we are on the hook for three of the four teenagers. And this, after years of us getting no gifts (as we didn’t have children) and giving out gifts to every one of the nieces and nephews.

It makes me not even want to go to Christmas this year!


I’d treat the email just like any other “gimme” list or registry foisted on me against my wishes. Ignore and buy what you can afford.

{ 127 comments… add one }
  • Silverstreak December 14, 2011, 5:06 am

    This seems to happen to us every year too. Last year, both teenagers got a nice set of pajamas from Hollister Co. I also got both girls funny bumper stickers for their cars ( they are 16 and 17) and cute vanity license plates… just an idea if they already drive.

  • Bint December 14, 2011, 5:24 am

    “I suggested that children get presents until 8-10 years old ”
    No wonder she didn’t like that. That would only cover your own children.

    “I don’t know what to get them”
    Something within your price range. Tell the parents that you can’t afford this and will need some alternatives within a set budget (like the one that matches your own children’s suggestions). This is ridiculous and you need to put your foot down. Alternatively, do as the Dame says and ignore the list, but I’d rather make the situation plain to avoid this in future.

    “after years of us getting no gifts (as we didn’t have children) and giving out gifts to every one of the nieces and nephews.”
    They didn’t buy *you* a present or they didn’t buy extra presents because you didn’t have kids? Sorry, but if the latter then that’s just life and it’s not unfair. You buy for your relations, you don’t count up. If they didn’t buy you a present then you shouldn’t have bought them one!

  • wallaby December 14, 2011, 5:30 am

    This story makes me see red. I agree with Admin’s advice for this year. But next year you need to get in early and set new rules. Don’t cave and buy items off the list that you cannot afford! The new arrangement is ridiculously unfair.

    For what it is worth, my gift suggestions for teen boys would be some kind of sports/outdoor gear or article of clothing appropriate for the season. I’m not sure where you live but I’m thinking beanies if winter or beach-related items (thongs/flip-flops) if it is summer. For girls perhaps some cheap(er) costume jewellery or make-up? I remember as a teenager someone once gave me a set of nail polishes and I spent ages doing my nails 🙂

  • Green123 December 14, 2011, 5:40 am

    Teenagers in my family LOVE giftcards, especially for iTunes or bookstores!

  • Niamh84 December 14, 2011, 6:35 am

    I am actually totally shocked by this! I can’t believe they sent a list of what they want for Christmas to you. I have lots of cousins on my mums side, all of which we used to see on Christmas day in my grandparents house. The only presents given were from Godparents. I’m told that when we were smaller the aunties and uncles used to buy for all the kids but as more and more were born they decided that they would only buy for their own godchildren. The present was always a surprise and it certainly wasn’t ever as expensive as you’re being expected to buy! I cannot believe anyone would ever actively go asking for specific presents from someone who doesn’t have to be buy you a present at all! These presents also all stopped when each of us turned 18.

    Now that we’re older and I have my own neices and nephews, they’re very small and there’s only two of them (and one more on the way) so we all enjoy getting them presents (that we can afford and I don’t think anyone would even notice if one of us didn’t get something for them). We also do a kris kindle among my siblings so we’re not buying for everyone else aswell as the children. I’m sure as we get older and a few more come into the mix, we’ll probably bring in the Godparent rule.

  • Sarah Peart December 14, 2011, 6:51 am

    I agree with admin. One thing surprises me why was there no budget? Why is it that teenagers are supposed to get these amazing gifts? Yes, teenagers have tastes past their budget, that is pretty much a given. Normally they get what they want by working in the local coffee shop/babysitting or whatever for their technogadgets? Having said that these people are so insensitive I imagine that they will never speak to you again after Christmas. I can hear the excuses now – “She only had to buy 3 presents” ,”I notice she had a new dress – money for that I see.” You will think “What new dress?” The truth will not get in their way (and people will believe them until it is simply taken as gospel) as they berate you for not buying the present(s) they expected and subjecting them to sulky teenagers over Christmas. How do I know the teenagers are sulky gimme pigs? Am I psychic – no!! Teenagers who expect such gifts will certainly have other side-effect character faults. I do not know what to advise you, but if you are a strong person you could ring up/meet the person who sent you the letter and tell them that this is not what will be happening! They may un-invite you but I think this will happen sooner or later. One thing though – do not justify anything. You are right let that be your armour!

  • Susan December 14, 2011, 6:53 am

    We have the same sort of struggle with my brother in law and his family. Last year he gave us a specific list of what his 3 kids would want and we diligently shopped for these presents and mailed them in plenty of time for Christmas. Come Christmas, no “thank you” or acknowledgement of gifts received (we know they got them, as we have seen pictures of the gifts opened and pushed aside while our niece and nephews went on to better things) and NO gift AT ALL for our little boy.

    Phone conversation later that day included rave thank you’s to my mother-in-law (who lives near us) for the wonderful gift she sent, and effusive thank you’s from her to them over the beautiful box full of gifts they sent to her (they could have sent something to my boy along with her gift). When asked if they got the gifts from us, we got a hasty “Oh yeah, thanks…..” and that was that.

    My husband insists we should still send gifts to the kids this year, but as much as I do love them, I will not be doing any shopping for my BIL’s family. They may get gift cards- if my husband has time to purchase and mail them. Maybe I should be more willing to turn the other cheek, but I feel they made it pretty clear how low we are on their list of priorities, and I am tired of trying to please people who don’t give a rat’s patootie about us!

  • lkb December 14, 2011, 7:12 am

    I think it’s time for the OP to speak up NOW to SIL and any others involved in this particular exchange. Or, perhaps OP’s spouse should do it. It really does look like an unbalanced system and it seems it’d be best to head this one off before Christmas.

    Good luck.

  • Susan December 14, 2011, 7:16 am

    Meant to actually comment on your issue and got carried away telling my story of woe in my first reply. Sorry about that! Anyway, I would say gift cards all the way in an amount that is affordable to you. A gift should be something that pleases the giver to give, and the recipient should appreciate the fact that somebody cared for them enough to spend the time/effort/money in an effort to bless them. If it pleases you to give them gift cards, then do so. You could make them more fun to open by wrapping them in a box in a box in a box. We had lots of fun with this at work when we gave a spa gift card to our coworker at her bridal shower. Started with a large gift wrapped box, and each box she opened had a smaller wrapped box. Lots more fun than opening an envelope. Whatever you do, I hope you have a Merry Christmas with your little ones!

  • lkb December 14, 2011, 7:17 am

    Should have added that SIL’s tone in the email does sound like a gimme pig.

  • josie December 14, 2011, 7:43 am

    Next year, it’d be helpful to have a suggested price range for the gifts, so everyone is on the same page. This year, you need to be creatively cheap, if that’s your range. Maybe you can use the list the sil gave you for ideas on what the kids’s interests are and take it from there.

  • Dominic December 14, 2011, 8:50 am

    Part of drawing names for a gift exchange is setting a price limit on the gifts to be bought, at least in our families. The price limit is mutually agreed upon based on what everyone can (or wants to try to) afford, and we stick to it as best we can while still finding something nice for the recipient. The “list of what they would like” is a suggestion, as far as I’m concerned.

  • Amber December 14, 2011, 9:09 am

    Totally agreed!

    My siblings and I have been doing a draw-name-from-hat gift exchange since I was in my early teens (now approaching 30), and it was always with the understanding that any more than $30 was too much. Can’t understand how they think that your preschoolers, and therefore you, are responsible for over $150 in gifts!

  • Anonymous December 14, 2011, 9:10 am

    I must say, I find your first suggestion of only buying for kids younger than 10 pretty gimme as well, since your kids are the only ones who would fall into this category.

  • Leah December 14, 2011, 9:12 am

    My family had a similar tradition with Christmas as my Mother is the oldest of seven. We drew names at Thanksgiving and were allowed a $20 limit per item. Everyone always stuck to a two or three gift limit. The drawing, like yours, was meant to link aunts and uncles to nieces and nephews, etc. Parents still picked out gifts for their own children.

    I would suggest something similar to your family, OP. Let the teens’ parents buy them the expensive items if they feel it’s so important for them to have.

  • Carol December 14, 2011, 9:32 am

    I agree – don’t spend money you don’t have. It’s not up to you to buy the ‘big-ticket’ items; that’s something the parents (or grandparents if they are so inclined) to do.

    And I can totally sympathise. My (ex) Sister-In-Law was a bit like that. Nice enough woman in general, but she wanted her two boys to get as many gifts as possible. She had 2 boys, one family had 3 boys, one had one girl, and I have one boy.

    We’d done various things through out the years to cut down expenses, and for awhile it was ‘one gift per family’ but SIL didn’t like that, because her boys EACH had to get presents. So then we did ‘each family buys other family’s kids something.’ One year I got the family that had 3 boys, and my ex wasn’t working, and we had very little money, and I wasn’t sure I could buy for 3 teenaged boys, so my ex-brother in law (who I still miss. He was my favourite!) said he’d switch with me since he had SIL who only had 2 boys. So I email her and ask what would they like for Christmas.

    She sent this long email about how BIL was supposed to buy for her kids (BIL was childless, and always very generous to all the children) and so now her family was no longer going to do the gift exchange.

    So…not sorry I’m no longer involved in that family.

  • Jessiebird December 14, 2011, 9:42 am

    OP, I feel for you. You spent nearly 20 years buying multiple gifts for small and then growing children. Now this year, the other families are burnt out on gift giving. They aren’t remembering all the gifts their cute children got when they were young. Now they are lumping your preschoolers in with “the kids.” If you resist this game, or even point out its unfairness, odds are you will get punished and by extension, your children. I’m speculating, but these dynamics are pretty transparent. And one poster above outlined a very likely scenario if you don’t go along with their requests.

    It’s really too bad. All you can do is buy what you can afford. The last thing you should do is try to “please” them by accommodating. They won’t be pleased, they’ll just take it as their just due, and you’ll be out the money you could have saved or spent on gifts for your preschoolers, since it sounds as if they will be getting much fewer gifts than all these teenagers got at the same age.

    I’m really angry on your behalf. How does Christmas get twisted like this? I almost think you shouldn’t go, but that will be misinterpreted as an “outburst or miff.” Believe me, I have lots of people like this in my family and it’s truly unpleasant.

  • alex December 14, 2011, 9:44 am

    Wow, I think she is just trying to make sure her kids get gifts. Now I don’t think Christmas should be about gifts at all and maybe it would be better just to say no to giving cousins gifts next year. But in my opinion for years until you had kids you got their kids gifts and so I don’t see the age limit of 8-10 as a bad thing. You have already fulfilled that and then some for the teenagers and it is your little ones’ turn. I also agree there needs to be a price limit and I think the teenagers would rather have gift cards since they are so picky!

  • J's Mama December 14, 2011, 9:49 am

    I believe I would ignore the email, and buy what you can afford. You can find nice gifts in the $10-$20 range, and if they don’t like it, then next year, why not just say you will only be buying for your own family.

  • Tracey December 14, 2011, 9:51 am

    I actually gasped when I read your SIL’s email to you! Wow. Nervy. Are they well off and aren’t batting an eye at $50+ per kid? I think they are forgetting YOU aren’t supposed to be buying bigger ticket items, the parents are.

    I don’t think your suggestion of only buying for children under age 10 is bad at all. I think it’s a great idea because Christmas is really for kids when it comes to the loads of gifts kind of thing. Adults can buy for themselves all year long. Drawing names among adults is the way to go if everyone still wants someone to give them a present.

    I am SO thankful my SILs agreed that we should just stop spending $50 on gift cards for each other and our husbands. It’s like getting your own $50 back in a different store. Kinda silly! But maybe the adults in your family could do that and the surprise would be to what store and maybe who can wrap it the most creatively? I don’t know, just thinking about how to expect a set limit going forward.

  • Laura December 14, 2011, 9:55 am

    If the KIDS are supposed to buy each others presents, a preschooler can’t afford much of anything. I say break out the macaroni and have the children make gifts for their cousins.

  • Anoymous December 14, 2011, 9:57 am

    Ignore the wishlist. When I was a teenager, what I really liked was weird socks. Or books. If your SIL throws a tantrum because the teenagers don’t get what is on their wishlist, then you can call her on it. One of my aunts always gave us calendars for the next year. Another always gave the family boyscout popcorn (from her sons). One handmade bead jewelry. It was all fine. If your nieces and nephews can’t appreciate an honest, but cheap gift, they’ve got a lot to learn.

  • Margo December 14, 2011, 9:58 am

    I agree that setting a beudget would be sensible. As things stand, I would go with sending amail back to SIL saying

    “Thanks for the suggestions, they do all seem to be out of our budget but will give us ideas as to the sorts of things [names] enjoy”
    That gives them a ‘heads-up’ (so they can’t then complain that they spent $50-$100 and you didn’t)

    I have some sympathywith the ‘gift-cards are no fun to open’ idea, although I think teens are often happier with a bit of extra sspedning money than a gift whih isn’t really what they hoped for – I would consider getting gift cards for what you did budget, and then get creative with how they are presented – A friedn of mine one got a small, homemade paper doll (the kind you dress with paper cut out clothes) + a gift card for a clothing shop – She was relaly pleased with the gift-card which she could use towards stuff she really wanted, and the doll was entiertaining and meant she did have a package to unwrap. My sisters & I once gave my brother money to buy music with (he tends to like very obscure stuff) We found an old ‘Abba’ CD , wrapped that, with the money inside the CD case. (He hates Abba). He got the fun of having somethign to open, and it not being immediately obvious he was just getting cashand we didn’t waste money buying something he wouldn’t have liked.

  • Hemi Halliwell December 14, 2011, 10:13 am

    Agree with Admin 100%. They would get what I could afford and maybe mom would get a card with the web address to this site.

  • NOPH December 14, 2011, 10:17 am

    My mom was also the oldest of seven. Some of her brothers don’t even have kids, and I am the second youngest cousin. By the time I was about six, one of my aunts (mom’s sis) kids already had children herself. The family solution was stockings! The two youngest siblings in mom’s clan (one was younger than my aunt’s kids) made every one felt stockings, all the same size and decorated to reflect either the person’s personality or a holiday theme. These were fairly cheap to make, the linings were all made from scrap. Before the holiday gathering my grandmother, mom, and one uncle would buy enough fresh fruit for every stocking to have an orange, apple or pear or two. Two aunts often ordered a case of plastic toys from somewhere like Oriental Trading Co. My mother hit up a wholesale club for candy. Someone would be in charge of bringing mixed unshelled nuts. The unmarried no kids uncles would be asked to spend no more than $5.00 per under 13 years old kid (which was still still around $40!) on one stocking item. Often they were much much more generous than what they were asked, especially with me since I was the only little girl in the family for a long time (and one uncle always got each of us kids a book, too). Anyone that wished could also buy items for anyone else stockings, as long as no single one item from anyone was over $20. Cans of silly string were outlawed before I can remember as well as water balloons (the stories about how how these items came to be out lawed were great). The jewel in the crown of our holiday parties was my grandmother’s fudge cake (well, there were usually two, so everyone got some). There were never any “wish lists”. There was no confusing “dirty santa” or name drawing. Often the younger siblings contributed a little cash to my mom, aunt, and grandmother for the fruit and candy. Most of my uncles have passed away, as have my grandparents. We no longer have family gatherings. I am so happy that when I look back on those days I remember my aunts and uncles all laughing and joking as they took turns going into the back bedroom where my mother and grandmother were filing the stockings to add their gifts in. Once stockings were “opened”, we ate, and then my uncles all would play Risk while mom and her sisters talked.

    It would have been IMPOSSIBLE for anyone except my mother and one uncle to buy such expensive specific gifts for each kid. Other than those two, no one made much money. My mother’s family was extremely poor growing up and the fact that there were means to have a dinner with meat AND a cake by the time I existed was high living to most of my family compared to what they remembered as children.

    OP, perhaps you family should consider something like stockings. It can still be expensive if your family is big, and it does take some cordination on the “fillers” like fruit, nuts, and candy. However, by going with small gifts, the focus really becomes hanging out with family, not who got what.

    I would not spend $50 on the teenagers. Buy/make what you can afford and what you think they would like based on their personalities. I still use this awesome pen/pencil holder/carrier thing one of my mom’s sibling got me years ago. It is obviously not expensive, but so useful to me I’ve never wanted to stop using it. I think I’ve had it for almost 20 years now that I think about it.

  • Beth December 14, 2011, 10:20 am

    I loathe gift exchanges set up like this.

    My husband’s family does the gift exchange thing for the grandkids. Prior to the implementation of the gift exchange (two years ago) everyone just bought gifts for everyone else (my dh is one of 8 and there are at least 30 grandkids) and we would bake a batch of cookies or make candies to give away (not b/c we felt like we had to give but b/c we wanted to). Well, last year we participated* because it was too late to drop out, but told MIL, shortly after Christmas, that we would not be participating this year.

    Well, low and behold we received a call from dh’s sister asking us what our kids wanted. Uh, what? My husband called his mother and said that we were not participating. After some serious emotional blackmail, she backed off and took us off the list.

    *And by participating, we, thankfully had a price limit of $10-15, no biggie, but we live 1000 miles away, postage was awful. I made sure though to get the gifts mailed to my inlaws house (where everyone would gather for gift giving/opening) before Christmas. Oh, and Christmas came around and nothing came for us. Finally late-January a box showed up with a gift for one of my children (we have five). Nothing for anyone else, not a word either. I wasn’t upset about not getting gifts as much as I was upset that such a big deal was made of this all. We went on our annual visit to see our family in August and guess what? BIL and SIL had the gifts for two of my children. Really? August? Really? I wanted to tell them to forget about it, but just found room in the already full van and brought them home.

  • Aje December 14, 2011, 10:29 am

    I loved giftcards as a teen! Especially gas cards , itunes and book store cards! Honestly, isn´t it about what the teen would enjoy as a rule, and not about what ís most fun to WATCH?

  • Paige December 14, 2011, 10:34 am

    So basically your SIL is attempting to trick you into doing what you had initially set out to change. Well isn’t she a peach!! I totally agree with Admin. Get them each a $20 gift card and let it go.

  • Katy December 14, 2011, 10:36 am

    My family used to draw names, and we set a limit. If we didn’t write down what we wanted within our limit our families treated it as though we never had a list, and they got us something that they thought we would like (often a book and a gift card). Once all the kids started getting older and the economy tighter we’ve changed the rules- gifts for all the kids (there are 4 under-3s) with a limit, and one grab-bag gift for everyone teen aged and older. We ‘play’ for the right to pick the gift first, so everyone gets something and no one feels too much pain.
    When I first got married my hubby and I were poor- as in we didn’t have the money to cover the one name we drew and visit the family for Christmas (we lived four hours away). My mom drew two names for us, our two youngest female cousins, and said she’d cover the gifts if we did the shopping. As happy as I was for that I came up with another idea- a ‘date night’ for them with me, but it was a movie of their choice that came out for rent, and I came over to their house and made homemade pizza and each of their favorite desserts. In total it cost me less than the limit for one gift, but they said they liked it so much more than some gift card.

  • i_love_penguins December 14, 2011, 10:44 am

    Yeah, I have a feeling the “8-10” range was perfectly convenient for you, considering your kids would likely get presents for 3+ more years while you just have the option. It would be different if all kids were the same age. You might have been buying for them for years and think it should be payback, but no.

    For most teenagers, buying something really means the parents buying something. Maybe the older teenagers have their own cash, but if any are on the younger side, probably not. And no offense, who wants a preschooler drawing their name? They definitely don’t have money, and probably little input as to gift-buying. They probably can’t even read the wish lists, so guess who really does the shopping?

    As others have mentioned, a price limit should have been set if they were going through with this, but this whole idea was ridiculous. I’m not against drawing names, but not in this case when it’s just preschoolers and teenagers doing it. Either all kids around the same age or all adults. The expensive lists just top it all off. Might not be the teens’ fault, as SIL could have edited lists or encouraged higher priced items. Maybe, if it’s within your budget and you want to look, you might find some items on sale to put them in your price range. Otherwise, maybe you can find some related, cheaper items.

    Maybe the families should have just done whole family gifts, like certificates to restaurants or gifts like games, food, movies, or video games for the whole family. Or just stick to buying for the kids, cutting back on spending if needed.

  • jch December 14, 2011, 10:45 am

    I feel for you, OP. This kind of thing can really take all the fun out of the holiday get-togethers.

    I have a rather large extended family consisting of step-siblings and their children, etc., and the kids’ ages range from 4-18. The last couple of years, we all agreed on the economic constraints just about everyone is feeling these days and decided to skip adult gifts altogether, and now each family buys a gift card for each child to give, for a set amount, and we toss them all in a bag and let the kids choose one each. When they are done, they have the option of trading amongst themselves (the teens might exchange the Toys R Us card for a Hollister card the 5 year old got, etc), and everyone leaves with a gift card they like. They get plenty of gifts from parents and grandparents, and no one feels slighted. Helps to put the emphasis back on spending time together as well, I think.

    It may be too late to do something like that for you this year, OP, but may be something to suggest next time. Meanwhile, like others have said, I think your best option is to just buy what you can afford. As long as you have a gift for the people you are supposed to buy for, you’ve done your part.

    Teens are nearly impossible to buy for, and I’d bet if you asked them, most of them would say they didn’t want us choosing things for them anyway and would prefer cash or a gift card. 🙂

    Best of luck!

  • LovleAnjel December 14, 2011, 10:48 am

    OP, that sounds like Xmas is going to be a chore this year. If the items on the list are not recently released, you can look for them at a gaming store which sells used games (a $50 game can be as little as $20 at a place like GameStop). I’m sure someone will be “insulted” that the games aren’t brand new, but you will have followed the list & stayed within budget. I agree with Anonymous – funny socks & pjs are appreciated (my niece gets silly socks most years – usually very fuzzy or with individual toes).

    For those that say the new system is unfair because it only includes younger children – it’s actually less fair to them. The older children have had many years of gifts that they would not have gotten under the newer system. The younger kids won’t get gifts as teenagers, while the current teenagers already have gotten presents.

  • Sarah Jane December 14, 2011, 10:49 am

    Ditto Laura! I was going to say exactly the same thing. If the gifts are “kid-to-kid”, have your little ones make something, like a t-shirt to sleep in or homemade soaps or a picture frame craft kit. You can find tons of inexpensive ideas at the crafts store. It could help refocus all the kids’ ideas about the true spirit of gift-giving.

  • Typo Tat December 14, 2011, 10:52 am

    Disillusion your SIL at once! Send her back an email stating your gift budget, and ask her to pick accordingly. I think it will work out better than showing up with a pair of socks for a kid who was fully expecting a Playstation.

  • Wink-n-Smile December 14, 2011, 10:57 am

    May I suggest that your preschoolers MAKE something for the teens? That way, they are actively involved in the gift-giving process. It can be something simple, like a drawing or a dried play-doh sculpture.

    You can then augment this gift with an inexpensive item that you know they would like.

    Further, I suggest you contact the teens directly, letting them know your financial circumstances, and plan. You’d like a gift list from them, that is within your price range. Also, ask for suggestions on what their young cousins could make for them.

    Focus on the reason for the gifts – it’s to celebrate Christ’s birth (if you’re a practicing Christian), and to show your love for each other. So, this could be a good teaching moment for all the children involved. The young ones will learn to show love by actively making something. The teens will learn to show love by accepting gifts that won’t break you. And in the process, you’ll get to know them better, and build stronger bonds.

    I say leave the adults out of the conversation, as they are obviously not taking your limited finances into consideration, and the gifts aren’t for them, anyway. Teenagers are certainly old enough to talk on the phone with you (or email), and make their own wishes known, without having to go through their parents. And you’d be surprised just how mature they can be, when faced with financial realities.

  • Xtina December 14, 2011, 11:05 am

    First–I think the idea of no presents for any child over the age of 8-10 is a bit young; not only because children of that age still could feel hurt or left out over not receiving a gift, but probably best to set the official age of no more presents at 13 or 18 (once you become a teen or adult) to be fair–I can see where the SIL might have been a bit put-off since that meant her teens wouldn’t get any gifts at all that year–perhaps this could be revised for next year. Please, for everyone’s sakes, agree on a price limit going forward–leaving it open-ended this way has obviously caused a lot of problems.

    As to the list–no way. They cannot dictate your spending. I would buy what I could afford. Use their suggested list as a guide to what they’re interested in in general, and buy something along the same lines that you can afford. A side note–most teens I know would actually prefer a gift card since teens are notoriously picky (methinks the suggested items may have actually been more SIL’s ideas than coming from the teens). You may also have a discussion with your SIL and tell her that $50 per kid is simply out of your budget and you’ll have to look for something a little less expensive.

    Is it just me, or is the idea of each CHILD buying a gift for another child a little odd and complicated? Seems like it would be easier to simply say each family will buy a gift for the other family’s kids.

  • Athena C December 14, 2011, 11:13 am

    @Laura – Genius!

    Nuff said.

  • Ann December 14, 2011, 11:16 am

    I’m with Laura. Homemade gifts from one cousin to another. Perfect.

  • Melissa December 14, 2011, 11:18 am

    It is NOT gimmie to suggest only buying for the young children under 8 or 10. The teenagers were under 8-10 at one point, and the OP bought them presents throughout all that time. Now, the OP has children under 8-10 and it’s the SIL’s turn to give presents to her children while they are young.

  • Jen December 14, 2011, 11:27 am

    Currently DH and I are the only ones married in both our families. Since more than likely our children will be much older than our siblings children I have brought up that when that day comes children will be given gifts from aunts, uncles and grandparents until the age of 18. That way it’s fair across the board.

  • Serenity S. December 14, 2011, 11:28 am

    I agree with Admin. Ignore the wishlist and buy what you can afford. And next year, set a price limit for the gift exchange like around 20$.

  • Gracie C. December 14, 2011, 11:35 am

    It is sort of annoying when you give and give and give for years and then others somehow have a reason to change the rules when it’s suddenly their turn to give. I don’t feel I’m entitled to any gifts, and I’m perfectly content to not exchange gifts with certain peope, but it can be frustrating. I have a friend who got married before me. I did and gave multiple things for her wedding (hosted showers and events, gave and made gifts, did a ton of work for the wedding itself, etc). By the time I got married she had a kid (who I ended up hosting a baby shower for and giving multiple gifts) and couldn’t really afford much. But I was just happy she was able to travel to the wedding and participate. But now she has a second kid and I’m somehow expected to keep sending gifts to her for the kids (many of which they never seem to use), when I know that she can’t afford to ever really do for me, which is ok, but I’m sure if I had kids she wouldn’t be able to afford to do for them either. I enjoy picking things up at random for her kids when something strikes my eye, but the birthdays/Christmas/event gifts get on my nerves, knowing it will never really be reciprocated because her doing it all first means she just naturally has less money.

  • Lilac December 14, 2011, 11:41 am

    I agree that the easiest way to avoid misunderstandings and bad feelings is to simply determine a budget for the gifts. In my ex-husband’s family there were tons of cousins. We drew names and the budget for each gift was $20. Also, my guess is that when looking at the provided list of gifts, the OP would be able to suss out some clues to the gift recipient’s taste. If a sweatshirt from a specific store was listed, a t-shirt from the same store would probably be just fine. The teen wants an ipod–how about some earbuds and an itunes giftcard. It shouldn’t be that hard.
    For this year, the OP could also provide a list of comparatively “expensive” gifts for her kids–perhaps those that were on her list to give her own children. Lego sets, certain types of dolls, electronic learning gadgets, nice books, etc. are higher priced and if she doesn’t have to buy these for her kids herself it could offset some of her budgetary woes regarding the higher priced items she has to buy for the teens. Next year a budget could be established.
    Just don’t forget any presents!! Drawing for names usually works out but I still get steamed when I think of the year that my ex sister-in-law forgot to buy a present for my son! An older child would probably be just as happy getting handed a $20 bill but try explaining to a 4 or 5 year old why everyone has presents but him. He was heartbroken!! And I was so mad. Christmas isn’t about the gifts but kids don’t get that at that age. He’s doesn’t remember it, of course, but I sure haven’t forgotten his sad little face.

  • Anoymous December 14, 2011, 11:57 am

    I love the wrapping idea. My sister once gave me a giant bird feeder statue of St Francis of Asisi (apparently on clearance). Although he was holding something else (I had to take the bird-feeder out of the box to see) that was more appealing to 16 year old me.

  • Tina December 14, 2011, 12:02 pm

    Wondering why everyone thinks they HAVE to participate in this gift-giving fiasco? About 10 years ago we told family on both sides that we were scaling back on holiday spending and had decided not to participate in the name draws. There was a bit of squawking but we held firm and they went ahead without us for that year. Lo and behold the next year they decided to do away with it completely. We still get together for a meal and a visit and have a lovely time knowing that we are not in debt and not stressed. We buy for our children and their partners, grandchildren & parents and don’t spend lavishly. So, stop being manipulated, do what is right for you, stop feeling resentful and laying blame. Stand tall, stay kind and start living life on YOUR terms, you will be amazed by how easy it really is and how much you will be respected for doing it.

  • Elizabeth December 14, 2011, 12:08 pm

    I would simply tell her that the things she suggested are great, but out of your budget…and could she please share some ideas within your budget (and state what that is).
    You could even add in how things were changed this year so you could spend less, but since you got 3 of the teenagers, that didnt really happen.

  • Kitty Lizard December 14, 2011, 12:13 pm

    I laughed myself into idiocy (short trip there) a Laura’s suggestion to have the pre-schoolers make
    Christmas presents for the teenagers. That might short-circuit the gimme list for good. Christmas
    greed is the bane of the season, as is the great Christmas rip-off – having a Christmas or Christmas
    Eve birthday. And yeah, I know, it’s not right to complain, but it’s still a rip-off. The SIL knows what she’s doing isn’t right, and she knows she’s putting a financial burden on these people. She doesn’t care. E-hell coal in her stocking. Switches, too.

  • many bells down December 14, 2011, 12:14 pm

    A technique I often use for birthday parties (for girls) is to buy a little purse, and then stuff it with some cheap jewelry and cosmetics from a store like Claire’s. Depending on the age of the child I’ve been able to do this for as little as $10. Since it’s Christmas, how about getting some stockings from a dollar store and popping some small goodies in there?

  • Chocobo December 14, 2011, 12:16 pm

    I think the best thing to do would be to just go with it this year, since you agreed to it and there’s nothing to be done now. But next year go out and get something within your price range early, and then when it comes up again, you may say “Oh, but I’ve already bought things for the children!” And just leave it at that.

  • Stepmomster December 14, 2011, 12:19 pm

    you need to have a heart to heart with the SIL, and don’t just forgo the holiday season with her, your children will not thank you when you are all older when your avoidance of the holidays has made sure they don’t have a relationship with that side of the family.

    This is your family. Be honest, polite, non accusatory. I believe that sometimes people do things that seem normal to them without really thinking about it. My kids are in the expensive gift stage as well, and now Christmas comes with the disclaimer “Ok, everyone is asking me what you want for Christmas, but don’t expect to get all video games this year, Grandma/Auntie ect. is on a budget.”

    I honestly believe that your SIL doesn’t find her request bizarre, because your inlaws have become accustomed to expensive Christmases due to the age of the children. Before you get too upset, just call her and say something such as “I got your Christmas list for cousin “A” and “B”, I’m terribly sorry but when we went to look at gifts for them everything was way out of our price range, can you ask them what else they are interested in, like books or clothing? I really want to get them something they like.”

    Don’t let this issue drag on through the next few holidays either. Melt the snowball now, before it becomes an avalanche of bad feelings and nit-picking.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.