≡ 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.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Echo December 14, 2011, 11:22 pm

    I agree with everyone who said to tell your sister-in-law that you’ve reconsidered. Perhaps it might be a better idea to buy a large-ish joint present for the teenagers. My brother and I LOVED getting board games as joint presents.

  • acr December 15, 2011, 12:10 am

    Oooh this chaps my hide! My aunt’s children were older than us. Every year, we helped pick out presents for her kids and in return we got the most hideous clothing (often in the wrong size) from a store in the aunt’s state (so we couldn’t return or exchange it). Well, when her kids graduated high school, she decided that she wasn’t buying presents for kids in highschool – even though hers had gotten presents every Christmas from both of her siblings through high school. And after a year or two, she stopped all together I guess when her kids were no longer getting presents, she “forgot”.

    My siblings and I are still stung remembering that 2nd class citizen treatment – and that our parents didn’t do anything but complain about it. Stand up for your kids now. I think you need to point out to your siblings that you bought presents for their kids for X number of years (do a tally and tell her that’s X presents per child) and you expect the same treatment for your children. If not, then bow out of the gift exchange entirely.

    If you feel you MUST – you can get used video games at Game Stop for $10-$20. Mention the unfairness to your siblings again. If they won’t budge, buy the cheapest games available – preferably for the wrong system.

  • Edhla December 15, 2011, 12:12 am

    What the eff? How rude.

    My sister is the only one of three of us with children. I have a yearly battle with her, but that’s because she keeps asking me to only buy for her kids, not herself, and since she is buying directly for ME, I feel terrible not giving her anything in return. As for my own aunts and uncles, I believe the last time they bought for me was about the age of five.

    In any case, getting TODDLERS to “buy” for TEENAGERS is ridiculous, because a toddler can’t understand what they are doing, which takes all warmth, cheer, generosity, goodwill and love out of the gesture. And turns it into “gimme.”


  • Monica December 15, 2011, 2:03 am

    Um…no. I hope the rest of the comments have persuaded you. Don’t let them walk all over you or they’ll begin to expect it. It does no one, including them, any good to believe they can make bold plays for free stuff. Rude.

  • Cupcake December 15, 2011, 3:59 am

    If it was SIL’s idea that the kids should buy the presents for the other kids, I suggest either getting the preschoolers to draw a picture, or maybe choose gifts themselves from a bargain store. When SIL complains about the gifts, just explain that unfortunately small children don’t have the money to buy extravagant gifts and that they did the best they could. Children are often really excited about giving gifts, so hopefully they’ll be so pleased to give presents to their cousins that even mean SIL won’t have the heart to criticise them… and if she does everyone else will realise how awful she’s being.

    P.S. I’ve never heard of a teenager not wanting a gift card. Snacks, DVDs and movie vouchers are great too.

  • Wink-n-Smile December 15, 2011, 10:38 am

    Rap said: However, I’d also respond in kind this year – send your own little note of “I didn’t realize we were spending one hundred dollars on each child, so let me readjust my kids wish lists and thanks for being so generous!”

    Ha! I love it! And a suggestion for a “fun” gift for a small child to open – a piggy bank, already full of money. Waaaaayyyyy better than a gift card, as there are no limitations, and it’s fun to shake the gift before you open it. Heck, it’s fun to shake it after you open it, if there are coins in there, as well as bills. I mean, $100 of coins would be far too heavy for a toddler to lift, so bills it must be.

  • Wink-n-Smile December 15, 2011, 11:04 am

    For teens – something to consider is passing on an heirloom. It costs you nothing, but it bonds you with the next generation. Not all teens would appreciate it, but some of them really would.

    Also, if you’re able to visit and spend time with them, give them coupons of time – 2 hours of undivided attention from Auntie (you’ll have to arrange child-care for your young ones). Having some special one-on-one time with an older relative, where they can spill all the stuff they want to talk about, but not with the parents (teens have a thing about talking with their parents – I don’t know why, but it’s definitely there), that could really mean a lot.

  • Margaret December 15, 2011, 11:53 am

    One nice thing about little kids is that it is easy to find inexpensive things to wrap up if you want them to have the fun of opening a LOT of presents — silly putty, paint set, markers, crayons, chocolate/candy, single hot wheels car, puzzle, etc etc. For $20, you could easily get 4 or 5 little presents, if you so desired. In my experience (four kids of my own), the little cheap gifts are just as much fun for kids as the expensive ones.

    If the family were to continue with large gifts for each child from everybody, in a few years you might find yourself overwhelmed with TOO MUCH STUFF and wishing that there was a way to reduce the number of toys coming into your home.

  • Library Diva December 15, 2011, 1:04 pm

    It really saddens me to see all this scorekeeping. “I spent x dollars over the past 15 years and want a return on my investment.” “Jenny’s kids got presents from three families for 14 years and it’s not fair that mine will only get presents from one family for the next eight years.” And if one of the older generation dies, should OP also talk to their executor about having money set aside from the estate for the Christmas presents her children would have gotten for the next few years, plus graduation gifts and wedding gifts? Had OP never married, would she ask people to send her the money they would have spent on presents? This isn’t how gifts are supposed to work.

    I agree with the poster who said this family seems to have exhausted the goodwill that’s supposed to go along with gift-giving, and that there doesn’t seem to be much hope of consensus when you’ve got someone who sends lavish demand lists on behalf of her own children and is bent on dictating how the exchange goes, and someone else who’s ready to yell “that’s not fair!” at every turn. Gifts are supposed to be an expression of goodwill you feel towards the recipient, and by that standard, it seems as if anything anyone’s going to get this year will be hollow.

  • Enna December 15, 2011, 1:30 pm

    For posters who have criticsied the OP for putting an age limit on it – she is in effect saying when her children reach 8-1o no need to buy presents, even though she has clearly brought presants for the teenage children during their teenage years.

    A firend of mine says they only buy presants for the children however if there is a couple who don’t have young children e.g. the grandparents they do buy for the grandparents as that seems fair. Whilst no one is entitled to a gift, exchanging gifts does seem to be the fairest, politiest and kindest policy within budget clearly. If the OP buys gifts for the SIL and SIL’s husband as well as the children then I see why she might feel a bit taken for granted that she doesn’t get anything back – simple solution don’t buy for the SIL and husband, just buy for the children.

    If I was your position OP I would email the SIL back and say you cannot afford to spend that much and will get something within budget.

  • SF December 15, 2011, 1:38 pm

    There is no indication in the original letter that the SIL is normally a rude and demanding person, so let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she’s just clueless. No sense in the OP adding drama to a family gathering if it can be easily avoided by simple courtesy.

    Email the SIL back and say thank you for the suggestions, but that these are out of your budget – perhaps she can suggest some stores the teenagers like to shop at. Feel free to choose a gift in your price range there, and include a gift receipt, if you want to avoid gift cards. No need to start a family feud over something as silly as a one-time rude email.

  • Cheryl December 15, 2011, 1:48 pm

    For your SIL who by the way is being unfair, you have to get a cost limit set or if she refuses, just give her a list of the most expensive toys on your child’s list. Depending on the list given, if they want movies or video games, getting a gift card to Best Buy or a Visa gift card would work, it doesn’t matter what SIL states and if she complains not only about the amount but the gift itself, I agree with all of the above, inform her that your kids picked this out at the store. My family first did the get a gift for everyone, then we drew names one for each person and now no one gets a gift, the reason why family at the Holidays, over rated.

  • AngieM December 15, 2011, 2:45 pm

    Hi, OP again.

    I am going to get a spine and talk to SIL after the holidays (or when she insists on picking names for gifts). I’m going to suggest that the teenagers get each other (they are all in the same city/schools and see each other constantly) so they know the perfect gift for a cousin. If someone would like to buy a gift for my children, they may but are not obligated to, and we will make sure they have enough gifts from grandparents and parents and others to pick up any slack. And we won’t expect anything, which should be fine. I’m not going to get involved with SIL and the drama (and with her, there is always drama). And to the poster who gleaned there is no love lost between SIL and I, you’re right. She hasn’t liked me from day one and family events are always about her and her immediate family and nobody but me will stand up for what should happen (even though everyone talks behind her back, I’m the only one who says anything directly to her).

    As to the gifts for the teens, DH has decided to purchase a groupon that was available for a local amusement park and take all of the teens to go gokarting and play skeeball for an afternoon. Because of the discount, it will fit in our budget, he gets to spend time with the kids and we don’t have to deal with the gimmee. We might even take our kids along to watch and cheer on the cousins. Hopefully that will be a win-win for all. We’ll find some way of creatively wrapping up the idea (maybe with help from the preschoolers)and that will be that.

    Thanks to all for the great ideas.

  • Miss Raven December 15, 2011, 3:43 pm

    Only slightly off-topic, but a great idea nonetheless:

    When my nieces were born, they were the only kids in the family, and got SHOWERED with Christmas and birthday presents. Every gathering for them was an absolute FESTIVAL of toys, games, and crafts. Please note that despite this, they are not spoiled… it was more the over-zealousness of our relatives who were so excited to have little ones to buy presents for.

    One enterprising great-aunt noticed that two little girls couldn’t possibly use or enjoy ALL of those toys and games, and they certainly didn’t want for anything. Every birthday and Christmas, she buys them a small token that can be wrapped and then unwrapped (a bracelet, doll clothes, a coloring book, etc) and then gives a check to their mother for their college savings accounts.

    Being so young, this hasn’t yet been mentioned to my nieces, and they haven’t even noticed. They’re just overjoyed to unwrap things. But knowing myself how grateful I am for the contributions from my family to my own college fund, I know that this is a gift that they will one day very much cherish.

    I think it’s an awesome idea, and I don’t see why it can’t also be applied to teenagers. One interesting, inexpensive token to unwrap, some amount (whatever can be afforded) into the college savings. Practical and generous and it may help to send a message about the over-the-top $$$ wishlists.

  • Rap December 15, 2011, 3:44 pm

    After a second read thru, I want to reiterate what others are saying. Talk to the SIL and explain that that your budget isn’t going to support spending 150-300 dollars on kids not your own. I also wouldn’t mind some clarification – in years past, have the presents for the cousins been this pricy? ANd has SIL/the teenagers already gotten the toddlers something extravagant or a box of crayons?

  • Chloe December 15, 2011, 5:30 pm

    I’d steer away from the suggestions to gift only a piece of macaroni art to each teenager. That smacks of the same self-centered thinking as the SIL. If it’s not okay for her to ask for expensive gifts because that’s what teenagers like, then it’s also not okay for the OP to give only the most inexpensive gifts because that’s what pre-schoolers can afford. Pre-schoolers actually can’t “afford” anything, and this idea sounds like passive, ineffectual communication that will only confuse SIL, since it sounds like it was mutually understood that this was to be a purchased-gift exchange.

    Maybe next year the family can set clearer guidelines before the name-draw, or come up with a different system entirely. This may work for something impersonal like employees’ secret Santa, but determining which family members you’ll gift by the luck of the draw is hardly genuine. The Party In A Box suggestion was creative and thoughtful–OP, maybe you could use this idea and also tuck in a small gift card in each box, spending about $30/child if that’s within your gifting budget. By designing the boxes and cleverly arranging the goodies, it should be easy to give a gift that looks far more expensive than it is, and you can have the pre-schoolers help decorate each box.

  • Anon December 16, 2011, 9:35 am

    Angie, what a great idea! That sounds like a lot of fun for everyone.

    I would encourage you, though, if at all possible, to find a babysitter for the kids. Amusement parks can often make small children cranky, and it’s not much of a day together if Uncle has to spend the whole time disciplining crying children. Maybe something later in the day together, like frozen pizza and a Pixar movie at home after go-karting?

  • Emmy December 16, 2011, 10:01 am

    I disagree with those who feel the OP is wanting to ‘keep score’ by being upset at the way her SIL is handling things. I think most people would be hurt when family members who don’t want to give gifts to their children, after they have been happily giving gifts to other children for years and expecting nothing in return. It would be hurtful to put in money, time, and effort to make the holidays special for the other children in your family, only to find out that those same family members don’t care to do the same for your children.

    I’m glad to see the OP intends to talk to her SIL about this instead of having the kids make presents out of macaroni or playdough as the only gift (although I do think it is a cute idea to go along with another gift). I can’t imagine that would go over well and SIL and her kids might feel blindsided and to me that comes across as an “I’ll show her” type of thing. OP should be honest and talk about setting a price limit on the gifts.

  • jaylinny December 16, 2011, 3:27 pm

    My mom’s family has been getting together with all the in laws and grandchildren, great grandchildren, great great grandchilren…. for the last 60 years. When I was little, in the 50’s, my mom’s five brothers and sisters gave gifts to each other, and also to all of their ever arriving nieces and nephews. We usually had a big family party on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, but later that started changing as everyone else had other sets of inlaws, etc. So we started getting together about a week or so before Christmas… wherever that weekend fell. None of us were wealthy, but I can remember getting little things from my aunts and uncles, such as dime store ceramic cats for my kitty cat collection, little books, just things like that. We always had a great time, and so much food! Everyone contributed. Different families took turns hosting the party. As we, the original grandchildren, grew up, and there were so many to buy for, at first we started drawing names amongst the grownups, and anyone over 18 was considered in that category. We all still bought presents for anyone younger than that. Then, when that number increased, we all agreed to stop drawing names and buying for anyone over 18, and started drawing names for those under that age. We decided that we would take the amount of children under that age, and have each grownup draw two or three names; the number of names we drew has varied over the years based on the amount to buy for. We just always arrange it so that each child receives 3 presents. We’ve never really had a price limit, and we’ve never really had lists, although lots of times we would ask the parents: what kinds of things do your kids like? Nobody in our family has ever been so rude as to suggest specific things, we just say “building toys like Legos, books, stuffed animals, art supplies, etc.” As far as the pricing, we all just respect what everyone, depending on their situation, can do. It seems to have naturally and gradually increased over the years. When I was young, we might get a $5.0o item, later it increased to a $10.00 item and now we usually spend between $20 and $30. However, if a young adult or young couple just can’t do that much, not a thing is thought about that. I have never seen a cross word spoken about gifts. It’s kind of common that a new baby in the family, will usually receive a gift from everyone in addition to the other names that we draw, and that’s always fun. It ended up that my own parents hosted the party for about 35 years on a row, because they ended up with the biggest house. When they got too elderly to deal with the preparations, then one of my mother’s brothers started hosting it. Now, his son, my cousin and his wife, have taken on the party. I think it’s so awesome that we continue this tradition that started in about 1947 or so!~ And continues to this day. Most everyone lives in Texas, except me… and some years almost everyone can come and some years more than a few have to miss. But it is a guarantee that there will be a big gathering of this clan for a long time.

  • Cat whisperer December 17, 2011, 2:54 am

    Nobody should feel bullied, badgered, pestered or guilted into buying a gift they cannot afford for anyone, or into buying a gift for someone who they don’t like or who doesn’t like them.

    So much of the gift-induced angst the holidays brings seems to come from feeling that we are obligated to meet other people’s expectations, and that if we don’t, they are going to shun us, reject us, even hate us.

    Think about it: if the price of staying in someone’s good graces is that we have to buy them things we can’t afford, is that a relationship we want to put effort into sustaining?

    If you’re involved in a family gift-exchange situation where you feel, for whatever reason, that you’re being asked to spend more than you can afford, politely inform your fellow exchangers that you can’t afford the exchange, and bow out. Or get what you want, what you can afford, for the people who you want to give a gift to.

    The trick to making this work: adjust your own expectations. If you quit worrying about what you’re going to get out of the exchange, and assume that you’ll get nothing at all, it’s very liberating. You have zero expectations of return: you are now free to get exactly what you want for exactly who you want, in the hope that you create joy for them, with the only return being the warmth you feel at seeing that joy.

    And isn’t that what gift-giving is all about?

  • Laura December 19, 2011, 11:09 am

    Here is what I think you should do:
    The toddlers are spost to be the ones that the gifts are from, right? So let them be the ones to pick it out! Take them to some small gift store, and tell them they are shopping for their cousins and must pick out a gift. Let them pick though, don’t worry about if the present is “good” or not. It’s a gift, it’s the thought that counts! While you’re there, pick up cards for the presents, and when you get home let your kids “sign” them by coloring on it with crayons. In the end the older kids receive a gift, but its straight from the heart of your toddlers!
    It’s not your job to buy their expensive crap. It’s not your job to buy them anything, you didn’t get their name in the swap, your kids did!

  • Peter December 23, 2011, 1:20 pm

    This reminds me of an argument my parents are having about our family Christmas parties. My mother is the youngest of four children, and I’m the second-youngest of ten cousins on that side of the family (my sister is one of three cousins almost the exact same age, who are all two years older than I am). Neither my sister nor I is married, and we don’t have children. Three of my cousins have children, and each child receives a gift from each of his/her great aunts at our family Christmas party. My father gets annoyed every year, because he knows that when my sister an I have kids, they will receive far fewer gifts. I told him that he’s welcome to buy my kids all the gifts he wants. I know that the real reason that this occurs is because they all want to be grandmothers and love buying gifts for the small children, so I don’t sweat it.

  • Redblues December 26, 2011, 7:57 pm

    Buy what you can afford, without apology.

  • Lorrie January 7, 2012, 3:51 am

    One year, the day after Christmas, I asked my brothers kids if they liked what I had gotten them. As I had taken a lot of time to get gifts each would have chosen themselves, I figured at least 1 of the 4 would have an even basic idea of what they got. Nothing was remembered.

    So, the next year, I got them each a funny card and in it, I put a note. ” This year, since I know you are an amazing kid who has everything a cool kid like you wants or needs, I did something for you. I took the money I would have spent on your gift and got a kid in … Mexico, Africa etc, a gift, from you! So this year, as you are opening all your other gifts, I want you to imagine the face of the other kid as they open your gift to them. The school clothes, the pens, pencils and maybe even some silly putty they would never have gotten. I am blessed to have such wonderful kids like you in my life and I am so happy for how we together… gave Christmas.. to those other kids. I am proud to be your Aunt and hope that through your life, you continue to give to others not as fortunate as you to have what you have.

    Believe it or not, they were totally cool with it and wanted to know if I knew who the kids were and if they liked their gifts!

    They were happy, I was happy and the orphans etc in the other countries were happy. We all won.

    I hope as they are heading into young adulthood, they carry on the tradition. (And as Auntie, with the occasional nudge, I know they will!)

    We all need to remember, Christmas is about celebrating the gift of the birth. We lose that and we lose what Christmas is about. And even St. Nick. He was also a giver. Focus on the giving and not the getting.

    My $100 or so for nieces and nephew here in the US, not so much. In Mexico, Russia or Africa, worth $1000! I started this when they were 7, 9, 11 and 13. This year, they were 13, 15, 17 and 19. And they are still excited about who they “adopted” for Christmas.

    As for the adults, we may give small gifts to each other, we may give a note or just hugs. In this economy, we all know it is about the love we give, not the gifts.

    That being said, I do and try to make Birthdays more special. Maybe giving a niece a necklace she would have gotten “when I ..gasped my last breath” now. Why hold onto jewelery unless it is something you wear a lot? give it now, so she can enjoy it!

    I now wear and enjoy a ring my great Aunt left my Mom, she planned to will to me. But it is so not Moms style, so I got it last year. Every time I wear it, I think of Aunt Jeanette and my Mom, so I double win.

    Erma Bombeck said it best and for those of us who remember who she was appreciate it. Don’t save that silk slip, wear it now. Use good China even if it chips. Enjoy what you have while you have it. What enjoyment ever came from something safe in a box or a drawer?

    What are we saving it for?


  • Kate January 10, 2012, 12:49 pm

    I have nieces and nephews who are teenagers. I started giving the older kids itunes gift cards and I often include a small item, such as a godiva chocolate bar. The younger kids get an age appropriate toy or book. The gift card may not be “fun” to open, but according to the thank you note I just got, they all loved the i tunes cards that let them “buy” what they wanted., and they all liked the chocolate bars.

  • erica September 10, 2012, 9:45 pm

    I think everyone who is knocking the OP for “keeping score” hasn’t had a relative like this.
    My children have NEVER recieved a gift from my brother.
    Not when he was single, not now that he’s married. Not after he had a child himself.
    We always get his child a gift from each of my children. ALWAYS.
    Last year I got him a car set (he is very into cars) and I found a cool puzzle that I thought he would enjoy (superheros). Two gifts.
    First of all…my brother doesn’t even spend Christmas with us. He and SIL go to her parents as do her children from a previous marriage.
    Second, the kid is brat. He threw a fit because he got TWO gifts, not THREE.
    Needless to say that is the last gift that kid will get from us.
    We don’t even get a christmas card!

    In addition…my brother has two stepchildren, one is grown and married the other is now in college. I have met/seen them maybe four times total as they have always lived out of town.
    One year, we got word that my nephew was being admitted to the hospital on Christmas eve.
    My brother asked if we could keep his 16 yr old stepson with us while he went with his wife to be with their toddler. We, of course, said yes, no problem. He’ll be fine with us.
    I was concerned as he was staying with us and my kids would be opening gifts and doing the normal christmas day routine and we didn’t get him anything (like I said, hardly know the kid, only met him a few times, he lives with his father and we don’t spend holidays together).
    I took money we didn’t really have to spend and went and got him a number of gifts. On.Christmas.Eve.
    Nothing hugely expensive but still a dozen or so gifts to open.
    I never heard a thank you from him, my brother, my sil (wicked witch of the west) for entertaining him for 2 days, making sure he had as nice a Christmas as possible, for driving him back and forth to my brothers a number of times. Nothing.
    Kind of a slap in the face to my children who have watched this kid gleefully open his gifts and have nothing in return.
    Never again.

  • NostalgicGal October 15, 2013, 2:10 pm

    Late but…

    I came from a large extended family of lots of cousins. We exchanged gifts. Also in our family you learned to GIVE as well as get. Most of your gift money was spent on immediate family and went down as you went farther out. From the time I started school I was spending a dollar or two per cousin (And $20-30 each on my parents) and as time went by I learned to shop earlier and put stuff away, and otherwise plan ahead. And yes, I chose the gifts I gave.

    I was a very avid bookhound and one Christmas I got several book sets and cried because I owned most of the books already (to me it was a waste of a book gift if I already had it, and I was 9…), so. (this moved my godmother and aunt, mom’s sis) I was asked in early October to produce a list, especially of books I WANTED. (Paperback book was $2-3 then and well within our unspoken gift limits). I produced a list of over 200 items and over sixty were books. Some were under a dollar, some were over $100. Now I didn’t expect to get every item on that list but. I had to make it large enough that there was a choice, yes… a private registry. With all my smaller and older cousins and such, I could expect about 20 gifts; maybe more, but. I also gave out at least that many; and I did my shopping, wrapping, etc.

    I know that list made rounds, and I was a lot happier that year with the books and such I received; no more duplicates. My parents bought a few of the higher priced items; grandparents, cousins, godparents, etc, picked some of the cheaper things. Until I left home, the tradition of the Wish List continued, in early October I sat down and prepared the list. After I had hit upper grades, I got a couple of girl cousins finally to exchange with, and I decided on a simple and easy way to deal, I bought a sterling bracelet and charm for each of them. This was very pricey the first year, but then; I would just buy a new charm for them every year. Their mother, my godparent aunt (her mother), and my mother were all enamored of such a neat thing… and when I left home my mom took over buying charms until the girls graduated. As far as I know they still have their special bracelet.

    In the later years after I married, the family had gone to ‘draw two names’ and we took our turns in that; the persons involved would come up with a few moderately priced items they needed or wanted, and whoever drew their name dealt with it. And yes, we still had a sort of agreed on moderate price (at that time about $20) ceiling…

    The OP was getting the short end here, if the teens expected $100 items and the toddlers were getting $5 items; if the gifts were truly supposed to be exchanged amongst the children, then the amount spent for the gifts should be in parity… and I totally agree with some of the other posters saying if the smaller children are supposed to be gifting the older ones, then the smaller ones are within rights to make something, or give stuff like food.

    When I married one of the cousins I’d exchanged with while I was at home was just turning six… and he had $10 and went shopping with his mom for my gift. He picked out some turners, spatulas, a spaghetti scoop (those spoon things with fingers) and such; and wrapped it himself (put it all loose in a shoebox and the wrapping itself was …covered. 🙂 ). I found it to be one of the better gifts I received because of what it meant as much as what was in it.

    I hope that since this was 2011, the OP and the relatives sorted out the difference in children’s ages in the gift giving swap.