11 Nov
What’s the Cost of Friendship?

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

I have one child and my best friend has three.   Every year, I feel like I nearly bankrupt myself buying her kids holiday gifts. I suggested a dollar amount limit and she suggested $20 per kid.   So that’s $20 for her and $60 for me.   Is this fair?   And wasn’t my suggestion of a limit enough of a hint?


This Friendship Is Putting Me In The Red


Dear In The Red,

Oh the holidays. That wonderful time of year when we so often gorge on Christmas cookies, stress over holiday cards and empty our bank accounts to buy heaps of presents that will likely end up in landfills. I can hardly wait for the merriment to begin.

We all can get a little swept up in the holiday fever and forget that credit card bills will actually need to be paid in January. So you need to be realistic about what you can afford. If $60 is too much to spend on your friend’s kids (and I personally think that is excessive unless those children can give you access to a magic potion that stops the aging process), then you need to do more than offer a “hint” about your financial constraints.

Here’s the problem with a hint. I hinted to my husband that it would be just fabulous if he sometimes went grocery shopping. This did not send him racing to the store with our reusable bags and a shopping list. I had to wake up one morning and say, “Can you go shopping today while I take the girls to swimming class? Here is the list.” Done.

So stop with the hints and tell your friend the truth. Tell her you can’t afford to spend 60 bucks on her kids. Maybe she can pick out one gift that all her children might enjoy like a video, a Wii game or a board game. Or perhaps you can agree to not exchange gifts this year or each buy something to donate. If you’re crafty, maybe each family can make an ornament for the others’ tree. Or do a cookie exchange. I think there are a lot of creative, affordable ways to handle the situation but first you just need to be honest with your friend.

Because your friendship shouldn’t fill you with resentment and bitterness. Obviously, that’s what families are for.

Good luck to you,

Kelcey, TMH

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12 Responses to “What’s the Cost of Friendship?”


Comment by Kathy.

Great suggestion Kelcey! I only have one child and some of my sisters have 5 so I’m always in the situation. I did exactly I would buy a family gift.


Comment by thepsychobabble.

Family gift gets my vote, board games are good:)


Comment by Muirgen.

Last year my SIL and I came to an agreement to stop exchanging gifts. The idea was this:
1. Our kids have enough stuff and won’t really notice one less gift.
2. The holidays are stressful and fewer gifts to buy equals less stress.
3. Instead of exchanging gifts, let’s do something together (ie, go to the movies).
It was WONDERFUL, and sure enough, the kids didn’t notice.


Comment by sophiecls.

I like the idea of a group gift, too. Board games, videos, video games and, depending on their ages, toys like a lego set or something that they can all use together are good options.

If you’re into crafts, you might be able to come up with simple gifts to make them. Just keep an eye on the costs. Sometimes the price of supplies can add up.

I’d also keep in mind that it’s a $20 *limit*. If your budget is closer to $10 per kid (or $5 or $15 or whatever) then spend that.

If she’s your best friend, as long as your gift(s) show a little thought, then she should understand.

Either that, or she’ll think since you went “cheap”* on the gifts, she’ll do the same next year, and that will take the pressure off you. 😉

*Not that I think it’s cheap to spend according to your budget. I’d call it smart.


Comment by hokgardner.

Our little neighborhood group had gotten carried away with giving Christmas gifts. It was fine at first when there were 4 kids in all. Now we have 13, and it’s gotten expensive. Now I make a lump donation to a group that provides winter coats to kids on behalf of the neighbords. I include a note in their Christmas cards saying what I’ve done.

It’s worked very well for us.


Comment by K.

Good luck!

I think homemade stuff is the way to go in this situation. I’m not crafty, but I bake a mean cookie. Go for whatever works for you.


Comment by GrandeMocha.

We tried to stop the madness. One woman said it wasn’t fair becuase she had been buying gifts for everybody elses kids for years & she wants her kids to get theirs. Since it is my husband’s family, I make him buy the presents & wrap them & ship the out of state ones.

mom, again Reply:

I know what your relative means:

Being one of the older cousins, and several years older than most of the ‘herd’, I spent years sending gifts off to my younger cousin’s milestone events. I was grown up when they were not yet teens and even if it was just a card, I thought of them. Birthdays, HS and College grads, weddings & bridal showers, housewarmings, babyshowers, babies 1st birthdays, 2nd rounds of babyshowers and 1st birthdays.

My oldest daughter got married this year. Number of acknowledgements received from my cousins: 0

No cards. No letters. No gifts. There may have been FB congrats from a few of the very youngest, who are younger than my daughter. (Big families are like that!)

But from the adult cousins? NOTHING.

I’m done with them.

They’d gladly received gifts from me/my family, but never began reciprocating as they grew up and got jobs. I never thought about it, until they ignored this major milestone in such a big way. Indeed, a minority of their parents, my aunts and uncles, acknowledged the marriage in any way. We live at the opposite end of the country, I didn’t expect hordes of them to attend. But, cards and letters, even sans gift, I did expect.

If there had been family agreement about not gifting, I’d be OK. But this was just thoughtlessness x 22(cousins).


Comment by miswiggie.

I’m with the family gift suggestions. OR you could bake them a nice holiday fruit cake. 🙂


Comment by Heather.

Yep, I agree with the “group kid” gift idea. Maybe a gift certificate for the three kids to go to a movie?


Comment by Marinka,TMH.

Or, you could get a few extra kids for the holidays, to try to make it more even. Let me know if you’d like to borrow some. Reasonable rates.


Comment by MommyTime.

My kids have six first cousins, so I feel your pain. My suggestions: (1) buy kids’ books at places like TJMaxx or Burlington Coat Factory. Beautiful $15-20 hardback books are normally about $5 there, so the gift doesn’t look “cheap.” I collect a small stash of these, picking up particularly good ones throughout the year whenever I happen to see them, so that I always have something in the present closet to use as a “new big brother” present or for the holidays. (2) do the half-make/half-buy plan. One year I bought mini rolling pins and fancy cookie cutters and then made everyone chef’s hats out of those white “flour sack” dish towels. Cost about $25 for three gifts that are usable for years. (3) Family-play games (Twister, Scrabble, Life, etc) — for $20 you can probably get two of them, and give them hours of good fun.

Good luck.

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