12 Oct
Christmas Stress. Yes, Already!

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

I just got an email from my sister-in-law saying that because they’ve had a baby and gone from two incomes to one this year, they are scaling back on Christmas spending. They will be giving inexpensive and/or homemade gifts and have asked the family to reciprocate in kind. I’m on board and in search of creative and inexpensive gift ideas or homemade gifts that fit the bill. Any ideas?

Also, how do we handle gift exchanges with other branches of the family who are not setting the same limits? Do we keep giving to them at the “higher dollar amount” of years past or scale back everything for all? I’d love to hear what has worked well for other families.

Signed, The “Rich” and Childless Aunt


Dear Miss Richy Rich Aunt,

Jeesh! I’ve barely put away my Columbus Day decorations and you’re already bringing up Christmas? Man, can’t a girl get a breather around here?! Ok, fine. I didn’t put up any decorations for Columbus Day but I did spend the holiday referring to my children as Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria. We all honor history in our own way.

I totally understand your sister-in-law’s desire to scale back Christmas gifts and I’m glad you’ve jumped on board. But I will say, I’m not a huge fan of homemade gifts unless….

1. You’re seven. And you’re my kid.

2. Or you are uber-talented and can create something totally cute and amazing.

3. Or it’s something you can eat like a double fudge marshmallow cake ball.

4. Or it’s a Starbucks gift card.

And yes, I did used to make my own Starbucks gift cards. They were quite popular until some nosy local police got involved and started using words like “fraud” and “counterfeit.” I hate when my creativity gets stifled.

As far an inexpensive gift, I love Christmas ornaments. They don’t have to cost a lot of money and there are so many creative ones. Yes, of course there are Charlie Sheen ornaments out there!

Another option is to do a gift exchange with your family. You each choose a name from a hat and you only buy for that person – so you can buy a higher priced gift. That way everybody doesn’t end up with a Marie Osmond snow globe from the dollar store.

In regards to the other family members – will you all be spending the holiday together? If yes, then I think you all should have the same gift buying guidelines. If not, then no need to set spending limits with everyone.

Good luck and remember, it’s never too early to start worrying about your holiday card too!

Merry Christmas!

Kelcey, TMH

18 Responses to “Christmas Stress. Yes, Already!”


Comment by Desperate Dietwives.

You know what, dear “Rich Aunt”? This year I’ve had an idea in the same line as your SIL’s, with just a tiny difference: I mean to propose to my family to set aside the money we would spend on Xmas gifts, put it all in an envelope and give it to a charity. This way, what is superfluous to us will cover the needs of less fortunate people. The only exceptions I am going to propose are the kids’s presents, but then we only have 4.

How about it? 🙂

Kelcey Reply:

I love that idea!

vodka tonic Reply:

Let me recommend Oxfam. They also send out lovely e-cards to notify the recipient of the donation made in their name.


Comment by Cate8.

I want a Marie Osmond snow globe!


Comment by suburbancorrespondent.

Edible homemade gifts usually work well for adults. I don’t know any adults who really need more stuff. Of course, if you are aware of anyone in your family who is struggling financially, a gift card to Target is a boon – they can spend it on food or clothes. It’s too late this year, but if you like to make homemade jams, those are great gifts, too.

Another good idea for a gift is time – taking nephews or nieces to the zoo or a movie or maybe even just to the mall to hang out together on a Saturday. Experiences are appreciated longer than things.


Comment by patrick.

I vote for the charity option. Most of us do not need more stuff, homemade or not, and lots of people need the things a gift of money to a well-researched charity can buy. To involve your giftees, let them pick the charity.


Comment by Bean.

I always like photos for presents – photos of the kids in a frame or photo book for the grandparents. Every year my MIL gets a “year in review” book of the best pictures of my girls & says she loves it. And this year for my dad’s birthday, I took a bunch of his unsorted, unedited photos & made a photo book for him (with his input, of course).

Downsizing Christmas is generally a good thing. I know my kids are overhwelmed by the time they’ve opened 5 things.


Comment by Wendi.

Kelcey, can you make me some homemade American Express cards this year?


Comment by Rosstwinmom.

I say skip the gifts for people over 21. So much easier. Maybe all agree on a fun movie event or Christmas-related to-do in town? Just be together and have fun.


Comment by Plano Mom.

My family is blended, with seven kids, all married with kids of their own. When we plan to get together, the rule is any presents purchased are for under 18 only, and very inexpensive. My parents have bought each adult a $1 lotto card, and they were always a huge hit. As for gifts for each other, when there is nothing expected, it frees you to give a gift that is truly special, and there is no awkwardness that someone is singled out. I might give one sister or brother something only for them, and everyone appreciates the unique gift. We have also done the Secret Santa thing, with all the presents being your favorite childhood board game, or a gift exchange with a dollar limit. If you all agree to remember the focus is on the kids and the spirit of Christmas, the gift giving works itself out.

sisterfunkhaus Reply:

Love the idea of lotto tickets. I am stealing that! I am also a Plano mom btw.


Comment by danielle.

My family is doing the name exchange this year. We’ve set a $50 limit for a couple. I’m jazzed as my husband and I both have large families so this will really help us out.


Comment by GrandeMocha.

My SIL refused to scale back. She said she bought all those older kids presents for years and now her little kids need to get theirs.


Comment by sisterfunkhaus.

I’m not so sure how I feel about one person dictating to the whole family. I think that if you want to buy people gifts, you have a right to do that. If you want to come to a consensus as a family, do so, but telling someone, “This is what we are doing and we want you to do it too” is plain dictatorial. Instead, maybe you could draw names so that everyone gets a nice gift. You could do an ornament exchange, with ornaments being homemade or store brought, etc… There are tons of alternatives to homemade gifts, and to dictating to everyone else what to do.


Comment by devillerouge.

you know–here’s the thing–its my belief that the receivers don’t get to dictate what kind of gift they get. Otherwise, it’s not a gift, is it?

a gift comes from you–from your heart, and if you put thought and feeling into it, it shouldn’t matter what it is. WOuld i like to get a flatscreen TV and a fancy schmancy camera with all the bells and whistles? you bet–but if i don’t get those things, i can save up and get them myself, or better yet, do without. I would rather get an inexpensive but thoughtful gift than some item i have to “return in kind” the following year.

I have given handmade stuff, edible stuff, gift cards and charitable donations. Those that appreciated them got gifts again the following year. THose that didnt’? didn’t.

Might make me a hard ass and persona non grata to some of my family/friends/perfect strangers but it’s definitely taken the stress OUT of my holiday gift giving.

good luck!


Comment by rojopaul.

Last year I hand made ornaments and I am not Martha Stewart. It’s really not that hard. I cut out two fabric hearts, stuffed them with pillow stuffing, stitched them up, cut the edges so they would rag, washed them, and then affixed a bow hanger out of burlap yarn with hot glue–this using leftover fabric so I didn’t spend a dime. But I personalized them so some got Christmas fabric, two got dogs/bones fabric because they are pet lovers, my country friend got gingham, etc. The time you take is what counts, not what you spend. And the fact that you thought of them, is meaningful. I’ve also done jam before and you can make jam out of frozen berries too, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be fresh strawberries.

My mother got glass balls from Michael’s and painted on them, including the year.

We’ve also bought just for the kids under 18 and then pulled names for everyone over 18.

I will say I tend to get actual gifts to open for whomever we are spending Christmas Day with, though.


Comment by Alexandra Lynch.

I always give food. You don’t have to worry about where to store it or if it matches your decor and it’s pretty much always appreciated.

I give a bottle of homemade wine if I have an appropriate venue for that. Legally one can give away homemade wine, I just can’t sell it. So I have things like blackberry burgundy wine, which my husband says tastes like naked pool parties (laugh) and a really wicked concoction that is half wine and half mead and tastes like innocent chardonnay but knocks you on your ass if you have a second glass. (That would be the mead part.) Winemaking is one of the things I do for fun. (Mainly because you dump it all in a bucket and it does it itself.)

Otherwise the offerings are things like a family gift of a basket with 2 loaves of homemade bread and two kinds of homemade jam. Or for a birthday, a loaf of apple-walnut sweet bread. Kids get a loaf of peanut butter chocolate chip bread, and the parents are required to promise not to eat it all before the kid gets up tomorrow, because it tastes like a dark chocolate peanut butter cup.

rojopaul Reply:

I would like to be your friend. 🙂

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