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Q: How to properly address the need to minimize Xmas gift-giving ( Answered,   3 Comments )
Subject: How to properly address the need to minimize Xmas gift-giving
Category: Relationships and Society
Asked by: lislander-ga
List Price: $2.00
Posted: 17 Dec 2002 13:31 PST
Expires: 16 Jan 2003 13:31 PST
Question ID: 126142
My mom has been living at my cousin's house for several years now. My
mom also works at the day care center that my cousin runs out of her
home. Up until about four years ago my cousin (and her family) and I
(and my wife) never really spent the holidays together nor did we
exchange Christmas gifts. Usually my wife and I would spend the
holidays with our immediate families and subsequently the gift giving
was just between only immediate family members. Like I said about four
years ago my cousin had invited us to come over for Christmas Day
dinner. Since my wife and I usually made Christmas Eve dinner anyways,
it wasn't that much of a problem as far as how to proceed with how to
plan to spend Christmas Day was concerned. Needless to say we went to
my cousin's house. I had already been given a heads up (by my Mom -
who, as I mentioned, happens to live at my cousin's house) of who was
going to be there. My wife and I thought that it would be awkward if
we didn't bring gifts for my other two cousins that were also going to
be there, since I knew that they knew that we were going to be coming
to dinner as well. So we wound up bringing gifts for my 3 cousins, my
cousin's husband and their early teenage daughter. It was a good thing
that we did since they all had gifts to give us as well. Since then,
we have now been invited every year to go to my cousin's house for
Christmas Day dinner and we have gone and have brought gifts each
time. We now have a 3 year old son and a 1&1/2 year old daughter. Due
to having the children, our finances are strained and it is very
difficult to make ends meet. Any additional gifts that we would like
to buy for others that are not immediate fanmily members would result
in putting ourselve sin debt, which is something that I do not think I
should need to do just in order to ''give gifts''. Although we would
like to be able to exchange gifts with everyone since we enjoy the
feeling that gift giving brings, we also know that everyone that would
be attending the Christmas Day dinner would still want to give
presents at Christams time regardless of the fact that we would be
feeling awkward if they were to give us gifts but we didn't have gifts
to give them. In anticipation of this occurring, we are considering
not attending the Christmas Day dinner at my cousin's due to what
would most likely result in an embarrassing situation for my wife and
myself. The additional twist to this dilemma is that my Mom lives
there, as I had mentioned, and as a result, by means of one way or
another, despite the fact that my wife and I have repeatedly conveyed
our displeasure to my Mom about her making public knowledge things
about what goes on in our lives (i.e. plans, schedules, when and where
we go to events and/or shopping, etc...), my Mom will eventually
somehow, in some way shape or form, say something to my cousin (maybe
without consciously thinking about what she is saying) that would
differ or contradict whatever it would be that I would tell my cousin
as far as a reasoning goes as to why my wife and I would not be
attending the Christmas Day dinner. What is the best way to approach
this whole situation as it pertains to attending as well as with
regards to the gift-giving aspect? Thanks in advance for any help that
you are able to provide.
Subject: Re: How to properly address the need to minimize Xmas gift-giving
Answered By: aceresearcher-ga on 17 Dec 2002 14:52 PST

How well do you know (and get along with) your cousin? Even if you
don't know them well, my recommendation is that you give them a phone
call and explain that while you are looking forward to the family
gathering again this year, because your finanicial situation is so
strained, you are uncomfortable about trying to be a part of the
customary gift-giving process this year. Unless your cousin is an
absolute cretin, they should understand. Ask them if they would be
willing to forego the exchange with you, your wife, and kids this
year, or perhaps would be willing to exchange plates of "goodies"

If it will help you (and this is probably what I would do with so
sensitive a subject), sit down and write a little "script" before you
make the phone call. Keep it brief (2 or 3 sentences should do), and
end it with a question such as "We would really appreciate your
understanding on this; would you be willing to go along with having
the whole family bypass the gift-giving this year?"

Read your "script" through a couple of times to see if you can find
anything you think should be modified. Then have your wife read it
through and offer you her suggestions. Then leave it alone overnight;
then come back to it the next day and read it again. Once you feel
pretty comfortable with it, make your phone call.

Then call -- or visit -- your mother and explain to her that you have
spoken with your cousin. Ask her to call your cousin and anyone else
who is invited to the dinner, and let them know that she is requesting
that there be no gift-giving at the dinner this year. She doesn't need
to give a reason; however, it sounds very much like your mother is the
sort of person who will feel compelled to offer one anyway.

Suggest to her that she simply say, "Because the economy is not very
good right now and some people have been harder hit by it than others,
I would prefer to not have any gift exchanging at the dinner this
year. I think the gathering will be much more enjoyable for everyone
if no one has to worry about buying and wrapping gifts. However, if
you wish to make individual arrangements with the other people who
will be at the dinner to exchange gifts privately at another time,
please feel free to do so."

I recommend you write a little "script" for her and give it to her to
use. Tell her that you would like to suggest that she use this written
explanation, that it should be quite sufficient, that she doesn't need
to add any extra information, and that you are sure everyone will
understand. Hopefully, this will greatly decrease the likelihood that
your mother will decide to add her own elaborations on the situation.

Before Rating my Answer, if you have questions, please post a Request
for Clarification, and I will be glad to see what I can do for you.

Good Luck, lislander, and my best wishes for a Happy Holiday Season
for you and your family!


Subject: Re: How to properly address the need to minimize Xmas gift-giving
From: mathtalk-ga on 17 Dec 2002 14:28 PST
Hi, lislander-ga:

It's a sticky situation.  My thought is to say that you have agreed
with your spouse to spend Christmas Day at home with your young
children, so that you begin to build a new family tradition for them
to look forward to in years to come.  You needn't go into great
detail, just that together you've made special plans for sharing the
"true meaning of Christmas" with your children.

Who would think less of you for that?  And with any luck you and your
spouse will be struck by an inspiration to make that special day

holiday greetings from my family to yours,
Subject: Re: How to properly address the need to minimize Xmas gift-giving
From: techgoddess-ga on 18 Dec 2002 08:15 PST
Last Christmas several members of my family had financial problems
(myself included).  First of all realize this (your cousin probably
realizes this too.)  Christmas is not about the presents.  Your cousin
will probably agree that it's all about spending time together and
enjoying eachother's company.  You should definately communicate your
dillema.  Before you do, think about how you would react if they
called you and told you that they couldn't afford to buy presents for
you this year.  Would you be offended?  Probably not.  Here's some
creative things that my family has done when money is tight.  One
thing that's worked really well is every year we have a christmas
drawing.  We set a price limit and we each draw a name and buy a gift
for that one person.  Last year we made candy and gave it to all of
our family members.  Another thing we do regularly is visit the
bargain book shelf at the book store.  You can usually get a $30-$40
book for about 5 bucks (I buy my parents books every single year.)  My
sister-in-law's family for the past two years have only bought gifts
for their daughter and our kids and made gifts for everyone else.
Everyone knows that they have limited resources and everyone's fine
with that (her husband was jobless two christmases in a row.)  Another
thing you could do is buy one gift for thier whole family (like a
board game or a movie.)  It would be cheaper than buying individual
gifts and they would probably really enjoy it.  Talk to your cousin
and tell them your situation and what you have in mind.  Maybe you can
even kick around some ideas together and come up with some creative
(and economical) alternatives.
Subject: Re: How to properly address the need to minimize Xmas gift-giving
From: journalist-ga on 18 Dec 2002 08:40 PST
I am in agreement with Aceresearcher's answer suggesting that you
address the situation directly.  Some may misinterpret your request
because some people view life only as how it affects them but there is
nothing you can do about that.

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