Family gist exchange when one family is having tough financial times?

Discussion in 'Community Board' started by marius97, Dec 2, 2013.

  1. marius97

    marius97 DIS Veteran

    Mar 16, 2009
    How would you handle a family gift exchange when one family out of four is not on sound footing financially? This family works hard, but has three kids (one severely autistic,) and two step kids. The last several years we've had just the kids exchange gifts (like a secret Santa so each kid only buys one gift) because the adults don't really need anything. This year it was floated (not in their presence) to not exchange gifts at all. I really want to be supportive, but I also don't want to dampen my kids' Christmas experience either. They'll still get gifts from Santa and the grandparents, but part of the fun is seeing all the kids open presents together on Christmas eve. Is there a way to keep that feeling alive without alienating the family or hurting their feelings? I though about just doing gifts with the two other families that can afford it, but then that isn't fair to this one family. I thought about having someone in the family offer to pay for the gifts that this family would have to buy, but they are too proud to accept it (just as I would have been when my family didn't have money years ago.) We've always done a limit of $10-20 on gifts, but I think this year even that will be too much for them. Thinking as I write...what if we created a big arts and crafts table at our get together and have each kid create a gift for one of the others? I know Christmas isn't about the gifts, but it is about the memories that are made and one of the ones that I cherish is that of opening presents with my extended family. But that memory isn't worth making a family member feel bad about their situation. And I've used the gift buying experience to teach the kids about what Christmas means as well as how to handle and budget money. Does anyone have ideas on how to make sure that the kids still have that memorable Christmas experience?

    ETA: To clarify, the kids are split fairly evenly between 8-13 and 1-4. I think that older kids would like a crafts or cookie decorating table and some of the younger ones would like it too. The ones that are too little wouldn't appreciate gifts anyway. Santa gifts come Christmas morning and each family opens them on their own. Christmas Eve has always been the gift exchange and grandparent gift opening time. Even when I was thinking about just doing gifts with the families that are able, it would never have been in front of the other family. It probably would have been through the mail, but that would eliminate the joy of gift opening with their cousins.
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  3. Robinrs

    Robinrs DIS Veteran

    Sep 7, 1999
    I bolded your crafts idea because I like it a lot!

    I don't know how close you are to the parents but if you communicate with them ask the closest member what would be best for the KIDS. Concentrate on the children and let them know you want the experience to be good for them. There is nothing to be ashamed of to be down on your luck financially, live long enough and it happens to all of us at least once. Let them know that Christmas is a season that is MORE than just "things".

    My son's favorite memory of Christmas was the year we went to the dollar store and bought his grandparents and his other relatives items and personalized each one with stick on letters. My Dad kept his back scratcher with the word "POP" on it till he passed away. I still have the telephone book with my Mom's name on it that we gave her and she's been gone 12 years. Gifts like that are memorable and loving, and my son was so proud of them.

    That was the year I had serious financial issues and you know what, he never knew. Kids do not see money the way we do.

    Don't treat it like a charity. No one wants "pity" they want to feel cared for. That's the reason for the season, unfortunately too many people forget that.

  4. Southernmiss

    Southernmiss <font color=green>I am hazed everyday<br><font col

    Aug 27, 2011
    How old are all of the kids? And who exactly decided--the other two families? I'm confused there.

    A craft table wouldn't go over well with our teen boy laden family lol. Maybe a cookie or cupcake or gingerbread decorating party. Don't know if my boys would go for that much either. Maybe minute to win it games...

    We do a similar gift exchange to what you describe in our family. Dh and I have had tough times and are probably those with the least income of the three families, but skimping on a kid's $25 gift exchange wasn't a place we would choose to cut.

    What about asking all families to contribute to a joint gift for a kid adopted from an angel tree? Just ideas...
  5. kirstenb1

    kirstenb1 DIS Veteran

    Feb 23, 2010
    If the whole family spends Christmas Eve together, then I'd propose a new tradition of not opening gifts at that time. Instead maybe have arts and crafts as you propose, or cookie decorating, a scavenger hunt, gaming, or what have you.

    I think in a case where it sounds like there are very differing levels of income, it could create hard feelings for the "church mice" kids to see their more affluent cousins opening all their gifts, regardless of who gave what to whom.
  6. Belle61513

    Belle61513 Mouseketeer

    Oct 14, 2013
    Time spent is so much more important than giving gifts...I like the craft idea, but would all the kids be into that? What about taking all the kids to volunteer at a soup kitchen, Boys and Girls Club, Ronald McDonald House or something along those lines? That way, the kids all get to spend time together (which is what it's all about) but maybe get some experience in volunteering and have a better appreciation for what they do have.
  7. Pikester

    Pikester DIS Veteran

    Aug 20, 2006
    How about a treasure hunt with clues leading to something all the kids could enjoy right then? Bubbles to blow at each other or silly string to chase each other around outside. Of course that depends on where you live and what the weather is like. Maybe a movie with lots of popcorn, candy, etc stuff they might not get very often or make your own ice cream sundaes. Or just a treasure chest filled with inexpensive goodies to choose from. Not sure of the kids ages so of course the items would have to reflect that.

    It would still cost something to do the above but maybe not as much.
  8. nighttowll

    nighttowll DIS Veteran

    Jun 29, 2013
    First, try talking to them. They might come around to the rest of you contributing to their gifts. I think I have to remind people a lot that if I'm helping them, it's not because I feel sorry for them, it's because I've been there. I'm just paying it forward. I've been in really bad situations before and others were there to help me, so I enjoy helping others in return if I am able to. I really feel God blesses certain people just so they can help others at the right time. Maybe you guys can work something out. Sometimes, for the kids sake, people just have to swallow their pride and accept a little help. You're not buying them a house. This is $25 we are talking about. But if you can't do that, if it will just upset them too much then here are a few ideas.

    I second having a treasure hunt. It's a Christmas tradition in our family, and we always look forward to it. You could even do more than one based on age groups. Divide up the work. Just because you can't contribute money for the treasure part, doesn't mean you can't contribute by making clues or setting things up.

    Second idea have a Christmas party. Again the ones who can't contribute money for decorations or games, can contribute time or food in getting the party ready.

    Third idea, limit gifts to the Dollar Tree. We have actually gotten some great deals there, and nothing costs more than a dollar. Then you could play dirty Santa with them, or just give them out. Everybody gets to open something. I'm not ashamed to admit that we have given dollar tree gifts before. We actually got compliments one year, and people couldn't believe the gifts came from there.

    Fourth idea, make a new rule that only home made gifts can be exchanged this year. Let the kids get creative. It could be a lot if fun to see what they come up with.

    Fifth idea. Regifting. Have the kids go through their rooms and find things their cousins will love. Not junk, but like new toys and stuff that maybe they have grown out of or don't play with anymore. Good way to teach recycling. Older kids could pass down old toys. I know we also did this as regular gifts, giving things I knew my little sister really wanted of mine or my cousins wanted. Most cousins covet things their other cousins own.
  9. minkydog

    minkydog DIS Cast Member

    Dec 8, 2004
    I like the idea of making crafts. You could have a few different stations so everyone gets to make 2-3. One of the stations could be in the kitchen where they could decorate and bake cookies. Get some already prepared dough and have at it!

    Since the little kids will have limited attention span and ability to participate, I'd keep their craft very very simple. The older ones might like decorating store-bought aprons with puff paint, making ornaments, or rolling pinecones in glue and glitter (cheap!)

    We eliminated gifts year over 22 years ago during a time when some of us were having financial difficulties. That was the year that I spent $140 in shipping alone and had to go home and lie down, I was so upset. Most of us give no gifts at all. A few of us send something small for the entire family, like nuts or candy or a new DVD.

    One other point--I wouldn't take kids this young to a soup kitchen. That's something better suited to more mature kids. I have taken things to our local homeless shelter and it scared the bejeezus out of my DD, then about 8. She was an extremely sensitive child and it just upset her to no end. I once hosted a sandwich making party for the shelter, however. Each kid 8 or over got a loaf of bread, some sandwich fixings and a plastic knife. They happily made sandwiches which they then placed individually in plastic sandwich bags and returned to the original bread bag. Each kid had a whole bagful of whatever their ingredients were. The little ones, around 3-4yo, made brownies. Mostly they took turns mixing the ingredients. They made one extra pan of brownies which all the kids ate at the end of the party. Later, the older kids took their bags of sandwiches to the shelter, along with the individually wrapped brownies. The shelter staff was thrilled because they often receive clients after the kitchen closed. They liked to freeze the sandwiches and treats for such a time as they were needed.
  10. Granny square

    Granny square Always planning a trip!

    Feb 10, 2012
    When our family got really large we started making stocking stuffers. It cracks me up sometimes and boggles my brain at other times. Always some treats, my bil made bird ocarinas, all kinds of fun things :)
  11. Help  Please!

    Help Please! Mouseketeer

    Jan 8, 2009
    I like the following 2 ideas:

    1. Regifting! Each kid gets one other kid to give to, but it has to be something they already have at home (including making something with what they have...for example, a 12 year old girl may not have an age appropriate gift for a 5 year old girl, but maybe she could paint her a picture, make a bracelet, etc. with stuff she already has at home).

    2. Gingerbread houses! The kids pick "teams" of 2, and work together to create an awesome gingerbread house...maybe you can have a contest...or a theme each year...maybe the grandparents can be the "judges"...print out a few blank award certificates to be used as needed...every kid gets an award..." Most Colorful," "Funniest," "Best Roof," etc! Maybe you can take a picture of each pair of kids with their "house"...what a fun memory to look back on each year! And I bet you can suggest it, and, if you have the money, maybe you can buy the gingerbread or gingerbread "kits" and icing, another family can buy the candy/sprinkles/decorations. For the family with financial trouble, either tell them that it was your idea, you have it covered, not to worry about bringing anything...or, if you think they'll feel bad, can you have them bring in "bases" for the houses? They can just cut out a piece of cardboard (even a shoe box lid) and cover it in foil, tape it on the bottom...they probably would only have to purchase some foil, maybe tape, and put a little time into it, and they could "contribute." I think that would be SO FUN! :)
  12. Janepod

    Janepod <font color=royalblue>The new dinning plan is out.

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not crafts. Do gingerbread houses, cookies or cupcakes. I would cancel the gifts and just have a party -- maybe a movie night with a Christmas movie. You can even do something like favor bags where everyone gets the same thing (or all the girls get the same thing, all the boys get something else) so it's not like gifts per se, but it is something fun for the kids. Do Christmas crackers. Just make it about enjoying each others' company and not about gifts. Oh! Bread dough ornaments!
  13. chuckabone

    chuckabone Mouseketeer

    Feb 10, 2011
    Last year we had each of our kids make gifts for the other they are 13-11-11. Which you think would be hard but it was really fun and I had to help of course. My ydd made her brother a arrow holder for his room. she covered a plastic tall container with camo fabric, we attached a strap and it's perfect.

    This year we are doing $DOLLAR TREE theme. Each kid gets 3 bucks and they have to get the present from the everything a dollar store. I try to present i to them in a way that they think they are being creative.
    My one dd wants to do a candy cane wreath for her sister who loves them. It will take her months to eat them all. :) This may not work for everyone but my kiddo's love it. It's hard when one family does not have alot of extra$$.
  14. npierce25

    npierce25 Mouseketeer

    Dec 8, 2009
    I like the treasure hunt idea. Can you make teams..... Match a big kid with a little can have the craft or cookie decorating as stops on the hunt. At the end have a gift for each kid..... Then have the families chip in what they can afford to fund it...... Don't put a set price.... Just say give what you can.... That way it doesn't have to be embarrassing and those who are able and contribute more....
  15. ksjayhawks

    ksjayhawks DIS Veteran

    Feb 14, 2004
    What about having the kids draw names and buy for that person, setting a limit of $10?

    You could also set up a cookie decorating table/movies/etc.
  16. NHdisneylover

    NHdisneylover DIS Veteran

    Feb 26, 2007
    I like several of the ideas here--including the cookie decorating or crafts table (I think gingerbread houses might go over better, but hard to say not knowing the group), and just making it a party (volunteering could be difficult since there are also several very young kids).

    One idea that I thought of that I have not seen mentioned:

    If everyone lives sort of in tech same area, can the grandparents suggest that this year they really want to take the kids out (one family group at a time) to shop fir their cousins, and they are picking up the tab? They think it would be fun to be with the kids picking items out, and have even all the parents be surprised by what was purchased, etc.

    The two families who are in a good financial place right now can actually give $$ to grandparents to make this happen, without any of the kids, etc knowing about it. All the kids would get a day out with grandparents, everyone would get a gift from their cousins, and no one would feel "too poor" to be a part of things :confused3
  17. NMAmy

    NMAmy Can speak food in German

    Oct 25, 2000
    Why not take this opportunity to turn the focus away from gifts? The crafts idea sounds fun but a game night sounds even better. At holiday get togethers, we play games as a big group which involves both the kids and the adults. On Thanksgiving, we played Catchphrase and it was hilarious. It brought way more connectedness than the two minutes it takes for kids to open gifts.
  18. The Mystery Machine

    The Mystery Machine Sunrise at my house. :+)

    Jan 4, 2001
    We have been trying to 'narfle that garthok' for years. ("Conehead" movie reference. :lmao:)

    I suggested NO GIFTS at all however I think that went over like a lead balloon. :scratchin

    I would just go with buying for the kids. That means you are going to have to include the kids that their parents are in a bind and expect nothing in return for your kids from them.

    This is actually a nice way to go and the kids love it.

    We have bounced around with that system and then also buying for everyone. We have also tried doing names, other stuff, etc and frankly it is just not the same.

    So my vote is that you tell family we are buying for kids. Make sure to tell everyone including your family "in a bind". Tell family that is financially strapped that you understand they are strapped and that you are going to buy for their kids anyway and that they are not obligated to purchase gifts if they are not able to.

    I am going to be sending out that message TODAY as well. Good Luck!:angel:
  19. lauradis

    lauradis DIS Veteran

    Aug 20, 2012
    Xmas isn't time to dwell on other family money issues.

    It's the time to dwell on giving from your heart to your financial ability.

    Giving doesn't have to be plastic junk from china

    Craft table might be fun or making and decorating gingerbread houses. Kids would get to spend time together and play.
  20. sunshinehighway

    sunshinehighway DIS Veteran

    Mar 11, 2010
    I'd just let the gift exchange go this year. If they have 5 kids it's not just one $25 gift, it's 5. I would never want to upset someone or make Christmas awkward because they didn't have the money to buy presents. I know you said you like them opening gifts together but it's really just one less gift for each kid.
    I would not do a dollar store exchange. It sounds like doing a gift exchange just to open something
  21. ronandannette

    ronandannette I gave myself this tag and I "Like" myself too!

    May 4, 2006
    I'm pretty sure this is the way they're already doing it and the problem is that one of the families (with lots of kids) is stretched too thin this year.

    To the OP, I'd also steer away from gifts this year if it were us, but if you really want them to open gifts together how about just dropping the "Secret Santa" exchange part? You and your other siblings who are able just arrange for there to be a modest gift under the tree in advance for each kid; you don't have to belabour who the gifts have come from. At a certain point in the evening just gather everyone around and hand them out - all the kids get one and nobody has to feel bad about what they did or didn't bring. :debwalk: Merry Christmas!!

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