Thursday, December 11, 2008

Held hostage by the gift exchange

I love Christmas. LOVE it. It's my favorite time of year, and I actually really like all the shopping and wrapping and such. I love buying presents for everyone; the only bummer every year is that we don't have more money. Back when we were DINKs (double income, no kids) we'd go to each family gathering with armloads of presents and it was AWESOME.

Anyway, even though we can't get loads of gifts these days, it's still fun to pick things out for people and see their faces when they open them. I love that part. I think that's part of why the "plan" with my in-laws this year is bugging me so much.

They decided, and by "they" I mean my step-MIL Maria and her daughter Amy, that instead of everyone buying gifts for everyone else, we'd do a gift exchange. Each adult is supposed to bring a gift that is, "something you'd want," whatever that means. We draw numbers, and pick gifts in order. Each person can either pick a gift from under the tree or "steal" a gift from someone who has already picked. We've played this type of game before and it can be really fun - and granted, it might be really fun when we do it this year.

The problem is, this means that we're not "supposed" to buy gifts for my in-laws, nor my SIL who lives with us, my BIL or his fiance. So instead of taking the time to pick something we think they'd really like, we just buy two random gifts and we don't even know who will end up with them. No strolling the aisles thinking, "Sam would love this!" And speaking of Sam, my SIL really gets the shaft. She's a single college student. Usually it's her parents, my ILs, who buy her a bunch of Christmas presents - you know, how parents do. She doesn't have a boyfriend, fiance or husband to spoil her on Christmas. This year, because of this gift exchange, instead of getting a bunch of cool stuff from her parents, all she's getting is some generic, random gift that she ends up with at the end of the game. Now, it isn't all about the gifts and she's the least selfish person I know in the whole world, seriously. But even she is really bummed.

The purpose, I'm sure, is to allow everyone to save money, and that is totally fine with me. Our budget is tight this year too and I can totally appreciate that. But it's annoying that we weren't even consulted on this decision. In fact, we were only told as an afterthought. During Thanksgiving dinner, Sam asked Amy about it and asked if Amy had told us yet. It was obvious from the look on her face that it hadn't even occurred to Amy that we should know about it. Gee, thanks, glad to feel a part of the family.

The real kicker is, instead of saving us money, this is going to cost us more. My husband said screw it to the not buying other gifts part, so we're still buying something for my ILs, my SIL, and my BIL and fiance - which we would have done already - plus the two gifts for the gift exchange. So that kind of sucks. Obviously we don't have to, but he's adamant about it. So instead of saving us money, it really means we have to buy two extra gifts.

Not only that, but because Sam isn't getting any "real" presents from her parents, we're trying to squeeze the budget a bit more and buy her some extra stuff so she has more presents to open. I'm happy to do it; goodness knows I love her dearly and she deserves it. But ouch. I'm trying to keep track of the Christmas spending and I want to throw my hands in the air, pull out the credit card and say screw it.

So I guess the bottom line is, I'm annoyed that two people got to dictate what the rest of us do for Christmas without consulting any of us, I feel bad for my SIL because she's pretty disappointed about it all, and I'm frustrated that this is going to actually end up costing us more money, not less.

And I have no clue what to do for the gifts... Sigh.

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