Ideas for gift giving

Two Totebaggers seek advice about gift giving, and you can post your own questions in the comments.

Gift giving on a budget

by Louise

I like to give gifts but I have to look at my budget as well. DH has over the years delegated gift giving to me. I primarily buy for my nieces and nephews. For the adults it is occasional gifts if I think they would enjoy them.

I try not to splurge. In a nod to MMM, I had my DD “save” her birthday gifts (craft kits) and open them in the lean months.

What are your strategies for gift giving on a budget, saving gifts for later or do you turn into MMM (modern day Scrooge) and declare a gift free holiday ?

Gift giving for families in transition

by SWVA Mom

I was wondering today if I should get my estranged husband a Christmas gift and thought I should ask the Totebag. Do you or your friends/family exchange holiday gifts with the ex-spouse? If so, what’s appropriate? More specifically, is booze OK?

Do you help young children purchase something nice for their other parent or just let them go with the craft project they made at school? I’m not there yet, but same question for step-siblings who might come into the picture.

What about ex-in-laws? (I did send gifts to my nieces.) And do you still exchange holiday cards with the ex’s aunts/uncles/cousins?

Any other holiday etiquette tips for families in transition? Please share your funny stories or cautionary tales about broken & blended family holidays.


198 thoughts on “Ideas for gift giving

  1. SWVA – when the kids were little, my ex and I always helped them choose appropriate gifts for their other parent and to make sure they wrapped them nicely, etc. My kids were often apart from their dad on his birthday and Father’s Day, so I made sure they got something in advance, so they could mail it in time. Likewise, he coached them from a distance for Mother’s Day and my birthday, and let them use his credit card to purchase those gifts. A few times, I dropped the ball and we ordered some same-day things online, but I never let them just have the occasion go by. Even if you’re not on speaking terms w/ an ex, you can view it as a means of teaching kids how to treat the people in their lives well. Ditto for all the relatives on your ex’s side. He “should” be the one to help your DD with gifts for his family, but if you know he’s not going to do that, you might want to help her, so again, she learns how to treat the people who matter to her. And then ditto for any new people who might enter your DD’s life — a stepmother or stepsibs or half sibs, etc. The way I see it, we want our kids to be generous givers, no matter who their recipients are or what we think of those recipients in that moment.

  2. Our family tradition is 5 gifts – one from mom, one from dad, one from your sibling, one from Santa and one from Rudloph. So, my kids don’t expect A LOT of presents under the tree. The “rules” – Rudloph gives you something practical

  3. I love, love, love buying gifts. We just had a kid birthday in our house, and I have to say that the Zoomer Kitty and sun beam mini pie maker are huge hits. “Adult small appliances” maybe a gift theme in our house this year. I looked at getting the toddler a toy vacuum – dyson makes one, with real suction! But it doesn’t actually pick anything up. For 1/3 the price, kid can have a dustbuster and will be incredibly happy.

  4. 10:15 hit a glitch…to continue…Santa gives you something fun, and parents give the “better” gifts. And, well, your sibling does what your sibling does. By not putting at lot of emphasis on Santa, the parent presents are all based on the budget that year and kids know it. It helps keep the buget because Santa is something fun and not usually big. Lastly, gifts can be bundled – so new pj’s, robe, and slippers might come from that practical reindeer, but they are wrapped together.

    In addition, there are a few stocking gifts and candy. Then there is the whole grand parent thing that we can’t control.

  5. The gift giving I am not excited about: New Au Pair arrives today. We usually make a little basket for her room (toiletries, warm pajamas, etc.). Her birthday is between today and Xmas. And then she needs some Xmas gifts. And driving lessons. These are all expenses I anticipate over the year, but it is not delightful to buy so many things over the course of a few weeks for someone who I haven’t met yet.

  6. Great post! I always struggle for gifts for the kids. Surprisingly, DH is really easy to buy for. My parents are the worst. I don’t really budget, but I try and provide a mix of large and small gifts for each child. Traditionally, birthday gifts are larger than Christmas gifts.

    In DH’s family, gifts are really meaningful (i.e. gifts = love; more gifts = more love). In our family, gifts are not so emotionally important. This led to some conflict when the kids were small, but we’ve both compromised over the years and are now comfortable.

  7. DH and I will not exchange significant gifts this year (sad for me, he will get over the tragedy). We are somewhat cash poor. In related news, we finally closed on our gigantic monster renovation project. One week in, and the gc has filled two construction dumpsters – lots of interior walls down, kitchen and bathrooms gutted. It is kind of intimidating, but really exciting. Right now, everything, including the gc, is amazing – I have dreams of working with him to flip houses. I imagine everyone loves the gc at the beginning: we will see how long and painful this becomes.

  8. Being around a number of families with his/hers/ours, we’ve observed some things that went well and other that didn’t. The three things that really struck me last year were:

    1. The mom who said she sends Christmas cards to all the people who care about her child regardless of whose relative they are. If it is the ex’s parents, or cousin, or great uncle, it doesn’t matter, what matters is maintaining the network of people that support the child. The exception is if you feel that a person should be cut off from the child, such as one alcholic relative.

    2. Being able to remove yourself from the equation of “ex” or “almost ex” position and thinking of that person as just another distant relative you see at the holidays. Then behave accordingly…send the card, buy the small gift, etc. If you bake and hand out a lot of cookies/treats, send a plate with the kids to the next visit. But, don’t treat them like the closest relatives as that might give the message you want to get back together…more to the kids than the ex.

    3. Working in an age appropriate way with your kids to make sure the “ex” or “almost ex” isn’t forgotten by them in the way of presents. Giving the kids a budget that you will contribute for this and then they can add from their money or merge together if they want to spend more.

  9. At some point, a few weeks ago we were talking about present ideas and I mentioned that *IF* we were going to buy a boat in the Spring, then we could use Christmas to buy some of the gear we would be buying anyway, including any presents for me. I think DW has taken this to heart, so I guess that means there’s no turning back now.

  10. I can’t remember if I read this here or somewhere else, but I’m going to start my own tradition for DD this year – she will get 4 gifts from me:
    Something she wants,
    Something she needs,
    Something to wear,
    Something to read.
    Unfortunately, she “wants” a laptop or Taylor Swift concert tickets, neither of which is going to happen. I think the “want” gift will be those annoying Shopkins toys she always begs for. There will also be stocking stuffers and a couple games/toys from Santa.
    SIL & I agreed that the grown-ups will not exchange gifts since we both have had tough financial times lately, so I’ve been letting my crafty side out and trying to make a few things like the melted crayon ornaments. And we go in together on something my parents want/need (and explicitly asked for).

  11. I love *finding* just the right gift, but I hate the stress of figuring out what that “just the right gift” *is.* My family is much like Houston’s DH, not in quantity, but in terms of demonstrating your love by finding just the right thing that the recipient never knew they always wanted until you put it in front of them but now wouldn’t be able to live without. So no pressure. DH’s family is much more practical and just tells each other what to get — but where’s the fun in that? Plus he just buys any toy he wants year-round, so he’s freaking impossible.

    Need ideas: we have a Yankee swap Sat. for Hanukkah with the inlaws — limit is $10-15 each. Goal is to create the most sought-after gift, but creativity and cleverness are much in demand. (One guy last year did two boxes of gift cards — one was used and worth nothing, the other was worth $30, so you take your chances. The worst was when DH got stuck with the dreaded stylus, which now makes an annual appearance as The Gift To Be Avoided). Ideas for stuff I can buy/make in the next 24 hours? I’ve done marshmallows and homemade hot cocoa mix in the past, but no time this year.

  12. Good luck, Ada!

    We have a per-kid budget when I shop, and the gifts include a lot of clothing. I put new toothbrushes, hairbrushes, kid vitamins, brand name toothpaste, and dental floss in the stockings, along with a clementine and a small puzzle toy. Sometimes soap, socks, or underwear, if needed.

    The kids have not yet figured out that this is not a great stocking :) DD will soon, though.

    I also stock up on used books at the library sale – 25 cents each! – and they get a stack of new books each.

    DH does not pay attention to my shopping or the per kid budget, and some years gets one kid a splurge gift I don’t find out about until it is pulled out from behind the piano – like the Christmas Story movie.

    Adults get smaller gifts. We have tried drawing names (fail with DH’s family, works with mine) but when the extended family doesn’t get together for the holiday, that often means we have the gifts at our house until Easter.

    Most of my ex-relatives don’t get gifts or cards. I will be getting something for the ex SIL’s new baby and stepdaughter, because we see them regularly.

  13. We don’t do a lot of gifts for Christmas or Birthdays. DS is getting an expensive gift this year (game console), but that is NOT the norm. We prefer to buy things as we need/want them throughout the year. DH & I generally only exchange gifts on our anniversary, and often we chose something to get as a couple.

    We stopped exchanging with most other adults awhile ago as well & just enjoy time together. A bunch of the women in the family are going to a show & out to dinner during Christmas week, for example.

  14. “Plus he just buys any toy he wants year-round, so he’s freaking impossible.”

    This is why we stopped. It was getting really dumb. We are already buying the things that we REALLY want, and if we don’t want it enough to buy it, we don’t really want the other spouse buying it for us. The money is all out of the same pot.

  15. LFB: My traditional swap gift is a bottle of Fat Bastard wine. Everyone gets a kick out of the name, it’s $10 a bottle, and it’s wine. Not creative, but it works.

  16. the gifts include a lot of clothing. I put new toothbrushes, hairbrushes, kid vitamins, brand name toothpaste, and dental floss in the stockings, along with a clementine and a small puzzle toy

  17. DH’s family does not give gifts. My inlaws really liked the Kindle, I got them so this year, I bought them another one. The kids tell Santa about gifts they want through Mom, his trusty elf. This year Santa is getting them Echos. The hoverboard I hope will drop in price by the summer, in time for birthdays. None of the neighbor kids have one yet, so there hasn’t been a Santa request for one. We ended up spending quite a bit on gifts for various charitable organizations. Even there we are Totebaggers so we tend to pull gift tags that request gifts of clothes. I think in the future as our kids age out, that is one area we will increase our spending.

  18. ” I don’t find out about until it is pulled out from behind the piano – like the Christmas Story movie. ”

    I JUST watched that movie for the first time on Sunday, with the kids.

    It was OK. I don’t get what all the fuss is about.

  19. Rhett – hilarious.

    I’m not even sure how much I spent on the kids this year. My son was just asking for made up toys that in his four year old mind should exist – (a glow in the dark transformer, a talking reindeer stuffed animal, etc.) I did manage to find him a remote control flying dragon which I was giving up hope on. My oldest wanted those Zoomer puppies and kittens but I only got her the puppy because for some reason the cat was $75 and the puppy was $25. We actually do a lot of gifts at Christmas for the kids because we do not buy them much during the year. We are not into sensible gifts for Christmas yet.

    I’m now doing the gift buying for the people that are hard to buy for – my SIL (who I really don’t like) is ending up with personalized stationary and my husband has gotten every male relative a Yeti Colster. My sisters and their husbands agreed to no gifts this year which is fine (no one needs more stuff).

  20. We have a pretty firm budget – which I already broke on one person. We have to buy for lots of kiddos and fewer adults. It is about 25 people we buy for.

    I’m stumped on two people: any suggestions for a 10 year old girl or a 23 year old young woman are much appreciated.

    Every kid wants to be DS this year – we have Xmas celebrations on 12/19, 12/25, and 1/6. His bday celebrations are divided to 1/3, 1/9, and 1/16. A one year old child will have 6 opportunities to eat paper. Or get lost in his stocking.

  21. “I JUST watched that movie for the first time on Sunday, with the kids.

    It was OK. I don’t get what all the fuss is about.”

    Thank you Milo! I thought I was alone in that assessment. Any why does it have to be on for 24 hours straight on Christmas day!

  22. I don’t get the Christmas Story love either, although it’s my husbands favorite movie. It wasn’t something we watched as kids.

  23. “23 year old young woman”

    Rhode – What’s the budget? $20-25? Are you anti gift cards? Cute gloves with the texting material in the fingers are good if this person lives in a cold climate. A pretty infinity scarf.

  24. “Unfortunately, she “wants” a laptop”

    What’s your budget for that gift? A co-worker got a Dell laptop for something like $125 the week after T-day.

    A lower cost option might be a tablet.

  25. Aaaargh. 11:15 was me. Think I have it sorted back out now.

    I’m always begging DH to allow us to simplify, simplify, by having him and I exchange smaller/fewer things. It takes a lot to convince him to agree to this and he never really manages it, but he swears he’ll actually do it this time, so I *think* I have him prepared to give me a new French press this year and nothing else. In the past, it would be, “Here’s your French press … and a new car to go with it!”

  26. “Here’s your French press … and a new car to go with it!”

    What a bastard. I don’t know how you put up with him.

  27. Those suggestions for transitional families sound great.

    I was thinking a dessert tomato could substitute for an orange in totebagger’s stockings.

    “no one needs more stuff”

    Or, they don’t need stuff that they won’t use. Finally, after years of multiple gifts per person, my H’s family agreed to a Yankee Swap. But then some people began to suggest changes, disagreement ensued, and the whole thing was called off. Yay!!! So nowwe’re going gift free, and this is fine with me after years of receiving useless gifts and giving money to nephews. I’m a horrible gift giver and receiver. One member of my immediate family cares about gifts, and her big one is VIP tickets to a local DWTS performance.

    “We prefer to buy things as we need/want them throughout the year.”

    That’s us. Bah humbug.

    And please, no gift cards. I just threw out a bunch that expired because we never used them.

  28. I got one 25 dollar or less present for each grandchild. The 2 year old gets a set of kitchen appliances from Costco. The color within the lines 6 year old gets a lego set with a storyboard and multiple creations from the with explicit directions. The 4 year old gets something from Octonauts. No adult gifts this year, but the two of my kids who didn’t get or have a pending generational transfer will get a small deposit in their accounts. I am still deciding whether to buy myself a Montblanc pen as my December gift to self – the recent auto repair and an unsuccessful ebay clock purchase earlier this year had me decide against it, but really, I can still afford it. DH is getting his classical CDs ripped for the wireless system, but I am trying to do it while he is napping or out – so far it is working fine, but the age of the CDs mean that the metadata doesn’t always trigger the right fields in the classification software of the speaker system, so I am fiddling with file folder structure on the NAS to see whether I can force correct groupings.

  29. Rhett – I know. Woe is me.

    PTM – it took me a minute to figure it out and then I couldn’t really think of a response.

    Rhode/Milo – yeah, that movie isn’t high on my list, either. We made ourselves watch it the year we got DS a BBgun for Christmas, but haven’t seen it since. Doesn’t hold a candle to Elf.

    CofC – also for the Totebag family: half a cookie, wrapped in foil. Leave the other half for Santa. He doesn’t really need more than that.

  30. Coc – what gift cards did you throw out ? I usually give Target or Amazon gift cards. I gave an Athleta gift card to a someone who likes to be active but that is a rare exception.

  31. Rhode – how about a board game for a ten year old girl? Or a book series like The Mother Daughter Book Club or those Puffin Classic hardcover books are really pretty if she likes to read.

    My husband has also been buying The Food Lab cook book for people – it’s awesome.

    I was going to buy DH an apple watch but then he guessed what my idea was and said he’d rather wait for the second iteration. He also just bought himself a ton of expensive wine so he said I shouldn’t buy anything for him. I’m stuck now..

  32. @Rhode — the Horrible Histories books are going over gangbusters in the 10-yr-old set that I know of. Also, this link that someone (HM? Rocky?) provided when we were looking for funny team apparel — I am going to shop there myself for the niece/nephew set.

    But, you know, we’re quirky. YMMV.

  33. SWVA – To answer your question, you are not obligated to give your ex a present from you, especially if it takes extreme self control to be civil with each other at this point in time (for example, if you pretty much communicate by email because phone calls or face to face talks often degenerate) or it is clear that he or you is still very very hurt by it all. My experience with guys is that they hate buying gifts, so they are relieved if there are none and he is unlikely to be buying you one from him – perhaps he will help your child to buy one for you. You are obligated to put effort into his present from his own child (not liquor or craft project). If he has an expensive whiskey or wine he likes and (obviously) drinking was not one of his issues, that is an appropriate gift from you. You can always buy it, have it in the house or trunk, and if he gives you something, whip it out. As for presents from you to ex in laws, that has nothing to do with him. Do what feels right to you. If your child is expected to bring gifts to his family members other than handmade cards, that is a coordination matter with him. No matter how joint the arrangements, the mom will be deemed hostile or inadequate if the child does not conform to expectations in dress, gift giving, thank you notes or holiday behavior. How much that is a cause for worry, as long as it does not result in scolding or bad treatment to her, is certainly up to you. It took about ten years of time passage (and exposure to crazy ex on his own) for my in laws to rewrite the narrative and decide that they always adored me and I was the stable one and good parent.

  34. Coincidentally, the day before, I had taught my oldest how to shoot a BB gun. I had been cleaning out the garage and came across a 12 pack of caffeine-free diet Pepsi (which is bad enough when it’s new) that was several years old. So we shook them up and shot them.

    “It’s no Christmas Vacation.”

    We watched that the previous week. They laughed the hardest when the squirrel was running through the house. They don’t yet appreciate the subtleties of lines like

    Look, uh, sometimes things look good on paper, but lose their luster when you see how it affects real folks. I guess a healthy bottom line doesn’t mean much, if to get it you have to hurt the ones you depend on. It’s people that make the difference, little people like you.

  35. We leave cookies out for Santa and carrots for Rudolph. When they were younger, we made magic reindeer food (oatmeal and red sugar crystals) to throw on the grass to reflect Rudolph’s nose light so he could lead Santa to our house. Kids loved it until the youngest was 6. Eco friendly, but some recipes use glitter.

  36. We only buy for our children now – we haven’t exchanged gifts in years and all the parents, grandparents and some siblings are gone and we have agreed with all others to not exchange gifts for years. It takes a lot of pressure off the holidays.

    I spend between $ 300 and $ 400 per kid and try to keep everybody at the same amount. This year I also bought for my son’s girlfriend who moved from Canada to be with him. I am hoping there is a wedding in the future! I spent the same amount on her as the others since she is missing the holidays with her family.

    I find my children are more focused on traditions than gifts and get upset if we don’t have the same special sides, cookies, candy and decorations year to year.

  37. For the first time in our relationship, DW and I are getting each other “no gifts” this year. Except for stocking stuffers which typically include candy/some personal care items. And the kids are getting maybe 2 real gifts, plus a few gift cards to places they go all the time for a total of $100 each.

    Totally enabled by a family trip to Hawaii. That’s my kind of shopping.

    We spend about $100 per person on DW’s parents, sisters and their families, my parents. At least this year all those nieces and nephews just got AMEX gift cards. My sister’s family, who we are not close to at all, clearly a story for another time or maybe never, gets a breakfast basket.

    I hate trying to come up with an idea. Fine if my kid texts me and says something like Springsteen is coming to town…maybe you want to buy tickets for you and mom? Sure winner, easy to do.

    DW grew up in a family where gifts for everything are a REALLY BIG DEAL; me just the opposite.

  38. I am going to be in a panic about Christmas shopping starting tonight. We are traveling Sunday-Sunday, with limited or no internet, So I wanted to finish all my shopping before then. Unfortunately, work has descended into chaos and I have been working every night. I haven’t packed for my trip or done laundry, and I have 1 million errands to run, but must complete the shopping and mailing before I leave. The day I get back is my daughter’s birthday, then my parents come to days later. I am sending a gift card and board games to one sibling family. But need a gift for the other siblings family, and one of my kids. My brain is full from the work craziness, so I’ve got nothing! I may just send alcohol.

  39. ““Here’s your French press … and a new car to go with it!”
    What a bastard. I don’t know how you put up with him.”

    This made my day.

  40. I’m having trouble coming up with gifts for my almost 4 year old DD. Most of what she likes are the hand me down toys from her older sister. So i’m stuck with the dilemma of should I just buy another My Little Pony to go with the 10 that are already in the house? She has yet to really develop a love for a particular thing. I honestly think if I wrapped up old toys of her sister’s she would be just as happy.

    Ideas for a 10 year old? – My 7 year old loves getting gift cards to Barnes & Noble.

  41. My kid got much needed extra set of underwear in stocking and 4 year old clothes in advance for next year that I bought on black friday.

    DH and I splurged on new iPhone 6s plus and apple watch for DH.

  42. “You are obligated to put effort into his present from his own child (not liquor or craft project).”


    How about a very recent photo of your child in a nice frame? It’s likely that most of his pictures of her are on his phone. If you don’t have a photo that you like, you could spring for a professional shot.

  43. DW and I are getting each other “no gifts” this year….Totally enabled by a family trip to Hawaii.

    Just a thought. Maybe get everyone a few inexpensive vacation themed gifts? Maybe a box with flip flops (rubba slippas) Hawaiian shirts/dresses (Aloha shirts) Hawaiian Tropic sun screen, etc.

  44. That also works if you want to do it as a surprise. Let them open one at a time until they guess what the actual present is.

  45. Lemon, I have wrapped up old toys and given them to the younger children as if they were new.

    Once the oldest is able to recognize some of the toys, this requires an explanation in advance – not that I learned that the hard way or anything *cough* *cough*

  46. Lemon, I have wrapped up old toys and given them to the younger children as if they were new.</I.

    Sky, you are on a roll today!

  47. Sky, you and Rhode have motivated me to get Baby WCE a rock-a-stack today and maybe I’ll wrap the box of 222 diapers I ordered from Amazon so she’ll have the biggest present under the tree. She currently has, ummm, no presents from us, but I’m thinking I may be gifting things out of the Goodwill box. (Boxes of stuff that sit in storage until I’m sufficiently sure their contents will not be missed.)

    I think Baby Rhode will fare better this Christmas.

  48. “Let them open one at a time until they guess what the actual present is.”

    They know (have known for months). We’re going next Sunday.

  49. WCE and Rhode, when those babies turn two, Santa can bring them training pants with their favorite characters on it, their own little potty, and a note about the importance of proper hygiene.

    Yes, I’m really evil….

  50. I should have added that I have actually done that. Worked for one out of two so far; will report back on Child #3 in a few months.

  51. Finn – Re the laptop, she has a 2nd-gen iPad that is still in excellent condition and only wants a laptop to access a few websites (recommended by the school) that don’t work on the iPad. H is our tech guy and he doesn’t think she needs one yet. Plus he will probably get her the best Apple product available whenever he does think she is ready. Not my department.

    Mémé & Scarlett – thanks for the advice and suggestions. Ironically, gift-giving was one of our issues. He would buy whatever he wanted throughout the year, making it very difficult to give him something thoughtful. And he would give DD & me too much (overcompensating for emotional unavailability, maybe?) & too expensive (really, Frye boots for a 7-yo?) stuff. And he refused to coordinate on budget and ideas for DD & other family members. Sorry, I could go on and on…

  52. “We leave cookies out for Santa and carrots for Rudolph. When they were younger, we made magic reindeer food (oatmeal and red sugar crystals) to throw on the grass to reflect Rudolph’s nose light so he could lead Santa to our house. Kids loved it until the youngest was 6. Eco friendly, but some recipes use glitter.”

    Also rodent friendly!

  53. . In many ways, I think buying a Christmas gift is one of the few times a year when we are forced to actually think about a person as an individual. So much of the time, we relate to SIL Jane or Uncle Harry as kind of generic relatives, people who show up to gatherings and who you may chat with a little. But at Christmas, we have to confront the question: What does Jane actually like? What would make Uncle Harry happy or maybe laugh a little? I honestly think it is a way for us to put ourselves into their being for a tiny moment. So you can imagine, I like to buy gifts and I think it is important, especially for the adult relatives. I also don’t like the idea of having a gift exchange just for the kids because I think they should see adult relatives getting and enjoying their gifts.
    Also, especially as my kids get older, I make them participate in choosing family gifts.

  54. I get carried away with kid gifts, meaning that I plan to spend about $150 each but probably end up at $300 by the time you include all the stocking stuffers and the additional things I threw in because I saw such a good book for this kid, or there were funny holiday sweaters on sale (velociraptors as 3 Wise Men!), or some such. I spend most of the year thinking twice and then thinking again before buying unnecessary stuff, so when I open my heart to buying frivolities there’s so much to buy!

    I learned the importance of making sure everyone has a fun book on Christmas morning early in our marriage. I’d bought a fun space opera book as a present for my husband’s brother, which my husband (who doesn’t get very involved in the shopping) had very much admired when it was opened. So, the next day, my husband is turning the house upside down and starts asking if I’ve seen his Christmas book. “What Christmas book?” I asked. “You know, my Christmas book. The one by the engineer from Star Trek?”

    I.e., the book we’d given his brother. I might even have given him a book, but nothing in the light-fun-dig-right-in class.

    Since then, he gets a Christmas book every year ^_^.

  55. Sky – We’ve purged toys and donated various little plastic trinkets to the teachers’ “treasure boxes.” My kids have earned tickets in school for good behavior or whatever, and then they’ve bought their own toys back.

    Sometimes, they even know that they’re buying it back, and they’re still excited about it.

  56. buying a Christmas gift is one of the few times a year when we are forced to actually think about a person as an individual

    Yes! I completely agree and I like it for the same reason. My in-law family has a no-adult-gifts policy, but with a big exception for stocking presents, so the effect is that you just get small low-cost gifts. I like to hit B&N and get magazines, the oddball specialized sort that most people wouldn’t really subscribe to but are fun to sit around read on a holiday afternoon. Something can be ridiculously pricey for a magazine but very reasonable for a small gift. Photographer specialty magazine, MAD for the kids, Dr. Who magazine (that is a real thing), military history magazine, it’s amazing what all there is. And of course you have to be thinking hard about what the person would actually like since publications like Victoria Magazine and Fangoria Magazine appeal to different audiences.

  57. I spend about $150 per child for Christmas, and $100-200 for a birthday. My kids don’t get much other than school clothing and supplies needed for activities such as scouts during the year. I agree that giving gifts is fun.

    My nieces are young (4-6 years old) and they love crafty stuff, glitter glue, etc. I enjoy shopping for them. Glitter glue, smencils, and Melissa/Doug stuff are on the list this year.

  58. My family was also about the Christmas traditions as much as the presents. We always got to open one present Christmas Eve, chosen by Grandma. It was always PJs. I don’t want to admit how old I was when I finally figured out that it was because my Grandma always wanted the Christmas AM pictures to involve the kids in the new, pretty PJs.

    Then Christmas AM, we could always open our stockings when we woke up. Obvious and logical ploy to buy the grownups another few minutes of precious sleep. And the toe of the stocking was always, always an orange. I hate oranges.

    This year will be weird, because we will be in FL, and my step-sister and fam are coming in the weekend before, so we have early “Christmas” morning a week from Sunday. Thus explaining my “oh, crap” shopping panic. . . . I have precisely one gift purchased — and that is for my bro, who won’t even be here!

  59. “Coc – what gift cards did you throw out ?”

    I can’t remember all, but the one that stands out is a Borders Books one, obviously from some years back. I think we we used to have a Borders Books near us, then B&N, and then that closed. Somehow the card never got used even though we made trips to those stores, but we never carried around the gift card. The iTunes and Starbucks cards are still good, and I have a Nordstrom card that I’ve been chipping away at for years. I think it still has some money left on it.

    I guess neither I nor my kids have been organized about using gift cards, so that’s why I dislike them. Cash is better. Credit card gift cards are nice and convenient, but they usually come with a fee. I have given Amex gift cards when they have promotions that let you skip the fee.

    Maybe a reason I am so down on gift giving is that the vast majority of the time my reaction to gifts has been “oh that xxx is so nice and thoughtful, but I will never use it and I don’t want to store it”. And I’ve seen so many gifts that simply don’t get used, and it seems like such a waste. Maybe I just hang around people who don’t know how to select gifts.

  60. “I have wrapped up old toys and given them to the younger children as if they were new.”
    “Sometimes, they even know that they’re buying it back, and they’re still excited about it.”

    I feel that this thread has a lot of Golden Totebag winners.

  61. We always got a tangerine and a silver dollar in the toe. I think the tangerine was a treat a generation or so previously, but by my childhood it was more just a lingering tradition. I don’t do it for my own kids.

    MM, that’s why buying a single issue in a stocking seems special. It can run you $15 and not seem too expensive for that purpose. Just call the B&N or other bookstore convenient to you and ask if they carry it.

  62. Maybe I just hang around people who don’t know how to select gifts.

    My extended family on my father’s side is like that. You’re lucky if you get whatever item Sears is promoting as a good generic holiday gift for her — their preference is to get things that look more expensive than they are, either because the item was expensive to start with but weird so ended up clearanced, or because it’s a cheap knock-off of something nice. One year my one aunt apparently picked up a ream of gray stationery paper for cheap, so everyone got gray paper for Christmas. And then there was my brand-conscious cousin’s high school years, when she would ask for some specific item from a desirable brand and get a cheap knock-off because her mother (different aunt) didn’t see the difference. (Once it was the Frederick’s of Hollywood perfume instead of the Victoria’s Secret perfume because they’re both fancy underwear brands, it’s basically the same thing, right?)

    Luckily my family on my mother’s side always went more for the carefully chosen gift.

  63. “I think Baby Rhode will fare better this Christmas.”

    Ha! Not from his parents! We have spent > $10 on him for Xmas (not including his stocking), and bought him this for his birthday: . We just have it on good authority that his grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, crazy lady across the street have spoiled him rotten. It’s kinda disgusting really.

    Sky – I’m totally stealing that idea. Next year I’ll wrap up random things like that.

  64. “And then there was my brand-conscious cousin’s high school years, when she would ask for some specific item from a desirable brand and get a cheap knock-off because her mother (different aunt) didn’t see the difference.”

    Gee, HM, didn’t know we were related. We call it “Just As Good”; my mom is the master.

    My personal favorite was the knockoff tabletop pool table that was about 1/4″ lower in the middle than around the edges. Made for an interesting game.

  65. CoC said “And I’ve seen so many gifts that simply don’t get used, and it seems like such a waste. ”
    OTOH, I have also seen the opposite -cases where people have given me things that I never imagined I would want – things that even seemed dumb when I first opened the package – but turned out to be perfect. I was given an electric wine bottle opener about 5 years ago, for example, which I thought was the dumbest thing ever. I don’t even use an electric can opener, so why a wine bottle opener? But I tried it and I found it worked really well, much better than the manual corkscrew. When the opener finally gave out about 6 months ago, I actually replaced it.

    There have been other things too – hats and gloves that I wouldn’t have bothered to buy for myself but which I enjoyed when I got them as a gift. A fleece jacket in a pale blue which is not really “my” color, but once I started wearing it, I liked it. I usually try to use anything I am given at Christmas just to give it a shot.

  66. “I find my children are more focused on traditions than gifts and get upset if we don’t have the same special sides, cookies, candy and decorations year to year.”

    I definitely resemble this!

    When DS was 6 months old, we got him a book for Christmas. A book – singular. I didn’t see the point of doing a lot of gifts for a baby who already had everything he needed, but I wanted him to have one present to attempt to unwrap and likely just chew on for the photo op. Maybe when you have older siblings, you need more of a story to tell about babies/Santa, etc. Obviously, as he’s gotten older, we’ve given him more, but even for the 1st and 2nd birthdays, he tired of opening gifts before they were all opened. And we didn’t have huge parties or anything either.

  67. Sky – you are totally on a roll !
    The most I have gotten away with is reusing gift bags, but I was careful not to use the ones from the last Christmas. The ones from previous years my kids had forgotten. My kids have thankfully stopped bringing plasticky toys from the treasure box, an activity they loved.
    DD’s friends seem to gifting her the little bottles of hand sanitizer, lip balm, hand cream from Bath and Body Works. DD is in turn giving them creations from the craft kits, so those are being put to use. Very sweet exchange of little gifts.

  68. COC – I will join you as a humbug. I just hate all the crap. And honestly, most of it is crap that people don’t really want or need. I feel like it’s pretty rare that people actually hit the mark. Maybe I know a lot of bad gift givers too! I have a gift card in my wallet for a manicure place that I believe is now out of business from 5 years ago. I do use gift cards for stores that I go to regularly though.

    One thing that I really dislike is the wrapping up of practical stuff in order to make it seem as if there are more present or to fill a stocking. (sorry Sky!) If I need socks or a toothbrush, I will buy socks or a toothbrush. How is that a present? And then to wrap all that crap up? I guess it is a holiday decorating technique – lots of piles of so-called presents that are really just items on my Costco shopping list. :)

  69. “The most I have gotten away with is reusing gift bags, but I was careful not to use the ones from the last Christmas.”

    Louise – we all have our own bags with our names on them. The presents fill the bag, the bag is opened, and the bag returned to the giver. Repeat next year. In some cases, the presents aren’t even wrapped.

    Thanks all for some ideas – I think I may have found things.. now to get them in time to be wrapped.

  70. “I usually try to use anything I am given at Christmas just to give it a shot.”

    I actually stopped doing that because inevitably it would end up going to charity, and I decided it would be nicer if I could donate new, never used items. Same with the kids — I ask them to think if they really like a gift or are just being nice to keep it only to have it clutter up their rooms. The thing is, the gifts are usually lovely and from stores like WS, PB, or upscale department stores. But I just don’t want them. Occasionally something works, but rarely.

  71. One year I got a pack of 100 disposable chopsticks for my cousin and wrapped up each pair separately. He’d been complaining about the household being out of chopsticks.

  72. In retrospect, I can’t believe I wanted to write out 100 little “To [Cousin] from [HM]” tags. But we were teens so nothing was to much trouble for a joke. (I got him a real present too.)

  73. No time today but I have to respond to Milo re: A Christmas Story. You need to watch it like 5 more times to really get the whole thing. It is magic and we watch it every year! So much better than Its A Wonderful Life. Part of the fun is being able to anticipate the lines “Ah Fragee Lay. Its Italian!”

  74. You’re evil, HM. :D
    BTW, I just cleaned out some kitchen drawers and retrieved about 50 disposable chopsticks and about 100 disposable forks/knives/spoons that I had stashed away over they years from take-out meals. Then my H the pack rat promptly took them and told me he had a use for them, stashing them away somewhere in the basement.

  75. Love gifts. I am a great gift giver, if I do say so myself. I buy all year round and stash things in the closet. DH is also a great gift giver. I never ask for anything because whatever he comes up with is way better than what I would have asked for on my own. And I don’t necessarily mean $$, just in terms of thoughtfulness/usefulness. I will have my Totebag credentials revoked for this, but I can’t imagine Christmas (or birthday) without the excitement of wondering what he’s come up with this year.

    We give gifts to all extended family, but since I buy them spread out over the year, it doesn’t feel too burdensome.

    We almost never buy our kids anything outside of birthday/Christmas (“Why won’t you buy it?” “That is what your allowance is for.” “But I don’t want to spend my money on it.” “Then put it on your birthday list.” Rinse and repeat 400 times during the year) so we do make a big deal out of Christmas. Not in terms of tons of presents, but we do try to get them pretty good stuff. They are at such easy ages to buy for right now.

    We take our kids out to buy gifts for each other, and we take them out to buy gifts for the other parent. Some years this is more successful than others, but we do let them direct it.

    For a 10 year old girls – I got my nieces “Buckhead Betty” duffle bags and had them monogrammed, which are apparently all the rage here. YMMV, these are a very Southern brand.

  76. And please, no gift cards. I just threw out a bunch that expired because we never used them. Sell the cards for cash. You don’t get 100% but if it’s a card that you can’t or won’t use, it’s better than nothing. My wife’s aunt gave us a $100 ticketmaster gc last year, great in theory so we could have a night out. The problem is the only decent venue in Denver that uses ticketmaster anymore is Coors Field, and for some stupid reason MLB won’t let people use TM GCs to buy Rockies tickets. So I sold it to cardpool for $85.

  77. The problem for me in gifts I received during my life was that often they were blunt instruments of the giver’s agenda for me. By that I mean cookbooks and bible commentaries from first hubby, unsuitable outfits (but it looked so nice on the salesgirl) from my slender mom. DH had several year’s gift exemption because of a mega (for him) gift he hit out of the park a couple of years ago, but for the most recent birthday he just gave up and bought me a small stuffed animal made from some sort of exotic south american fur (in the shape of the animal – not a llama). That is why I am still thinking about the pen. Hanukkah is not a holiday for grown ups to receive gifts, luckily, so seasonal gift giving for adults in not customary. But that ups the ante on birthdays and any other days one chooses to celebrate. I prefer to send spontaneous gifts when I find them throughout the year – that fills the thoughtful pleasure Mooshi describes – and it relieves others of the burden of finding something for me on cue and me of the disappointment. I refuse to infantilize other adults by thinking, isn’t that sweet, you picked that out all by yourself.

  78. We call it “Just As Good”; my mom is the master.

    Argh! My mom too. I swear I’m going to go over to Zappos and buy a pair of REAL Clark’s Wallabees to make up for the crappy Sears knockoffs in 1975. Even though I will be the only person in Denver wearing Wallabees.

  79. “The most I have gotten away with is reusing gift bags”

    My mother uses the same gift boxes every year. It’s fun to see the look on the kids’ faces when they see a Victoria’s Secret box.

    But there’s this one box she had, well, since I can remember — at least 30 yrs, if not 40. It’s a solid cardboard clothes box, with the bottom and top wrapped separately (back when the stores did those things), and a little red sticky bow on top. You just put the clothes in, slide the lid on, and you’re good to go (side note: my family is not known for its wrapping skills, so this box is freaking genius).

    Until she put 3-yr-old DS’s clothes in there, and he immediately started ripping the paper off the top. . . .

  80. Rhode – For the 23 year old woman I would give a gift or a gift card to Anthropologie, and for the 10 year old something from Klutzpress (crafty stuff).

  81. So much better than Its A Wonderful Life

    All movies are better than It’s A Wonderful Life. Birdemic is better than It’s A Wonderful Life.

  82. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a terrifying, asphyxiating story about growing
    up and relinquishing your dreams, of seeing your father driven to the
    grave before his time, of living among bitter, small-minded people. It is
    a story of being trapped, of compromising, of watching others move ahead
    and away, of becoming so filled with rage that you verbally abuse your
    children, their teacher and your oppressively perfect wife. It is also a
    nightmare account of an endless home renovation.

  83. @Rocky — the most terrifying parenting moment so far was when I heard myself telling DD that Generic Brand X was just as good as the fancy thing she wanted. . . .

  84. RMS, you totally deserve. Just think, next week you’ll probably buy a lunch out that you could have run home for lunch ($15), pick up some random grocery store items that you don’t really need ($25), and you’ll make a Target run and buy some unnecessary plastic items ($35). Boom, don’t do those things, and those shoes are now down to a totally reasonably $60. Do it.

  85. Please name me one generic item that is as good as the original. Store brand ibuprofen doesn’t count. Neither does grocery store brand. I mean the good consumer products that we all covet.

  86. I prefer the C9 yoga pants from Target over Lululemon yoga pants…but to a teenager you need the name brand for street cred.

  87. I have started giving my mom and dad a gift card to their favorite nice restaurant. They definitely don’t need anymore stuff, and I know they will use it and have a good time. They keep asking for it each year, so I guess it is a success!

    We gave DS a great “experience” gift for his bday this year – and it was pretty last minute. Eddie Izzard (sp?) is one of his favorite comedians, and he came to town this summer. I got DS tickets for himself and a friend and he really appreciated it.

  88. @ Lemon, Okay I’m with you on the C9 running clothes. That’s my preferred brand as well and I’m picky.

  89. I have to say for my mom, she did not do the Just As Good thing. If I asked for Esprit shorts as a present, either I got Esprit shorts or I didn’t get shorts.

    Then again, since I had a clothing allowance I was doing the Just As Good thing myself a lot of the time! And with my older two being on a clothing allowance now, they really appreciate getting gifts of clothing.

  90. Oh, and so far my DD doesn’t seem to mind getting doll clothes and accessories from My Generation and other American Girl knockoffs. She has the real American Girl doll, but everything else that goes with it is a knockoff. When I was little I got a Just As Good Cabbage Patch doll, and let me tell you, it was not Just As Good. So I had no problem spending $120 for American Girl.

  91. @HM – Me too. I just don’t call it “just as good” anymore. Now it’s “knee of the curve.”

  92. “Argh! My mom too. I swear I’m going to go over to Zappos and buy a pair of REAL Clark’s Wallabees to make up for the crappy Sears knockoffs in 1975. Even though I will be the only person in Denver wearing Wallabees.”

    Oh, RMS, are you horrified to learn that we are sisters?? I too have been tempted to buy Clark’s Wallabees for the very same reason. And I thought I Was The Only One who didn’t own a pair in 1975.

  93. When I come up to Boston to see the kids, I’ll wear my Wallabees and we can have coffee!

  94. I bought myself a Just As Good (well, I knew it wasn’t, but the real ones were too expensive for me) pair of Candies-style wedges and they were so slippery-soled that I once fell flat on my back in the hallway of my high school.

  95. MY mom took the “just as good” thing one step further – she sewed clothes for me. I distinctly remember a fake “OP” embroidered on some shorts, and she made the whole family matching knit polo-style shirts with something other than a horse or alligator emblems. The only things she couldn’t fake were jeans and shoes.

  96. but to a teenager you need the name brand for street cred.

    Right. The brand is a big chunk of the value for teens. It doesn’t matter if the knockoff is functionally equivalent, it will never be just as good.

    I actually go the other way with my kids stuff a lot of times. DS wants a gaming chair and put a $90 one on his wishlist. I did a little research and ended up getting him one for $165 that has much better reviews. I don’t want to spend $90 on something that he’d probably be disappointed with so I’d rather spend more to get something that (if the reviews are accurate) he will like much better. Plus I will get some use out of it as well :)

  97. I distinctly remember a fake “OP” embroidered on some shorts, and she made the whole family matching knit polo-style shirts with something other than a horse or alligator emblems.

    Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

  98. On a related topic, I’ve been noticing lately how long I’ve had some things that I still use regularly. I have an awesome ski bag (pockets on either end for boots with a ton of space in the middle) that we use all the time. I got it over 15 years ago and it’s still going strong. I have a car bike rack that I got almost 20 years ago that’s still going strong. It’s made me realize that it really is worth spending the extra money for quality for things that I can use for a long time. I’m in the market for a new winter coat and usually I skimp on these things. But I finally figured out that I’ll have it for 5-7 years at least, and I’ll wear it at 4-5 months of the year, so it makes a lot of sense to spend $250 instead of getting a cheap one for $75.

  99. Oh man, I loved those Candie’s mules. They were like Barbie doll shoes. I never wore them because my AP geek friends would have mocked me for trying to be hot.

  100. Add me to the “just as good” club.
    In my case, it was Docksiders/Topsiders vs. the cheap knockoffs

  101. I distinctly remember a fake “OP” embroidered on some shorts, and she made the whole family matching knit polo-style shirts with something other than a horse or alligator emblems.

    Crying from laughter. So sweet, and so wrong.

  102. I am cracking up today.
    My Mom bought me the latest clothes but unfortunately being a chubby teen meant that I didn’t look great in the nice clothes. My parents now love to take the kids shopping and if I don’t put the brakes on this, they will spend a lot money. My suggestion to put the dollars towards their college fund has fallen on deaf years.

  103. I arrived at Big Ivy with a suitcase full of what I thought were preppy clothes – that I made myself from McCall’s patterns. My mom knew no better. That is not so much funny as sad.

  104. Oh, Meme, that makes me sad. Do you still have friends from that Big Ivy?

    I’m guilty of never buying Uggs for my D, and honestly I regret it.

  105. I think I beat everyone on the Just As Good thing: in an era when having the correct brand of jeans was essential, my mother actually tried to SEW my jeans. She also sewed me a swimsuit one year, which was really embarrassing because it ballooned full of water when I wore it.

  106. Oh no, I also had a homemade pair of “pants” that had an elastic waistband and were made of bandana material. I guess Mom thought the material was “cheerful”. That was as close as I ever came to getting beat up in junior high.

  107. The key – which I figured out within a few hours of meeting my very wealthy roommate – was that if anyone dared ask about the provenance of your clothes, you simply said, regretfully, “I’m afraid you couldn’t possibly get one like it. You see, it was custom made.”

    Just don’t confess you made it yourself :)

  108. Meme – I want to send you a hug for that one. I identify with still being stung by not quite fitting in. I do recognize the social aspect and that is why I do buy my kids things and will be flexible on certain items.

  109. SWVA – I haven’t read all the comments yet but wanted to weigh in for you. My ex and I do not exchange gifts. I make sure the kids have something for him and send gifts to his family back east if they will be there with him for Christmas (this year for the first time in four years they will be, he usually takes Thanksgiving). Other years they get cards with pictures or some type of picture present – Shutterfly just sent me the where are you email, here is 50% off. Once in a while he will help the kids get me a present, but my mom is close by and often will handle that with the kids. He hated buying presents for me when we were married, no way he would even think about it now, the kids would need to insist.

    My ex and I do try to coordinate gifts to the kids so we don’t duplicate and have given joint gifts if they are large. From the beginning if the kids were at my home for Christmas and my ex is in town too, he comes over Christmas morning for presents and breakfast. We are at the point after 5 years that I would invite him to Christmas dinner if I am hosting – except, I have a boyfriend now and that might not go over well this soon, mainly for the kids, but should be fine by next year, I hope.

    My boyfriend of 4 months has three kids similar age to mine and I have reached out to them to help them get him presents, his ex absolutely will not. They are thrilled to have someone to help this year.

  110. “C9 running clothes.”

    I’m glad to say that these are DD’s favorites as well, including the C9 running shoes.

    I think there’s only one thing that DS really cares about WRT name brands, and those are his Chucks. Fortunately, he is happy to wear what DW gets for him, which is whatever is on sale at the outlet during T-day weekend.

  111. For years, DW and I would treat ourselves to something for Christmas, from an LD player to our first DVD player to our first flat screen TV.

    Last year we took the MacMurray approach and took a family ski trip as our gift to the entire family (DW did get them some small stocking stuffers). The kids had absolutely no complaints.

  112. I plan to attend the Luther College concert in January, since they only come to the West Coast every ~5 years, and if Mr WCE is overseas, I’ll get a babysitter. Merry Christmas to me.

    Mr WCE is building a customized assault-style rifle and I am very grateful he doesn’t expect me to pick out any of the parts for him.

  113. Bay area mom – congratulations on your new beau!

    Oranges/tangerines in the stocking always makes me think of Little House on the Prairie, when they were in their new house out away from civilization. Ma and Pa told them that Santa wouldn’t be able to make it, but low and behold Mr. Edwards walked for miles and waded through the icy river with a piece of candy and an orange for each of them!

  114. An affordable but luxurious present for girls/women that makes a nice presentation is a gift package from Lush. They are pre-wrapped and start at around $15. It’s one of those affordable luxury items since their one-use bath bombs start at around $6. One of those tied with a ribbon could be a pretty stocking stuffer. They have gift packages at every price range, all the way up to $300.

    I know someone who is working at a Lush store this holiday season, and she has interesting stories about shoppers. Like some who come in and casually buy a dozen $50 gifts for their set of friends, or the $100+ teacher gifts some moms are buying.

    Back when I worked retail at an upscale women’s store, Christmas Eve was a mad house as desperate men came in and bought anything that we would suggest for their SOs. We offered beautiful gift wrapping, so it was a good solution for them. Of course, many of these last-minute gifts came back as returns shortly after Christmas.

  115. Speaking of “just as good” and affordable luxuries, do you all buy expensive ties? I was wavering between buying a Brooks Brothers tie ($80 but net $48 w/coupon) versus a department store tie (about $27 w/coupon) as a gift for a 20-something. I thought the more expensive tie was not worth it, especially for a young man not in IB or similar field. But when I compared them in person the BB ties won me over, considering the difference is “only” $20. OTOH, if you’re wearing a Jos A Bank blazer, would a BB tie look out of place? Hmm, maybe I should check out JAB ties.

    OTOH, my H sometimes buys $5 or $10 ties from sidewalk vendors . . .

  116. CoC – I know almost no younger person outside of banking and law who needs more than one or two good ties. A few novelty ties are always nice, but maybe not from auntie or family friend. DH, who worked at a public banking institution, had maybe 40 ties before I culled them, most from the 70s. When I purchased ties as gifts, it was always silk from a good store (it used to be Barney’s, but that is no longer on my patronage list). I prefer for the 85 dollar list but steeply on sale sort of gift a belt if you have an idea of the size. A safe size for a young man unless very slim or a big guy is 34 but I am sure you can estimate.

  117. I’m considering asking the local alterations/tailor shop to make a tie for DH out of a lovely silk fabric I picked up at Denver Fabrics back when they were an excellent fabric store. I have bought him a lot of Jerry Garcia ties over the years and he has had oddly good luck with them (got his current job wearing one, wins cases wearing one). Now I suppose SOME people would think it was because of his qualifications and smarts, but I know it’s because of the ties.

  118. At one point DH used to wear a suit and a tie to work but no more. At that point I would give him nice ties as presents. He needs to dress up only for a few occasions a year now. DS’s school has a tie as part of the formal uniform. He had DH knot the tie for him and now just slips it on and off over his head.

  119. I forgot to add that DS’s tie sometimes get stuck and then there is a struggle to get it over his noggin. He does not want to undo the knot.

  120. As a result of an electrical issue last week, DH and I are getting each other a new treadmill for Christmas. Bah humbug.

  121. I haven’t tried Lush products myself though I have given them as a gift. Maybe I can try some nice ones if they have a sale! In true tote anger fashion, I hate to spend money on expensive lotions and soaps as I think that drugstore brands are just as good! Are the Philosophy and Lush products that much better? Also, I prefer to be “green” and so we use a lot of Shea butter, almond oil, coconut oil etc as moisturizers. I love to make my own easy concoctions with aromatic herbs and oils, but they tend to have short shelf life.

  122. CoC and Louise,
    With respect to expensive ties, IMO it all depends on the young man. One of my kids LOVES expensive ties, even though he does not wear them to work. My friend’s DH, who is a banker and still wears ties to work, gave him a $200 fancy-name tie that he had removed from his rotation because of a tiny snag, and DS thought he had died and gone to heaven. The other boys are perfectly fine with the ties sold at TJ Maxx.

    But when they were all attending a school that required ties, I used to buy them at the thrift shop in our UMC neighborhood. Amazing nice, barely used silk ties from Brooks Brothers and similar stores for $2. Once, in true totebag fashion, I got three really nice ones and wrapped them up as Christmas gifts and they all thought the ties were from a real store.

  123. Louise,

    How old is your DS? One thing all of my boys learned while attending their ties-required school was how to tie it on their own, because there was no way I could figure it out and DH was only willing to show them once. When we moved and DS went to a non-tie high school, ties were required at some functions and his friends were VERY impressed at how quickly he could get his tie on and looking good without using a mirror. He had to help more than a few of them who were tie-challenged. It is not a skill that most young men have to learn any more until they have to attend a dressy event.

    But then they can learn from YouTube.

  124. Our Kitchen was very excited about the gift it received of Instant Pot, so I am thinking of giving it another gift of flexible chopping boards. Any particular ones you like more?

    I have ordered a nice wrapped canvas print of my kid’s photograph. I am really excited about it. If you want to display a nice drawing by your kid, I think Minted is offering a process of gold printing over it and it can go in a nice frame. Some examples I have seen look really nice.

  125. RMS – what is Jerry Garcia tie? I am picturing a tie with a photo of his face silkscreened in the middle. Is is a certain type that Jerry used to wear (I am not a huge fan so pardon my ignorance!)?

  126. Damn! That snipurl doesn’t work. Just do a google images search for Jerry Garcia ties.

  127. We often do Lush products as stocking stuffers. They are really nice. A lot of the appeal is the scents — they smell really good and the scents last, probably because they rely so much on essential oils.

  128. @ Scarlett – he is eleven. Maturity though comes late to some kids :-).

    I have been afraid of going into the Lush store and coming out of there poorer, so I just avoid it. I will have to give myself a firm budget before I set foot there. I like The Body Shop and I come out of there happy but in the black.

  129. Thanks for the help. I did manage to get some gifts today which was nice. DS survived meeting Santa without tears. He saved them all for the tree farm. Cried the entire 30 minutes we were there. Then slept in the car. First Christmas mischief managed.

  130. RMS – the first link worked, thanks! Very interesting designs; I did not know that he had artistic abilities.

  131. “ tote anger fashion” — lol!

    I swear by some Philosophy products, including their Purity cleanser (gets everything off and doesn’t irritate eyes) and microdelivery 2-step peel (leaves skin feeling like a baby’s bottom). I don’t care for most Lush, probably because when my D buys some the scents seem to permeate the whole house. But I just discovered Lush lip stains, which seem to last and last.

    Someone in my family is getting a lightsaber for Christmas, reminiscent of the one he played with years ago. It seems fitting for a Star Wars fan who has tickets to the premier showing of the latest movie.

  132. We are almost done with gifts since tonight is the last night of Hanukkah. I am focused on what I thought was a simple gift – Amazon gift cards for teachers. My status on Amazon changes each day, but most of the cards never arrive. I’ve had a lot of problems with Amazon this year and missed shipping dates. I am glad that I have to be done before Christmas.

    Thanks to everyone here that has mentioned the Fire. We bought one for DD because she always uses DH ipad on long car rides and plane rides. This was so much cheaper than the ipad, and the quality is great for watching movies/TV and playing games.

    We went into the city today to show all of the holiday stuff to DD. The warm weather was a bonus, but it was VERY strange to see fountains on with the holiday decorations. We saw people skating in shorts in rock center and bryant park.

  133. Todd, remember this story?

    WVa, glad to hear you’re moving on. Hope it’s going well. I never considered presents from ‘saac to his father, because nothing was coming in the opposite direction. Anything made at preschool was sent to his godfather or given to my dad. But assuming that you are keeping better relations than that, maybe you should go for a gift that goes right up the middle, like a framed picture of your daughter doing something her dad always enjoyed seeing her in, whether playing a sport or putting together a plate of cookies for him. It is from/of her, is not massively expensive, can be flexed as either a “gift” if he’s helping her get you something or just a nice gesture if he isn’t.
    Happy holidays!

    Loiuse, neither my kid nor I wants any more stuff. I’m getting him winter clothes because even though he insists that the two sweatshirts that fit will be enough for 10 days up North, I kinda think he might change his mind. I’ve satisfied the family insistence on something to wrap by requesting things like Barnes and Noble gift cards, laptop covers, and similar non-glam stuff I probably would’ve gotten anyway.

  134. S&M,

    How did she get off if the judge testified he was lied to and would have never issued the warrant if she had been honest?

    P.S. Glad to have you back!!!

  135. @Scarlett. DH went to an all boys HS, and he can tie a tie like a pro. He says that he used to tie them for classmates & then they would just pull them over their head everyday.

    It’s hard to say whether the nicer tie will be fully appreciated, but for a gift, I’d probably err on the side of yes.

  136. I started watching The Great British Baking Show on Netflix. I wanted to see what the fuss was about. I quite liked it. The style of the show is understated and the home/amateur bakers and their creations seemed people I could identify with instead of the pro/semi pro contestants on cooking shows.

  137. Ooooh, gift/product question for y’all: any opinion about the Bullet blender thing? I believe you have discussed it and similar products here before.

    DH and I are thinking of getting DS something like this as one of his gifts. To be used in his dorm room. He has only a tiny fridge and freezer, so he likely would use water only and no ice or frozen fruit. I expect he would blend water or Lactaid with those MetRx powder protein shakes. Is the Bullet a good thing for that, or are there others? (I’ll likely get him the Ninja or something bigger/better next year, when he’s in an apartment rather than the dorm. So, this is only for a single semester).

    I was thinking some kind of manual one might be better, so there’s no noise and he could make shakes late at night or early in the AM after morning workout without bothering his roommate, but maybe a manual one is too much of a hassle?

  138. Kept meaning to comment but I had my work party (blech) and my concert plus I was still sick, so the concert totally wiped me out for all of yesterday. I do love shopping for gifts, although I also wish that DH would think to buy me something of his own volition rather than me buying my own gifts and him wrapping them.

    Rhode, how do you get to buying for so many people? Lots of nieces/nephews? Or do you buy for cousins etc.?

  139. I’m so tired of buying gifts. I think I’m done, but I’m sure I’ve forgotten someone. Work holiday parties are now in the past. We have a fun one this week, and then family to visit. It’s all downhill from here!

  140. Risley – I think it’s overkill to use a blender to mix powder into water. But I’ve seen various containers for this purpose that use a wire ball in the middle–like a whisk without the handle–so when it’s shaken, the ball inside whisks in the powder.

  141. So: advice on dealing with selfish, entitled twit children? I lost it with DD this weekend, over something completely stupid (DH was out, I asked her to help bring in a trunk full of groceries, she blew me off and left her little brother to do it all himself. Then topped it off by trying to guilt me for ruining her mood all afternoon). Child seriously needs to learn to be [w]itchy more strategically — immediately before the Christmas shopping trip is not the best time to piss off your primary gift-buyer (I did, however, have a lovely afternoon choosing new things for myself at WHBM).

    I don’t know why this one pushed my buttons so badly. Maybe it’s because DS’s “homework” for the past week has been to be helpful whenever asked, which has been *awesome*, so the contrast was pretty stark. Maybe it’s because she was perfectly content to let someone else carry her weight — and especially someone who is smaller than her, whom she is supposed to be looking out for instead of taking advantage of. And maybe it’s because I’m largely mad at myself, because we don’t ask that much of her — we knew HS was going to be hard, and she has taken on a lot of stuff and is really busy but has done an awesome job of staying on top of it all, so in response we have given her a lot of freedom to manage her own schedule and go out with her friends and such; but now it feels like I cut her too much slack on her home obligations, and so what I was trying to do to help give her the time and space to deal with HS, and to reward her for managing it all so well, has been taken as an entitlement to exempt herself from sharing the load.

    So I think she will be making us dinner tonight, as a start. Other thoughts welcome.

  142. Any gifts that Star Wars fans ages three to six have liked ? They already have mini light sabers and the full size light sabers would mean trouble and parents banning gifts from us :-).

  143. How many time will he clean the blender? I am seconding the idea upthread about formal belts as a good gift for those at the beginning of a career. I still have one from my suit and tie days and it still looks good 20 years later. I would buy one like one worn by your son’s supervisor, or exemplar supervisor from a similar position.

  144. Oh, Laura, it’s not even remotely funny, but I’m smiling anyway because this is such a classic early-teen behavior. She’ll grow out of it, honest to God she will. But that doesn’t make it less annoying right now. I have no advice, sorry.

  145. Louise: Star Wars t-shirts are always a big hit. DH just got one for BIL. For small kids, you can always go for the Lego Star Wars t-shirts.

  146. L – we spend Xmas morning with my mom’s family – mom, aunt, uncle, 2 cousins, an in-law; we spend Xmas afternoon with DH’s family – 1 niece, 2 nephews, 2 secret santas; the other half of my family, just presents for kids (9), dad, and dad’s wife; DS’s godmother and godfather; DH’s goddaughter… and I think that’s it… 25? As we stop seeing people, gifts fall off the list. But people keep having kids, so back on they go…

    Louise –; more than just lightsabers… (i like the grow a crystal thing…).

  147. “Any gifts that Star Wars fans ages three to six have liked ? They already have mini light sabers and the full size light sabers would mean trouble and parents banning gifts from us :-).”

    Star Wars Lego sets, Star Wars books – for the older one maybe the Jedi Academy scholastic series.

    Do you know if they watch the Clone Wars or Rebels Cartoons? Lots of toys/action figures/games aimed at the younger kid fans around the cartoons – especially Rebels which is currently airing on the Disney Channel. There is a Star Wars Rebels magazine that DS was enthralled with for hours. I don’t see it on Amazon, so I don’t know how wide the distribution is. He picked it up at the neighborhood comic book store with DH.

  148. Risley – my friends like those blender ball things… they all mix water or milk with some powder of some sort. And, easy to clean in a dorm sink. Put water and soap, shake up, dump out, rinse at least 3x.

  149. That Star Wars Sorry game looks good. That is a game that most preschoolers can play but not too boring for a 6yo.

  150. LFB: We fell into the “poor baby has too much homework” trap for a while, but have recently recovered our equilibrium. The 5 minutes it takes to unload the groceries or empty the dishwasher is nothing. DS wastes much more time daily managing his FF team.

    If my kid refused to unload the groceries, I’d make them pay $10 to their sibling for doing the entire chore. That will sting. : )

  151. Milo/Wine – ah, I see. So the Bullet really wouldn’t add value. I’ll get him one of the things you describe instead. Tks

  152. LfB – I agree that this is routine early teen behavior, and it will pass, but I do have a more serious comment. Because you write so expressively about the ups and downs, but appear as a family to have a very successful and full if a bit overbusy life, I haven’t acquired a sense after all these years of the expected long term degree of difficulty of the day to day (especially school/work) for your DD. As the sole non depressive in a sea of family depressives, with sensory issues and auto immune stuff layered on for some, I live each day making allowances and cutting slack, and then every now and then just lose it – why the eff can’t this or that family member just get up in the morning and deal? I still don’t have the formula down of when to insist and when to let it go and fundamentally will never understand how it is to be that sort of person and how hard it is for them to carry a little bit of someone else’s weight.

  153. LfB, I’m with you. I have absolutely no patience for that kind of thing. We are thankfully past this stage, but when we were in it, and I found one kid slinking around while the others did the chore, or if I heard any of them whining about helping, my reaction was this:

    “Based on all the complaining, and the fact that you didn’t actually do the job [or didn’t finish it/didn’t do it properly], it seems like it’s a huge, major deal for you to help out. We need to make helping a minor thing for you, rather than a major one, so none of us has to go through all the drama each time I ask you to do something. The way to make it a minor thing is to have you do it so many times that it becomes a regular part of your day, and no big deal. So, consider yourself on dish/garbage/grocery/whatever duty until you can do it yourself, properly, to completion and without complaining.”

    Magically, the very next time I asked them to help, there was cheerfulness rather than whining, immediate action rather than waiting for others to complete the task, and the job was finished properly.

    If there’s at any time later, simply rinse and repeat.

  154. @Meme – I suspect part of the problem is that I haven’t figured it out, either. The first few weeks of HS were *hard*, but the last month or so she seems to mostly get it done before I get home, with a couple of hours on the weekend and plenty of time to watch Netflix and hang with friends. Which is basically what I want for her — challenging classes that put her in position to do what she wants to do, but not all-encompassing with no time for fun. It’s funny, your description of the “making allowances and cutting slack” and then losing it exactly describes my feelings dealing with DD (and my “losing it” is generally a sign that I have been cutting too much slack). I need to remember that ADHD is not a linear journey of continuing success, but bounces around between “wow, she’s ready for college” and “will you freaking pick up your clothes so I can at least *see* the floor?” And I need to remind myself that 14 doesn’t mean you’ve progressed halfway from 4 to 24, but more that you bounce between 4 and 24 on a daily/hourly/minute-by-minute basis.

    @Houston — excellent idea. There are many better ways for me to have handled this; I just need a few in my back pocket so I’m better prepared next time.

    @Rocky — oh, yeah, it’s funny, and I will laugh. Just not quite today. . . .

  155. @Ris — that is effing brilliant. I have printed it out for a conversation later today. . . .

  156. My edgy response for the day is that I don’t like the “it’s a stage” answer if that means letting the behavior go and counting on time to smooth it all out. If kids are acting selfishly and it goes uncorrected, maybe they’ll grow out of it. Or maybe they’ll grow up to be selfish, and the “stage” will end up being a lifelong thing. Stages don’t need to be simply acknowledged and tolerated imho — they need to be counseled through. As for ADHD, that condition and helpfulness/thoughtfulness are not mutually exclusive.

  157. @Ris — Agree with that, too. When I said I need to remember XYZ, it doesn’t mean let it go — it means not to get angry and react emotionally, because it’s just a normal part of growing up. I.e., the mere fact that she is behaving like a selfish twit now doesn’t mean she is doomed to be that way forever; she is acting like every 14-yr-old who ever inhabited the planet, and so my job is to dispassionately impress on her that her life will be much easier and smoother if she gets over that right quick. The corollary is the book 1-2-3 Magic: the miracle of that book was that it removed the emotion and negotiating and arguing from the equation. It forced me to act at the first sign of misbehavior, instead of letting minor things go until I couldn’t stand it any more; and it taught her that bad behavior = immediate and predictable consequence.

    (Also didn’t mean the ADHD as an excuse for bad behavior — it was just the context for my initial sympathy with the 3-4 hrs/night homework for the first month of HS, and my very happy surprise that she has been able to track things and make her deadlines and generally manage her work).

  158. LfB, I was just reading an article about the suicide clusters in Palo Alto, and one of the things mentioned by a local psychologist was the lack of rebelliousness of the local teens.

    So be glad that your DD is showing typical teen rebelliousness. It’s a sign of a normal adolescence.

    BTW, a couple of takeaways I got from the article:

    -Make sure you let your kids know your love is unconditional, and not tied to how well they do in school or music or sports or dance or whatever.

    -It’s good for the kids to fail at something every now and then, and to discover things at which they aren’t that good and/or will never excel. That helps keep them grounded and from having impossibly high expectations of themselves.

    It also made me appreciate part of my kids’ school’s approach to extracurriculars, in which kids are encouraged to sample a broad range when young, and to pare that back as they get older and school demands increase as well as the demands of the extracurriculars. That fosters an environment in which it’s normal for kids to drop something when it becomes untenable to keep them all up.

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