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Real Relationships: Gift Giving

Q: I am a struggling college student with more bills than income. Christmas is always a struggle for me because I don’t have the funds I want to dedicate to present-buying. My family completely understands this, and we often choose names to limit the number of people you must buy a present for.

However, my boyfriend’s family (we have been together several years) does not do that, and they are known for their extravagant gift-giving. The past few years that I have participated in their family Christmas, I typically end up over-extending myself on the gifts and putting more than I want to on my credit card.

This year I don’t want to do that, but it is embarrassing to show up with cheap gifts at this function. I’m stuck….

A: How well do you know your boyfriend’s family? Seems to me if you are close enough to spend holidays with them, everyone ought to be privy to your financial situation. Furthermore, piling up your debt to keep up with the standard is not the answer.

Talk to your boyfriend about this (if he doesn’t already know) and work out a solution. It can be embarrassing to discuss financial conditions with your loved one and his family, but if you are serious about spending the rest of your life with him and his family, you might as well be transparent now.

If you want to buy actual gifts, pair up with your boyfriend to give gifts to each person so that you are only carrying half of the cost. If you think it will be well received, look into some creative options for homemade gifts or services.
I have found that offering services versus tangible gifts is a big hit.

  • For young parents, offer to babysit so they can have a night out or offer to clean the house or do the laundry to give Mom a break.
  • For the elderly, offer to clean their home or escort them out to the grocery store or doctor appointments. For the elderly who live alone, coming by and spending time with them would also be a nice idea.
  • For cousins and peers, gift them a certificate to do their laundry, clean their house or animal-sit.
  • Your boyfriend’s parents will probably be the most difficult to decide on a service for. I suggest combining the idea of a financial gift and a service. Splurge on some fun foods and offer to host them for dinner. You can then bless them with a meal, but it will give you a chance to spend some time together.

There are many creative ways to bless others without dipping too far into your wallet. People will appreciate the thought behind the gift as well. Most importantly, you will not put yourself further behind in your finances.

Happy holidays!

Have a relationship question? Email [email protected]. Questions will be featured and answered every Monday in Real Relationships.

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