Best Gift Exchange Ever!

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Gift giving this time of year can get out of hand! After a while, if you're like me, you're more stressed about what to get everyone on your list, than enjoying the winter season.

Our family tackled this monster several ways, and have finally come down to a simple and intentional gift giving solution.

First, we went to kids only gifts. Each family bought only gifts for all the kids in the family. After all, kids are a little easier and less expensive to buy for. That worked well for a few years as our families were young and just beginning to grow. Then we looked up and realized we now each have 14 children to buy gifts for! Yikes!

Not so good on the budget or stress level!

Next, we went to family gifts. Each family gives one gift to each of the other families. That kept the clutter down in each household and was easier on the budget. The problem we ran into after doing family gifts for a few years was that the age spread of the kids in each family got further apart. Our family has an almost 18 yr old all the way to a 22 month old, both boys, with 3 girls in the middle. How do you buy one gift that would make all 5 children happy?

It didn't work too well.

Now we do something different with each family within our extended family.

One of my sisters lives in Dubai. It is very expensive to send packages to the UAE.

So, we don't.

When they come back to the States for a visit, we have a big Cousins Birthday Party. We've had all year to keep our eyes out for a perfect gift for each of my nieces and nephews. That's half the fun. Then, we get to see them open it!

No last minute shopping stress, high mailing fees or busy post office runs!

My sister-in-law and I just decided together to call quits on all the gifts at Christmas time. Instead we get together and do something fun as families, Maybe a weekend trip somewhere or an outing to a museum or other exciting place halfway between us.

It works for us and them and is about as simple as you can get, yet intentionally fun and relationship building!

With my grandparents and a few other family members, we've taken a different road.

We play a version of a $5 gift exchange. In the fall we all draw names. We each buy a gift that cost $5 for the person whose name we drew. Notice - I didn't say a $5 gift!

The point of the game is to see who can get the best present for $5. In other words, who can get the best deal, while still getting a gift the person will enjoy!

 You have to be on the lookout for sales, specials, and coupons.

My grandmother is a shopper and usually wins!

Last year I drew my oldest daughter. I found a $20 watch, marked down to $10 at JCP. I also had a $10 reward coupon at JCP, so I bought the watch for FREE! But the gift has to be $5, so I was able to look for other fun items to add to the gift - a chocolate candy bar, a package of gum, some funky socks.

This $5 gift exchange makes you really think, not only about what the person would like, but also about how to spend your money. Getting the best deal often means watching and waiting, and learning some patience, while looking for clever ways to get the most for your money.

This is a practice we really should put into every purchase we make all year long.

What has your family done to tame the gift giving monster that likes to clutter our house, wreck the budget, and stress us out?

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