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Hubby's family is rather large so we've tried a variety of options including drawing names and homemade gifts. There is 1 person in the family who ruins it and/or screws it all up every.single.time but nobody ever says anything about it. I can't because "I'm not family" as I have been told before. I wish you the best of luck with the name drawing! I loved it when we did that.


My husband has a large and the gift giving was getting out of hand. So now we only do gifts for the kids and then only the ones in Chicago. So that's cut it down to 6 gifts instead of 13, and 2 grand parents. I buy a toy, PJs and a book or workbook for each kid. But they are young so we are not into the expensive video games, etc yet. For the grow ups, I usually get some nice PJs. (in the past) The rest get presents when they come visit. That's how we do it & it's working well so far.


Large family*


We do Want Need Play Read because 'need' always means clothes. :) Play means a game, sometimes a board game, sometimes a computer game, depends on what they have on their wish list. We used to draw names, before we all had kids, then we switched to just buying things for the kids, which was more buying but after waiting so very long for a new generation the adults were just dying to buy baby & toddler toys. Now we give gift cards because the kids are old enough it's hard to know what to get them but not enough that drawing names for a game of pass the parcel would work yet.


I like the want,need, wear, read idea. I think I may try it this year as well. As for drawing names, we do it in our own bunch. We don't get gifts for the extended family as we both have large families and everyone lives spread out from Texas to E. Tennessee. Though I'm thinking of sending treat boxes to each of our siblings families and our parents, with each box having some homemade candies/cookies and a homemade ornament.

Jodie in MN

In our immediate family the kids get three gifts, one from us, one from the man in red, and one combined from their siblings.
On my side, we draw names but everyone buys
for the kids, 10 of them in the extended family so far. I've tried telling my family that instead of buying for my three to donate to a toy drive. My kids have plenty, many other kids don't. It never works though, we always get way too much stuff.
My husband has a huge family, many of who we don't know really well. For our annual Christmas party we all bring a $15 gift and draw numbers. When your # is up you can choose a gift or steal from someone else. We have a blast with that. The kids all get a gift from their grandparents.


I think this is a wonderful idea. Even with only two kids (one incredibly easy to buy for, one incredibly difficult) I struggle to keep a fair balance in the gift-giving. And it gets crazy, and expensive, and doesn't wind up bringing more joy. Going to try to fill this season with more experiences--baking with neighbors, community service, and so forth. And since, for the first time ever, we're going to be spending Christmas far away from family, we're going to be doing a gift exchange and dinner with neighbors who are in the same boat.


We only have the one kid, but we still fell into the "is this enough? Is it good enough?" trap at Christmas most years...and overbought.

Friends of ours nipped that in the bud when their first kid was a baby. Three gifts from them, period, reasoning that it was good enough for the baby Jesus. Santa always brought 2 for each kid.

I wish we'd thought of that. It's fair, it's what they expect, and it stems the tide of disappointment from both sides. Want-need-read would have worked with us; the wear, not so much, since I refuse to give clothing not requested as a gift. But that's my own hangup...I never did quite get over getting ONLY clothes when I was 9, and everyone else got STUFF... ;)


Would have come in handy a while back. Times are tough and the overbuying doesn't happen anymore. We have a much less cluttered Christmas morning and a lot more FOOD!! The name exchange worked well when I was growing up for the large extended family.


The adults in my family exchange gifts every year and it works really well. $30 limit affords a very nice gift. It takes the pressure off of everyone.


I should clarify, the adults do a name exchange. lol


Love love love the idea of "want, need, wear, read" and think I'll propose it myself. As for my larger than normal family, Each of the kids draws a sibling name, and we have a $20 gift exchange. We always do it Christmas eve morning, cause they are soooooo excited, and it gives me a little peace. Also, I want them to focus on their brothers (and sister) gifts, which may not be the most expensive, but usually are spot-on. As for extended family, we buy $20 for each niece/nephew, and not for the adults. We do have a stupid/silly "white elephant" gift exchange for the adults, but someone (usually my mom) gets too crazy with rules, argues and/or lets a little one in the game because they were whining about more presents. The white elephant would be fun if it were light-hearted, but unfortunately, it's not.


Love, love, love this idea. I'm sure it will meet resistance from mine, but hey...I'm in charge. :)


I only have two kids, but I have a HUGE family, all over the world, and they all give gifts. So after child #2, I decided to start making photobooks (aka flipbooks, the 5x7 ones on Shutterfly or Snapfish) every year to give as gifts. Every year, I receive call after call as they're received with great-aunts, cousins, grandparents, and everyone saying "this is the best gift ever!" I know they're appreciated, because I see them on their coffeetables, well-loved. If you make/buy them early (by Turkey Day), they're cheap, too (and cheap to ship). This year will be the 7th one (and 20 copies of it -- seriously)! I'll probably do a bigger hard-bound one for the 10th.

Meanwhile, I LOVE that idea of want/need/play/read for my own kids, plus a stocking, esp. because they get so many gifts from those relatives. And this year, I'm thinking of doing it esp. because I might just surprise everyone with a vacation for which we leave on Christmas Day in the afternoon ... not sure I can pull it off, but, if I can, all the more reason to have fewer (and less expensive) gifts to open before we're outta here! Fingers crossed...

Happy holiday shopping! xo

Ouida Gabriel

Limiting gifts is a great idea. We buy 3 gifts per child. As I tell my children, Jesus got 3 gifts and if it is good enough for Him then it is good enough for us. When I was a child it was a big deal if we had enough for a Christmas Dinner. I tell my children that we should be thankful for everything because we never know when it may be taken away.

Ouida Gabriel

Average Jane

That sounds like a great idea! My family is settling into what may be a permanent policy of "only the kids get gifts." I'll think about instituting themes that match for my niece and nephew.


We do a name exchange for the kids gifts, (so if you have 6 kids, you'd buy 6 other kids presents). For the adults we do a "under 20$ mystery present" and then draw names... first person gets to open something from the pile, the next person can either steal or choose something new. That is pretty hilarious as well.


I was just talking to a coworker about this and I loved her idea... Santa does the stockings and three gifts, just like baby Jesus, they represent gold, frankincense, and myrrh - something they really want, something for the mind, and something for the body.

Jenny Blakely

Around the time my baby sister (ack, almost-13 isn't baby anymore, is it?) was born, my parents (of 5) decided that they would spend the same amount of money on each child. This seems intuitive, maybe, but they definitely found that they were overspending on some and falling into the "I have this many stuff for so-and-so, and I need to even it out" trap. So, the older kids would get less gifts (electronics, etc) and the younger would get a lot of gifts (toys, etc). It's a pretty hard-and-fast way of them keeping everything equal. Although, I have to admit, our favorite thing to open is always our surprise "identical" gift, a tradition they started maybe 10 years ago.

Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith

We are a small family, but money is tight so we give each child one big gift and stocking stuffers. As for my husband and I, we go to two fancy parties, and say Merry Christmas.


We only exchange gifts for the kids. We then either choose one charity as a family and make a donation, or each adult donates $x amount to their favorite charity. That seems to keep it balanced and spread Christmas cheer.


I come from a large family, both immediate and extended. Like other commentors have mentioned, my parents used a fairly uniform monetary limit for us kids. It usually meant more presents of the cheap variety for the younger of us -- because the number of presents is what we cared about -- and maybe fewer, but more sophisticated presents for the older ones. But the cost to my parents for each person's total presents amounted to about the same.

And we've also always picked names. In my extended family, it was just about the kids (18 years and younger), there was a $20 limit, and each family picked the same amount of names as kids in their immediate family (so my aunt and uncle who had two kids only had to buy two presents, not 17 for all of their nieces and nephews). This worked well, because our extended family party wasn't our primary holiday celebration, just a nice gathering with folks we only saw once or twice a year. The name exchange was a way to make sure all the young ones had something to open.

Hope this helps and that your holidays are lovely!

P.S. As usual, your thoughtfulness really shines through. I'm not sure if this will help relieve any stress, but though I know there had to be times that I was disappointed in my presents, I don't even remember them now, there were other years I was completely blown away, and, most importantly, I always knew my mama loved me! I'm sure your kids will have great holiday memories when they look back because of your care in every area.


We have 6 kids, and several years ago I got out of the overbuying habit and started doing 3 gifts each. Having been spoiled rotten (with many gifts I didn't like) by my dad, I have a hard time with not buying "enough." The past few years where money has been really tight and I've done a bunch of handmade stuff have been the best!

As for the extended family, we were drawing names for a while for one family present, but a new member started giving little things to everyone and messed that up. Now, we give a "gift basket" to each family---seems like a present for Mom, to me!

Sue M

I have 8 brothers and sisters, and almost all of them have at least 3 kids. We let each KID drawe the name of one of their cousins, and we set a $10 limit. The idea is to have fun, not to make all of their Christmas wishes come true.

On my husband's side (he has three siblings) we just do an ornament exchange. Each family draws the name of one other family and buys them an ornament with the year on it. It's actually pretty cool because our Christmas tree has an ornament for each of the 15 years we've been married.

For my own kids - I don't know what I am doing. I would love to do the want-need-wear-read thing, but I'm afraid pandora is already out of her box. I'm not sure we would be able to stuff her back in. We need to do something though. When one daughter wants Barbies and another wants an iPod, it is hard to just give four presents, because it's not really equitable. (big sigh - not ready for Christmas yet this year)


-->I have a spending limit per child/family member and once I hit it, they get what they get whether it's one present or six.

10 years ago on Christmas morning, the priest said in his homily, Christmas isn't, "Merry Christmsa. What'cha get?"

I am guilty of saying it a lot too.

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  • Carmen Staicer is a whirlwind of energy and execution who rarely sleeps and loves coffee and happens to have six outstanding awesome kids. A concentration of asthma, food allergies, spectrum disorders and learning disabilities means that she has learned more than she ever thought possible and knows less than she ever could imagine. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, boxing (she has her Black Belt in Muay Thai), rowing, sleeping, exploring coffee shops, homeless ministry, photography, and cooking.