The holidays always get me down because I can barely make ends meet. I want to join in the family white elephant gift exchange, but struggle to pay for the things I need.
That five to ten dollars could be gas money. How do I deal with this with my family?
Thank you for asking this question, because there are sure to be many people out there who likewise struggle. While we all want to give gifts, if you don’t have money to spare, you have two options. You can opt to not participate in your family white elephant exchange, or get creative with your gift options.
If you opt to not participate, don’t make a big deal of it. If this is embarrassing to you, no one needs to know you’re not participating because you’re on a tight budget. I’ve attended many gift exchange events where people do not participate. The most common excuse they use is “I forgot to bring a gift”. Go with that one, and the family either won’t give it another thought, or may quietly know that you’re struggling, and talk with you about how they can help later.
If you still want to bring a gift, you can try these 6 gift-giving ideas that will keeping your costs down:
- First, take in to account that the dollar limit the family sets is merely a suggestion, you do not have to spend that much.
- Maybe you can find a real prize at the thrift store? I just bought myself a couple of thrift store items for $1 each that I’d be thrilled to get in a gift exchange!
- Maybe you can offer an hour of your services as a gift? We don’t hear much of that anymore, but I’ll bet an offer to rake leaves, clean, or babysit for an hour would get your gift “stolen” many times over!
- Maybe your gift can be a poem you’ve written or a homemade item? This could be the most thoughtful gift ever received.
- Do you have an item that you’ve never used or barely used to re-gift? Re-gifting is customary in white elephant exchanges. I keep a box of items for re-gifting. It’s not that the gift wasn’t nice, it just wasn’t for me…darn, I forgot to re-gift that nasty smelling soap at my company Christmas party!
- Keep it fun. Sometimes the gift that gets the most laughs is the booby prize of a gift that shows up year after year in families, such as the hemorrhoid cream that has exceeded it’s expiration date! You get the idea.
White elephant gift exchanges fall in to the category of “party games”. They are more about the fun interaction than they are about the gifts.
Don’t let this budgetary issue add to your stress during the holidays, because it sounds like you have bigger issues on your plate. My best to you and yours this holiday!
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