Dear Janine,

In our family, we all buy each other presents for Christmas. My problem is that I often spend way more on my brother and nieces than my brother spends on me and my children. I don’t want to be mean, but this really annoys me, as I take a lot of time and effort to gift them something they love. My children are regularly disappointed by their gifts as often they aren’t even age appropriate. What can I do to make this situation more fair?

Regards, Fed-Up

Dear Fed-Up

 Gift-giving is a sensitive topic and while some people love it and spend weeks finding the perfect item, for many people this can a REALLY STRESSFUL activity. The topic of budget comes up fairly regularly and I have 3 possible solutions for you. Also remember that not everyone might have the same amount of money available to spend on gifts.

Option 1

Have a conversation with your brother and suggest a price limit on gifts that suits you both. If for example your brother agrees to $20 per child, then accept that and stick to it. As you say the gifts are often not age appropriate, you could even agree that you choose the gifts for your children and your brother reimburses you or that you send him a wish list with links to the specific items. Amazon and many other bigger retailers provide this service. I often use this option as it just saves my in-laws the time and stress of finding something “perfect”.

Option 2

Agree to give gift vouchers to an agreed amount so that your children can choose something themselves. This is especially fun for older children as they enjoy the process of finding exactly what they like, while teaching them about budgeting at the same time.

Option 3

Stop giving each other gifts and instead enjoy an activity together. For instance taking the children to the cinema, ice-skating, a Christmas market or perhaps to a play or musical where the emphasis is on spending time together instead of materialistic possessions.

Regardless of which option you choose, the conversation with your brother is the most important part. Try not to be critical or use phrases such as ‘You always’ or You never’ etc.

For option 1 you could try ‘I was thinking, this year I could send you links on Amazon, as I already know what the children are hoping for and that’ll also save you time.”

For option 2: “I want to start teaching the children about budgeting and the value of money, so could you please give them a gift voucher from XYZ.”

For option 3: “I thought maybe this year instead of gifts, we could instead go to XYZ and enjoy spending some quality time together, what do you think?”

I hope that helps and wish you and your family a wonderful festive season!