Cutting Gift Costs

by Denene Millner

Cutting Gift Costs

Q. Our extended family's had a baby boom. How can we give holiday gifts without breaking the bank?

A. I'll bet you a slice of red velvet cake that your sibs and cousins are worried about the gift squeeze, too. To help make it easier for all:


1. Agree on a budget—say, no one spends more than $15 per gift per person.

2. Exchange names and play Secret Santa, or do a Yankee Swap with the adults: Everyone brings one wrapped gift and picks numbers out of a hat. Number 1 chooses a present, opens it, then number 2 selects one. If 2 likes 1's gift better, he can swap—but might lose it later if a higher number wants it. Once every gift is opened, lucky number 1 gets to pick from all of them.

3. Buy stuff for the kids only, since surely you can survive without yet another orange knit skullcap from Grandma.

4. Give family gifts—something that everyone'll appreciate, like a CD featuring their favorite artist, a family magazine subscription, or a gift card good for a night out at the movies.

5. Offer the most valuable present of all: your time. Draw up a certificate worth a night of babysitting or a home-cooked meal.