(Closed) In-Laws and Gift Giving

posted 10 years ago in Gifts and Registries
Post # 3
Member
76 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: May 2008

Hey Chrissie-

I know exactly how you are feeling.  My family has always been kind of low-key with gift giving.  We’ve always done one gift for each night of Hanukkah, but one night might be a new pair of fuzzy socks, another night might be a hat and matching scarf, never anything big.  When my fiance and I first started dating, I was blown away with the quality (ie price) of gifts he was giving me, but it’s what his family does.  His family measures quality of gift by the price, whereas my family truly does the thought that counts.

I also know exactly what you mean about not wanting to talk to your family about what they got you, and vice versa.  His mother, back when we were just dating, would spend a FORTUNE on my gift, and my parents would get him a little small something or other.  For college graduation/my birthday/grad school acceptance, my parents split the cost of a new laptop with me, about $600.  For college graduation alone, his mother bought me a $550 couch for my new apartment.

I’ve found that the best thing we do in our situation is that we each shop for our own respective families.  Gifts come from us as a whole, but we each know what our family "expects" in terms of gifts.  We also DON’T bring up what we got for the in-laws to our own parents… we wouldn’t hide it if they asked, but I’m not going to run around advertising to my parents that we spent twice as much on his family.  

Most importantly, however, I wouldn’t worry about what his family expects of you.  If they buy big-ticket items for you, it is their decision, but you should not feel required to do the same in return.  If your husband thinks they will have a problem with it, then he should sit down and explain that you weren’t raised to spend a huge amount on gifts and you’re not as comfortable doing so. 

I’m sorry I don’t have better suggestions, but I haven’t quite figured out how to handle the situation myself.  Basically, when I am giving a gift from me, as opposed to the gift my fiance picks out from us, I spend the amount that I am comfortable spending, and then express my huge thanks and promptly send a heartfelt thank-you note showing my gratitude for the much larger gift they purchased me. 

Post # 4
Member
75 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: February 2008

Ugh, my FI’s family has a totally different “culture” than mine. We give each other one nice gift ($50-$100), whereas his family give each other multiple small gifts, often as many as five or six small things. I hate this–I can barely manage to think of ONE thing to get each person, much less four or five, not to mention the fact that five $10 gifts (things like mugs, pocket knives, small tchotchkes, books) are not as nice as one $50 gift, and clutter up my apartment, besides.

When we were first dating he freaked me out on our first Christmas by getting me a multitude of presents (any one of which would have been lovely–these were not small $10 presents), while I had only one for him. This imbalance continued through our second Christmas, and I am now worrying about the upcoming one. With the wedding costs mounting, I don’t think either of us should be buying anyone multiple presents, but I am not sure how to broach the subject. I know he loves buying presents!

Post # 5
Member
337 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: August 2008

Wow I could have written your dilemma and also julieulie’s response myself.  Crazy how similar our situations are.  My family has always had enough money and always had whatever we needed, so we didn’t need a whole lot at typical gift-giving times.  So we get each other things we just think each other will like.  Sometimes it’s a funny calendar or sometimes a pair of slippers.  I’ve never spent more than $80 on a single gift for anyone in my family and usually more like $30.  My fiance’s family however came from a very poor background and his parents built up successful businesses from scratch.  Once they finally had money, they started showering each other with gifts because they finally could afford to do so.  I get the why’s of this situation; they are proud of their ability to give gifts now and feel like they need to make up for the years when they couldn’t, but it gets ridiculous: at Christmas, they ask us what we want for Christmas and if we don’t name something expensive enough, they’ll tell us so.  That is crazy to me, especially since I often would genuinely prefer the cheaper gift if that’s what I need at the time.  They have to one-up themselves every year and don’t see the pointless consumerism of this practice.  But I guess gift-giving is a very important Love Language in their family.  It is not in mine.

We employ exactly the same tactics as julieulie described and also, we sit down and create a Christmas budget a few weeks before Christmas and stick to it.  It helps us stay on track. 

My Fiance and I will jointly get his parents a gift that he knows will be acceptable in terms of money spent, and we spend only the minimum "fair" amount and not a penny over.  We don’t plan to bankrupt ourselves at Christmas.  And if we find their acceptable minimum dollar value at some point goes over our maximum acceptable dollar value, then they will be getting a gift they deem unacceptably cheap and they will have to deal with that.  We don’t allow ourselves to buy into guilty feelings for not having spent enough money because we don’t think it’s about the money, and if his parents disagree then that’s okay.  You just need to be really comfortable and confident in your values on this point.

Everyone in both of our families do the Christmas wish list thing, so when we write our wish list for his parents, we stick to the things we really want on our lists, even if those things are not "expensive" enough.  We don’t add extra more expensive things just for their sake; if they don’t want to get us what’s on our list, then they can come up with something else themselves, but we’re not going to encourage them to overspend by asking for expensive items we don’t need.

We also don’t share with each other’s families what gifts we gave/received from each other if we can help it, because it gets a bit awkward.  Or if they ask, we’ll specifically mention one gift that is closest in line with their spending practices and omit the ones that would seem out of line to them.

Post # 6
Member
68 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: December 1969

i have the same problem. he buys his family super expensive gifts, while i’m more low key and thoughtful gifts. so, i am buying the gifts for my family, and he is buying the gifts for his family, but we say that the gifts come from both of us. that way no one gets upset.

Post # 7
Member
28 posts
Newbee

Wow I am in the same situation and have just been agonizing over this today! I’m the oldest child in my family, and I’m in grad school so have always been a ‘poor student’, so in my family gift-giving has always been pretty low key – spending about $50 per person is a lot for me. My husband’s family though seems like they are spending more and more. It started when his sister asked if we’d chip in for a Wii for his nephew. His nephew is 9! My response was, if we chip in the $100 for him, do we spend that for all his nieces/nephews, and then what about my hub’s siblings and parents?? We asked his sister about other ideas for the kids and she said they’re getting ipod Nanos.. my response to that was, dang these kids (9 and under) have way more technology gadgets than we do! 

Then, today his sister sent an email that next November is his parents 30th wedding anniversary and his siblings want to send them on a trip to Hawaii and want us to chip in. !!! I was shocked to have to deal with this on top of the stress of getting Christmas gifts. 

Again, as a student I never buy anything extravagent. My husband’s salary is decent but we did just pay for our own honeymoon which was not cheap, plus bought a home, and got some furniture – my one extravagence since I was tired of all my crappy second hand stuff. I know my husband would love a Wii, and a nice fancy tv, but we’ve both decided we don’t need them and they don’t fit in our budget and that we shouldn’t buy such extravagent things for each other b/c it’s not financially responsible. My husband has a lot of health issues so we have tons of medical expenses on top of the mortgage/honeymoon payments/etc. His siblings do not deal with all these things.

I feel like I’m being a grinch for feeling bad about buying his family extravagent gifts… but honestly, for his sister’s kids, I’d rather get them books. I guess it’s the nerd in me, plus the fact that they’re pretty spoiled by their grandparents on the other side, plus the fact that I have a personal beef with Christmas being turned into this consumeristic nightmare by all the greedy corporations (hehe dramatic eh?). If his sister wants to give her kids extravagent gifts, that’s fine, but I feel weird about being pressured into contributing to stuff that’s not in our budget. Plus, like others mentioned, I won’t be able to tell my family about it. Especially the Hawaii trip thing.. I’d love to do that for both of our parents, really, it’s just so much money that I can’t wrap my head around it.  Ugh I don’t know what to do, but I guess I’ll go along with whatever my husband wants to do since it is his family.. it just is a side of adjusting to a new family that I hadn’t considered before!

Post # 8
Member
291 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: May 2007

Wow…I had no idea this was such a hot topic!  Our families have similar "cultures," I guess, so that’s not really such a problem for us.  If anything, I’m the run-away crazy one, mostly b/c I just have these impulses to get people nice things that I think they’ll like, which always end up being more than I really had planned on spending.  I’m trying to curb this habit.

My related question is this: how do I get his mom to stop giving us random things?  Nopinkertons mentioned the whole tons of $10 things and what do you do with all that stuff?  These are just things she gets randomly during the year and either sends us, or gives us when we visit each other.  I love that Mother-In-Law thinks of me (’cause they’re usually things meant for me) but I don’t need kitten saltshakers or a ceramic rose…not only are they not needed, and I’d prefer she save her money for herself, but they’re…not really my style… she’s done this pretty much since we’ve been dating (so like 8 years, going on 9 now), and I don’t know how to say "stop" w/o being rude. (Hubs is very close to his mom, and gets very sensitive if I say anything that he interprets as critical of her, even when I don’t mean it to be.) Anyone else in my boat?

Post # 9
Member
44 posts
Newbee

I totally have gotten lots of gifts/things from the Future Mother-In-Law and Future sister-in-law that are just completely not my taste. My fiance and I live in a one-bedroom condo and to curb this I try to constantly remind them of this fact and that we do not have room for all this stuff. However, they are going to buy you gifts, so the best solution I have come up with is to give your fiance/boyfriend a bunch of ideas of things you WOULD like so that he can pass them along. I tried this last year and it worked out great. Be as specific as you can.

 With the buying presents for nephews and nieces- I think you can definitely nicely say to your sister in law- oh- thanks for thinking of me for going in on the wii or whatever else the big gift is, but fiance and i decided to get all of our nieces and nephews this year copies of the polar express book which is one of our favorites (or some other books/movies/toys).  It is totally not necessary for you to participate in spoiling their children and honestly I think it is a rude for them to ask you to contribute to such large presents. It is supposed to be a gift- not a contribution to a request for money.  

I think it will be much harder to say no to chipping in on the parent’s trip to hawaii and you will have to let fiance deal with his family on that one.

Post # 10
Member
52 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: August 2008

I share your situation. My fiance’s family does Christmas B-I-G. Nothing is spared when it comes to this holiday. My family, on the other hand, prefers to do smaller, more personal gifts and simply enjoy the time together. (I like this better too…)

I sat down with my fiance after the first Christmas – when I realized the potential for things to get out of hand. We decided to set a spending limit, per person, regardless of whose family they are in. We also let his family know that we would be setting a dollar amount to spend on each person, and to remain fair to all family members involved, it would be the same amount for each person.  (We also set a limit on spending for each other, and I always let his family know what I am getting and they never step on my toes)

They were OK with this, and very understanding. They did decide that they weren’t going to let our decision stop them from spending whatever they wanted on us, and 2 years later there still hasn’t been a problem.

The problem we do have is with my family. For example, two  years ago my Future Mother-In-Law bought me a new digital camera – I had this with me at my parents house and they asked where I got it – I told them. Now we run into the same argument over and over when it comes to choosing when to spend time with each of our famililes. My mom always accuses us of choosing his family over mine because "they give better gifts." This is not the case and we split the time to the best of our abilities…

I don’t really enjoy the lavish gifts that his family gives and try to be reasonable with my list only including one or two "bigger/better" items (which usually just means that they just get creative). My fiance takes advantage and always asks for the things he knows he couldn’t afford to just go out and buy for himself…

I guess each family sets their own holiday traditions, and it’s just another struggle when you choose to marry into a new family! Good luck!

Post # 11
Member
68 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: December 1969

Wow.. I didn’t realize how common this problem was!

I have just one sibling – an older brother – and my parents have always made Christmas and birthdays really extravagant for us with lots of big gifts.

My husband, however, is one of eight kids, so they ususally get just get one small gift from their parents.

Now that we are married, gift giving is really complicated.  For example, my brother spends a lot of money on us, so I feel like we should spend an equal amount on him, but then I feel bad if we spend a lot less on all of my husband’s siblings.  It seems really lopsided and unfair.  I get really stressed out trying to figure out what to buy everyone and how much to spend… ugh.  I hate the commercialization that Christmas has become.  I would rather not have to deal with gifts at all and just spend time with our families. 

I think what we are going to do is just spend an equal amount on everyone on both sides of the family, and just buy what is within our means.  If it means spending less than we did in the past on my family – that is fine.  At some point, we have to break the cycle of it, and hopefully they will appreciate something that is thoughtful, rather than something that is expensive.

Post # 12
Member
76 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: May 2008

Ugh, princesskitty, I feel your pain.  My Future Mother-In-Law is always buying random "crap" (I mean that in the nicest possible way!) for me and I never know what to do with it.  My favorite random gift was this hideously ugly stuffed Christmas themed dog… both my Future Mother-In-Law and I are Jewish!  But she saw it and thought it was cute and bought it for me.  We are ALWAYS getting random stuff we don’t need that she saw on QVC (hand crank flashlight and solar powered radio, anyone).  I hate clutter so I always want to throw it away, but then my fiance says I can’t because someday she’ll show up and ask where the ugly Christmas dog is, and I’ll need to dig out out from the bowels of my closet…

 It really irks me too how she spends all this money on things we do not need or want, and then always complains about how she has no money and can’t afford to help pay for the band for the wedding which she offered to pay for ages ago.  I have no doubt that she has generosly showered us with well over $1,000 worth of random things over the years.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate the fact that she thinks of us — it is very thoughtful — it’s just not the best use of her money or the space in our teeny condo!

Post # 13
Member
4 posts
Wannabee
  • Wedding: July 2009

Oh I know that feeling. Growing up my parents bought us gifts and all. but now that we are grown up my parents just want some time with us (me and my sister). Loverly’s family on the other hand well that’s a can of worms. but my look at it is if i’m not buying present for my family why do i have to spend on yours? and we are talking simple little gifts, i’ve never spent more than $100 on my family combined for christmas. and then the throught he whole don’t you love us thing. But these they expect me to be shelling out $100 per person but not just to loverl’y parents and sister but as opnoxious as his sister’s husband’s parnets. It’s rediculus! His parents are all well we can atleast give you presents. and well honestly I’m not all into it. I’ve since given up on the whole gift giving studd. I don’t do presents execpt for the Loverly to which i don’t need a holiday to do it, I just get him neat things. So I don’t know what we are doing this year. I wont ask how much he’s spending on them since i’m not married to him yet and i’m not going to start that fight. and basically if he buys me that plain simple walmart robe and give it to me sometime this month i’m going to do my best not to fuss at him.

Post # 15
Member
2 posts
Wannabee
  • Wedding: December 1969

Interesting topic! (I think my comments may be more general, rather than addressing Chrissie’s questions, but perhaps they will be helpful anyway… or hopefully, thoughtprovoking?)

There seem to be two main issues: how we deal with differences between family "cultures" (which could extend to any number of areas: gift giving, time-spending, vacation styles, parental respect/obligations, discipline for children or basically anything having to do with raising children, etc.) and more specifically, how we deal with gift-giving, especially during the "loaded" (and perhaps emotional) holiday season. (I say "loaded" because there seem to be so many expectations or requirements during this peak gift-giving season.)

First, I think when any two people decide to marry or enter into a commited relationship, they must realize they are also making the decision to create a new "family unit." This new family unit can (and perhaps should) now be able to establish a new family culture, no matter how different from either party of the couple’s original family cultures. Of course, they can decide to combine elements of either, both, or neither!

The couple should then be free to establish a united front to both sides of their families. For example, Husband and Wife decide that though his family are extravagent gift-givers and hers are very modest, they (the new family unit) will be middle-of-the-road gift-givers to BOTH sides.

Husband and Wife must decide what’s best and healthiest for their OWN family unit, regardless of others’ opinions or traditions. Of course, I realize this may be overly simplistic and perhaps far more difficult in practice. But ultimately, it is more important that Husband and Wife are united (whatever the issue may be) and have the opportunity to establish their own culture and traditions (especially if they have or intend to have their own children).

This brings me to my second thought about the way we give gifts, especially during the "peak gift-giving season" aka the Holidays. It seems that we have begun to forget the meaning of a "gift" and "generosity" and instead think in terms of "trade" and "fairness."

For example, my gift to you will only be acceptable to you if your gift to me is equally acceptable to me. In other words, somehow, we must each decide that the gifts are somehow of equal value (whether monetarily, sentimentally, or otherwise), or a fair trade.

In my extended family there were a variety of different gift-giving family cultures. Whenever my brother and I got gifts from our low-income grandparents and from our wealthier ones, we never compared or disdained one over the other. We knew that the gift’s monetary values were different because of the giver’s abilty to spend, not their ability to love.

Likewise, one of my aunts and her family (who lived very far from us and who we were never able to spend Christmas with–though we would have LOVED to!) consistly would send our family a box with little gifts for my parents, my brother, and me. My family, on the other hand, rarely, if ever mailed them gifts (we were not well off, at all). But there were never feelings of resentment on either side (though in hindsight, I do wish my brother and I had at least drawn pretty pictures and mailed them or something…)

The point is that gift-giving should be that–a gift (with no expectation of anything in return)–not a contest for who can come up with the best, most expensive, most creative, most sentimental, most romantic, most anything gift… The gift should not be an obligation, but rather a reflection of the relationship between the giver and the giftee…

Perhaps that’s an overly idealistic view of gift-giving in these modern materialistic times, but I would love to see more of it!

What do you think? Am I unrealistic? Would your family accept this type of gift-giving (i.e. whatever you can afford and wish to spend, regardless of what you may, or may not, receive in return)? 

 

Post # 16
Member
2 posts
Wannabee
  • Wedding: December 1969

Wow, my last post was a long one! If you read it all the way through, thank you! 🙂 And I hope it wasn’t too tedious of a read! I like to write. Apparently.

The topic ‘In-Laws and Gift Giving’ is closed to new replies.

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