This year, we're trying something we've never done before. No presents.
No, not a joke. We will not be exchanging presents with each other or our families. We started talking about how $25 per family member really adds up, but it makes little to no impact when these gifts go to people who already have enough things. We certainly don't have everything we could want or use--for example, I could use a vehicle with fewer than 5000 dents (thank you, Tallahassee drivers), or maybe some new clothes (true story: Rachael slept in my T-shirt last night, and I sarcastically asked her if it was comfortable, since I have only so many T-shirts with designs on them, and her response was, "Oh yes--probably because it was the first one ever made." Also, my students have mentioned that I appear to own two pairs of dress slacks, strategically rotated. I mean the schedule of the pants is strategically rotated. Not the pants themselves. I am not Kris Kross.)
Anyhow, before I got sidetracked in parentheses, I was saying that while we could USE certain things, we don't really NEED anything. And that when we spend money on every relative in the same situation, we spend a lot of money but don't really improve anyone's life. Thus this year's experiment. No presents. We've told our families there won't be any from us, and we asked them not to buy us anything either.
We adopted a local 12-year old boy through the Salvation Army instead. He said he wanted some shirts, pants, a winter coat, and some shoes. He also said he wanted video games and action figures. So, we went all-out. We got him a Nintendo DS with Super Mario Kart (saved about $50 by shrewd shopping at Meijer on 15% off day during a week it was on sale). We got him a $40 gift card at Game Stop (a used game shop), so that he can get a couple other games of his choice. Rachael went shopping at Aeropostale with a printable 20% off coupon, and bought a hoodie, a sweater, 2 T-shirts, and a zip-up thermal shirt. All these items were between 30%-70% off to begin with, so $130 worth of trendy clothes for $48. We didn't have a size for shoes, and a coat for someone else is difficult to buy, so we got him a $50 Kohl's gift card (which when used, will generate $10 in Kohl's cash). While at Kohl's, Rachael got him 2 pairs of pants, an Indianapolis Colts shirt (which is mandatory in Indiana), a sweater, and 2 T-shirts--about $150 worth of stuff for $70. We also included all the gift receipts, in case he'd rather have other clothes.
All in all, it was really fun. We debated over spending so much on one child, but it's hard--I don't think kids consider clothes to be presents, and you can't really get "video games" without spending a lot of money, so in the end, we thought it was best to give one child a Christmas he'll never forget rather than spread it out and try to meet the clothing needs of 2 or 3 children. If the parents in this family disagree, well, they have the gift receipts. They can reconfigure how they see fit. We weren't told how many other children are in the family, if any, or what ages, so it's difficult to decide the best way to proceed.
Next year, we'll try a shotgun approach based on buying toys as inexpensively as possible and donating to Toys for Tots. We did a little bit of that this year (maybe $200 worth of toys for $50 at Menards on Black Friday). There's also a gentleman in town that offers the opportunity to adopt entire families for $550--maybe next year we can convince someone to split the cost with us and do that. Anyway, I'm definitely willing to give up my presents to do it again, and we were glad to use coupon ninja skills to increase the power of the donation along the way!