I am pretty lucky that we are not big on Christmas gifts in my family, so I generally get something for my brother, sister and mother, and a box of chocolate or a bottle of Champagne for whoever is hosting Christmas that year.
As kids, we were never expected to give gifts, but as a teenager, when I started making my own money, I remember going through a great deal of trouble to get everyone gifts, even for my uncles and cousins, who would seldom reciprocate. What I disliked the most is that my gifts were never really thoughtful, cousins would get a CD or a t-shirt, uncles and aunts something decorative. It was clutter for everyone, something they wouldn’t have gotten for themselves and a total waste of my hard earned money. They pretended to like it, I pretended to be happy to give, it was a big lie all over.
So after a while I decided to stop gifting, which was fine during my broke student years. But now that I make decent money, I feel like people expect better gifts. Especially a few people who are broke, not because they chose to work in an NGO and make minimum wage, but because their 3 year-old has an iPad and designer clothes. So they would justify their cheap-ass gift by saying it’s been a tough year (of going out every Friday and Saturday night), and when I talk about the property I bought, not to brag but because they asked, they look at me like I am a millionaire and was really cheap getting them only one gift for the pair.
I feel like overall, there is too much pressure on gift giving. Try to go back to last Christmas, can you remember everything you got? One thing? Who gave it to you? Can you do the same for Christmas 1998? I can remember maybe 10 gifts over my adult life. But I remember most Christmas dinners, who was there, the oyster opening ceremony, the foie gras, the candles, the midnight mass and hot chocolate afterwards.
I don’t think one should give more because you make more, especially if there is a gap between you and your parents, or you and your siblings, you will only embarrass them for not giving you such a nice thing. And the state of the art blender will look weird in their old kitchen anyway.
Some of the gifts I have got the best results with were thoughtful gifts, that took me time to make. Like the time I made a personalized calendar with digital photos of the family, and reminders of everyone’s birthday. It was awesome because everyone got one (no individual gift shopping), I did it online (no crazy last minute Christmas shopping), and it was about $10 a piece. People got to enjoy their calendar all year long, but it is also disposable if you wish to, so no long term clutter and hurt feelings when you realize your Christmas gift sold for £0.50 at last summer’s garage sale.
Furthermore as a kid, even if I make more than my mum, I still play my role of 34 year old kid getting her a small gift instead of extravagances to show off how much I make. She taught me the value of hard work and savings and lives a frugal life, so little treats make her happy, but big gestures would make her uncomfortable. Generally we get her perfumes and expensive creams or bath salts, and last Christmas she got tickets to a musical she wanted to see and went with my sister.
I think it is bad taste for you to shower your family with more money than you were used to receiving as a kid. If your parents give £20 gifts, give them something under £50. Unless they are struggling financially, in which case I’d rather pay their electric bill than get them another piece of junk.
And if your friends and extended family are disappointed because you didn’t give them a gift in tune with your improved financial status, they are jerks. You may justify that you have other goals like giving to charity or starting your kids’ college fund, but if they need an explanation, they probably just came to spend Christmas with your for the free food and the expected gift.