We’ve agreed that this is a standard amount to spend and that it makes sense to get gifts for all of these family members, but now he wants to buy gifts for cousins and their kids. Right now that includes two cousins and three of their kids. Since we already buy so many gifts, and since we already spend over $400 on gifts (before gifts for us or our kids), and since no one else in his family is buying gifts for those cousins or their kids (and we don’t expect gifts from them), I suggested we don’t buy the gifts. But he insists that it is “standard” for people to buy gifts for their cousins and for their cousins’ children.
I’m sure some families do it that way, but my sense is that the majority of families do not do it that way. He says I’m being unfair and unreasonable, but I don’t think I am. One of the cousins lives across the country and we have only seen the family four times in the past nine years, and the other cousin is closer to our family but we usually only see that cousin two to three times a year.
For me, the bottom line is that I am uncomfortable spending more money especially when we already spend so much for gifts, and I would hope my husband would respect that I am uncomfortable with it, but he doesn’t. Is my husband right? Am I being unreasonable or unfair? I don’t think I am, but maybe we need an outside perspective. — Enough Gifts Already
I’m so confused — and I’m sure you are, too — why your husband wants to suddenly buy gifts for family members you haven’t bought gifts for before. He says it’s “standard” that people buy gifts for their cousins and their cousins’ kids — and that’s arguable at best — but it hasn’t been standard for you guys, so why the change now? What’s the impetus for it? If you expect to see the cousins at a family Christmas gathering, that’s one thing, and it makes sense that for this year you might have a few token gifts to exchange. Even then, spending as much on the cousins and their kids as you do on your siblings and your parents isn’t necessary. I’d give one small token gift to the grown-ups — a bottle of wine; some fancy hot chocolate mix; an ornament — and very small gifts to each kids, like coloring books and some crayons, a $5 board book, some cute gloves (kids can always use spare gloves in the winter!).
It sounds like you need to discuss the expectations and boundaries of holiday gift-giving again with your husband. Find out why it’s suddenly important to him to give gifts to people you’ve never exchanged gifts with before, and re-iterate what you think your holiday gift budget should be. Does he agree with the total amount? And when you divide the amount by the number of people you already give to, does the per-person amount seem appropriate? Is there room to cut back on individual amounts to increase the number of people you gift to?
And, again, why would doing that be important to your husband? What would you each think about giving gifts only to the children in your lives (your own kids, your nieces/nephews)? Some families draw names for the adults, so that you give a gift to only one adult in the family and not all the siblings and parents/grandparents. It’s ok if this hasn’t been “standard” practice in your families – as family structures (and budgets!) change, standards can change and new traditions can develop and shift.
Finally, this is also an opportunity for you and your husband to re-visit expectations of gift-giving to each other. Is it important and meaningful to each of you to exchange gifts? Maybe it would be more meaningful to spend your budget on a shared experience together, or to save the money since you feel like you already spend so much on gifts, in general. Or maybe put the money toward a therapy appointment if it turns out the gift-giving issue is one you need additional help with in finding compromise!