Ask Amy: I can’t afford to give gifts as usual this holiday season

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dear Amy: I’m conflicted about gifts this holiday season.

I traditionally buy gifts for my family (five adults and five children), close friends and their children (they all buy me great gifts too!). I used to enjoy this, but now it feels awfully expensive.

I’m 62 and still working, but this year I have no real disposable income. I mentioned to my mom that I kind of didn’t want to give gifts this year for financial reasons, and she said, “Why don’t you do it then? Just tell everyone in the family that you don’t want to exchange gifts this year.

The thing is, I’m ashamed to do this. It’s hard for me to imagine being with my family on Christmas morning with everyone giving presents. I feel like it would be awkward or I would end up feeling very depressed.

I can’t skip the event because I’m taking my parents (they’re 89 and 90) and besides, I love my family and I want to be with them.

I’m an artist, and one Christmas a few years ago, I had a similar situation with finances and made drawings for everyone. I don’t feel like I can do this again, and I haven’t thought of anything else to do them (at least not yet).

I kind of wish our family would do this thing where we swap names and just buy someone a nice present. But I don’t want to change the culture of the family, for my own selfish reasons.

Scrooge: In many families, there is a vacation inflection point where the adults look around their crowded homes and say, “Enough.” My family took care of it for years by drawing names at Thanksgiving. We then transitioned to giving to charities by associating the recipient with an appropriate cause – giving only material gifts to children. I agree with your mother about freeing yourself from crochet completely, but I also understand that it might not make giving season satisfying for you.

You’re lucky! Are you an artist. You seem to think that because you gave drawings once, you can’t do it again. I strongly disagree!

My great-uncle – also an artist – created a unique Christmas card every year, made prints, signed them and personally inscribed the recipient. Nearly 100 years later, these treasures are collectibles and treasured within the family.

You could do something similar – keep the room small, modest and frameless – and give one to each family, listed for them. The recipient could choose to frame the piece, stick it in the fridge, or stick it in a scrapbook. You could give art supplies to the kids on your list.

Your annual gift to friends and family could be a treasure that would last longer than any fancy gift you could buy.

dear Amy: When our daughters were born, we opened an account for each of them. We told them it was their college account. Cash donations from relatives have gone into this account.

When the university approached, we informed them, “Here is your college account. If you have any money left after you graduate from college, that’s up to you. If you have any college loans, they belong to you. It’s yours.”

Girl number one spent most of it in college. Great! Girl number two decided to go to a big public college, got a double BS, and used the excess as a down payment on her first house. So far, so good.

Then number two said, “Hey, it’s time for the wedding, what’s my budget?” My wife and I looked at each other and said, “Oh shit” (or something similar). We realized – and I am now preaching to any new parent who will listen – call it an education and marriage fund.

Father: Great idea, followed by great advice! You don’t say how you solved this, but I have a feeling you handled it well.

dear Amy: “Mum sick at heartdidn’t know how to handle Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations after her drunken son assaulted his drunken sister.

While I agree with your advice, you may have forgotten to add an important suggestion: why not suggest asking everyone to commit to alcohol-free celebrations?

If mom doesn’t want to create an alcohol-free gathering for anyone, including herself, I wonder if the whole family isn’t part of the alcohol problem.

Karine: This entire family was caught up in the aftermath of this drunken assault. Your suggestion is excellent — and necessary.

©2022 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency

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