Christmas Gifts for Adults

Updated on November 29, 2012
C.S. asks from Fort Lauderdale, FL
28 answers

In my family, adults exchange gifts. For example, we give my parents each a present. I get one from my parents and my husband gets one from my parents. A few years ago, my MIL suggested that adults should draw names so that we each purchased one present for another adult rather than for each adult. Hum, that was 5 years ago - her oldest son was out of work so we knew why she suggested that. My husband agreed but has continued to purchase presents for his parents plus whomever he got in the drawing. The tradition has continued until yesterday when she called and suggested that we not do any gifts for adults. She said Christmas is for the kids anyway so adults don't need presents.

Actually, I like opening gifts even if I am 41! In my family we don't buy whatever we want whenever we need it and if you listen and pay attention it is easy to find items to buy one another. I've already bought gifts for MIL and FIl and my brother in law....and some of them can't be returned. I'm considering just saying that we enjoy giving gifts and plan to continue this year although we don't expect gifts from anyone else. In reality, I expect a present or two from my husband and he knows it (we discussed yesterday). We plan to exchange them on Christmas Day at their house since we are travelling over 1200 miles to go and will be there over a week.

So, do you exchange gifts with the adults in your family? Spouse? Parents? I would like to know what others do...

Thanks! C.

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answers from Orlando on

Yes we exchange presents amongst adults :-) Just my core family - my mom, dad , sisters, brother in law, then plus all the kids. I love giving presents.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I love giving gifts. I can't help myself. So I get hubby gifts and he buys me gifts too. We get the kids gifts. My neices and nephews get 1 gift each since there are 14 of them. I do manage to stay within my budget. Hubby also gets a gift for him mom but gives his grandmother money. She likes the money best of all. We just deposit it directly into her account.



answers from Topeka on

My family yes parents,brother excluding my sister/bil however not buying each a gift for mom/dad it's 1 gift for both same on his side I don't buy for his sister/bil & his brother/sil it has been that way for a while now.This year we did a name drawing kids includeing on my moms side of the family i'm ok with that becasue it's new & they have alwasy bought for my kids regardless we go to their Christmas lunch or not.I also don't buy for every person on both sides of family that would be way to much & would cost a fortune if we did that so I limit who I but for they aren't able to do it either just immediate family.

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answers from New York on

I'd read your MIL's letter as a coded way of saying "Someone in the family is having financial trouble, but they don't want to let everyone know." And if that's the case, it'd really be awkward for you to give them a gift if they can't afford one for you.

However, I think it's fine for you to ask your MIL, "We've already purchased gifts. Can we give them, or is it really better not to?" If she says no, just stick them in a closet and save them for another occasion.

With my family (especially my side), the adults all exchange gifts, but there's an unspoken agreement that they should be small and affordable. And people generally buy "house presents" for couples rather than something separate for each member of a couple. A lot more effort goes into things for the kids.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Lansing on

We buy for my parents and my husbands parents. My parents and my husbands parents buy for us. We do not buy for our siblings, only our nieces & nephews.

My husband I do buy for each other.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

Hi C.

We used to do that a lot.... but now , being as most of the people I know have pretty much anything they need and can purchase much of what they want. We have decided to simply focus on the kids and put the money towards them... However, my husband and I still give each other a gift.
Also, when it comes to friends, I no longer exchange gifts.. I tend to be an "0ver-buyer" and not buying gifts for once is good therapy for me..

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

We stopped buying for our siblings years ago. It was just swapping $50 gift cards to various restaurants any way. My parents do not want us to spend money on them. My mom always says if I have to buy her something then get her dish towels. Lol! I understand it now that I am a parent because I would prefer my girls save their money too. Since I am a glass artist however I usually make them something for one of their houses.
I have lots of nieces and nephews too. We had the same problem that we were just swapping $15-$20 gifts. So last year we had a gift exchange where everyone had to bring a $5-10 wrapped gift. Then you could either steal an opened gift or open a new gift. It was a blast and so much more memorable than exchanging cheap kid toys. My BIL ended up with a musical tie, my 13 yo nephew got a blow up guitar and glow stick necklaces. Someone ended up with a pumpkin mouth picture frame and I then put a picture of me and my siblings in it from our Halloween party. The gift everyone was stealing was a simple jar from the dollar store filled with Reese's peanut butter cups and Hershey Kisses. Lots of fun that I think made a lasting memory for our family.

My husband and I exchange gifts though and my parents and his parents give us money.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Fort Myers on

We actually stopped buying gifts for the adults in our family because 1 the money and 2 we ended up just asking what each person wanted and going out and buying it so for our family it was best to stop. This year I told my mom not to buy us anything and just come visit she is in MN and we are in Florida. Our family is also the type if we really want something we save up and buy it. I guess it depends on what works for each family. Hope this helps some.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I have 4 brothers, 3 sister in laws, one engaged almost SIL, 2 nieces, and both my parents are living. We buy a gift for each and every person. PLUS we send $100 to my husband's parents out of country (that pays for Christmas dinner for his whole extended family).
We all exchange "lists' of things that we would like around Thanksgiving and then shop! I do black Friday shopping and am able to get gifts for all 12 people for about $125. Usually we just get small gifts for each other because there are so many of us. (I do have one brother this year that is in a BAD way and will not be getting any of us anything although we are all still buying for him and his kids)
Last year we did the "draw a name" thing and I hated it! I love buying for everyone....especially since I am such a good shopper! One of my brothers and I decided that it was bupkis and went ahead and bought everyone gifts anyways and just put "from Santa" on the cards.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

My husband and I exchange gifts, at home. We also exchange gifts with his mother. We don't exchange gifts with our sibling or any other extended family. Could you save the gifts you have already bought for birthdays (if you do birthday gifts)?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i'm with your MIL. i haven't quite weaned my extended family yet, but at least we're not all buying for everyone any more.
we do get something for our parents above and beyond the sneaky santa thing, because my MIL really DOES expect it, and my mumsie is very ill and we all want to nurture her in any way we can.
but my ideal christmas would be sharing food and laughter and conversation and precious, precious time with the other adults, and just watch the kids play with their gifts.
:) khairete

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

Everyone in my family exchanges gifts. I would honestly be hurt if it were otherwise. I LOVE finding the perfect gift for each person in my family, and I truly enjoy opening thoughtful gifts from members of my family.

I understand why larger families do the "draw a name" tradition. But my own family isn't very large...and I think that drawing a name is kind of cold. Even in a large family, I would give gifts to those I am closest to.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

We buy for our parents. We do not give to our siblings. We DO give to our nieces and nephews.

I enjoy opening gifts too! When my mother got ill, my dad just started buying gift cards. I have no issue with this. I'm thrilled that my dad even does this.

Hubby and I exchange gifts. Generally one or two and of course our kiddos. =) I need to make my list and start shopping!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

We still exchange gifts as adults in our extended family. All the little kids get gifts from whoever wants to buy them one, but each adult gets a gift from whoever drew their name. We have the option to opt-out of the exchange if we don't have the money to buy a gift, but then we don't get one in return. Our minimum spending is $20 so everyone gets at least that and those who have more money can spend more if they like. Some years we have passed on being in the exchange (like when I was on maternity leave) and some families have opted-out always. This way we still do the exchange of gifts, but those who don't want to don't have to. Everyone's fun isn't ruined.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

In our family, adults generally give gifts to one another. But it's not a hard and fast rule. My children and their spouses elected not to give one another gifts, and that's fine (that is, they give presents to their spouses! They don't give them to siblings and siblings' spouses. Aw, you know what I mean!). But they give presents to their parents, and we give to them and to our parents (just one parent, now, for the other three have passed away).

Perhaps your MIL is concerned that grownup toys are pretty pricey! We don't ever do anything very expensive. However, it's nice to have something with one's name on it under the tree. I disagree with your MIL: Christmas is not (just) for the kids. It's for everybody.

Your husband could let his mother know that it's too close to Christmas to change the game plan, and that your shopping has been done. Next year, if there is enough support in favor of a no-adult-gifts Christmas, it can be considered during the summer. He could also let her know that if she's on a very tight budget, she needn't worry about giving you all anything and it won't hurt your feelings.



answers from Savannah on

My husbands side of the family- Everyone purchases a gift for each of the nieces and nephews (ages 1-5) and for his parents. His parents purchase gifts for everyone, but usually the couples will get a couples gift instead of individual ones. All of my husbands brothers and sisters and their spouses exchange names and each give and get one gift with a $40 limit.

My dad's side of the family- My parents give each of their kids and grandkids tons of gifts (and any long term boyfriends/girlfriends usually get gift cards to movies or restaurants for date nights). All for their kids, we usually don't give gifts to each other, but only to the parents and kids. Even that is not always the case as we are not usually together for the holidays. We are split up throughout the country now (CA, IL, and GA). My Grandpa will give a gift card to each of his great grandchildren. If we are in town visiting on Christmas Eve, I will bring a small gift for my cousin's kids who are 1 and 3 (maybe a coloring book or board book).

My parents are divorced, and I always give a small gift to my Mom and my little brother (college age). I don't bother with my stepdad because he is a grumpy old man and doesn't appreciate anything anyway. When I do get to visit them, he stays in the bedroom until we leave, so we don't really have any interaction with each other at all. My mom will give gifts for her grandkids if she can afford it, but I have a feeling that this year, her grandchildren will not be getting anything because she is not doing well financially. Plus we will not be able to visit this year, so it will probably just be a phone call. My mom's brothers and sisters get together for the holiday and everyone pulls names, adults and children alike. We do not participate because we are never their to celebrate, and it saves someone from having to ship a gift to us.

My husband and I have done both gifts and no gifts. It just depends on our budget, time, and plans for the holiday. Last year was no gifts, this year my husband is getting a couple of large gifts . . . he picked them out himself.

PS- Santa always comes to our home for everyone! Kids get stockings and toys and adults get stockings only!



answers from Youngstown on

On my side of the family there are 5 adult kids and 4 spouses. We do a name drawing and buy a present for one person. So my husband and I each buy a gift and we each get a gift. Also, my parents buy all the adults a gift and we get them a gift from each family or sometimes we go in on a gift together. The kids only get gifts from grandma and grandpa there since there are 9 kids.

On my husband's side there are only 2 adult kids, my husband and his sister. We buy gifts for my SIL and her husband they get gifts for us. We have 3 kids and she has 2 kids and a college age step son. We buy all 3 of the kids gifts and they buy for our kids. We also get many gifts from my in-laws and we buy them each a gift. My in-laws go overboard on gifts for the kids too.

At home my husband and I exchange gifts with each other too.



answers from Detroit on

My family has always exchanged gifts between adults and children. My husbands was children only. A few years ago an aunt suggested that we exchange homemade gifts amongst the adults. I made garden stones and ornaments with the kids-and my brother and SIL gave me a GP, lol. I felt a little silly, but not bad. This year I'm laid off and my mother suggested kids only. I'm bummed and relieved at the same time. Perhaps you can let your family know that you already shopped and love to give-and suggest that some families give homemade gifts? The homemade gifts were fun family activites, and kind of bring Christmas back to what its really about.



answers from Salt Lake City on

My husband and I do buy or make a gift or two for each other, and we make or buy gifts for siblings and parents. We do not spend bunches on it, though. We make homemade candies and jams that are much appreciated (folks tend to let us know which ones they like best, hint hint), so our highest cost tends to be the shipping to get gifts to the recipients, since our families are spread out across the country.


answers from San Francisco on

Between our two families there are 20 adults and 14 kids, so yes, we exchange names! The guys buy for the guys and the gals buy for each other. We draw kids names based on how many kids we have, so I end up buying for three kids, one SIL and one of my siblings :-)
And yes, hubby and I exchange gifts but it's usually pretty basic, nothing fancy or expensive.


answers from Dallas on

Yes, we exchange gifts with adults and children in our family, and we all love it that way. We exchange nice, well-thought out gifts with our parents, but for siblings and cousins (all adults), we just exchange little things, like family photos, or homemade cookies in cute tins or something little like that. We buy gifts for nieces and nephews. The entire extended family comes over to our house for dinner, gift exchange, and celebrating on Christmas Eve. It's everyone's favorite night of the year. :)

On Christmas Day, it's just the four of us, and my husband and I do exchange gifts. We love figuring out what to get for each other, and we both put a ton of thought into it. Our boys help with the shopping for us, and for each other, but we don't go over-board. Usually someone ends up going on a scavenger hunt, too. Sometimes it's one of us, and sometimes it's one of our boys. Fun, fun, fun!! :)



answers from New York on

I've never liked the idea of drawing a name and buying for only one person. I do however understand that this can be necessary if you have a large family.

I'm big into gift giving. We've lost a few adults over the years, but I've always gotten gifts for everyone, and made sure my kids also got gifts for the adults (a picture, a homemade ornament, etc.) Our family is very small and all we have to buy for is my SIL and FIL, and I usually get them each 2 or 3 gifts.

My FIL will give hubby a check or a gift card and a small household gift to the 2 of us. My SIL gives each of us a small gift. Most of the time it's something inexpensive, but thoughtful. They give lots of gifts to my girls.

Hubby and I will buy gifts for each other. This is the only time of year that we do this, nothing for birthdays, anniversery, mother's day, etc.



answers from Kansas City on

Well, I only have one brother so I have always bought him a christmas gift. I always buy my mom something too. My husband has 5 siblings and I started off buying them all something, sometimes joint gifts for the couples. One year husband's side decided to draw names too, that worked great actually. Then they stopped that. Then they decided only kids should get presents, I was totally happy with that b/c it does get expensive. BUT, and here's the big but...they all bought presents for each other anyway. I didn't buy anyone presents b/c we said not to, so I felt like a giant idiot. So, now I always buy gifts for his siblings. Sometimes I only do the women (sisters and SIL and mother) and sometimes I do the husbands too. I always have a theme. This year I'm only doing the girls and I'm doing a "car emergency" kit. I'm including hand sanitizer, lotion, lip balm, gum, and a car air freshener from Bath and Body Works. I'm just not getting caught up in that mix again. I will always be buying them gifts!

I hear what you're saying about opening stuff. I like it too, so my husband and I always try and get each other a little something, but to be honest, the stuff my in laws get me is not always the best. The sisters are better than the mom, but I'd rather them save their money or spend it on my kids.



answers from Kansas City on

I have so many thoughts on this and quite frankly don't know where to start.

MY side of the family. . .
I insisted a few years ago that it is all about the kids and that we focus on them. My kids are older (22 and 18) but my nieces are much younger.
It took me years to realize that my mom goes overboard. Spends money she doesn't have to make sure we all have something to open. She hates giving my kids gift cards, but it's so hard for them to come up with some 'thing' in the first place and something grandma can afford. So I was the heavy and insisted we just buy for the kids. I make my parents a picture calendar each year full of pictures of the grandkids which they love.

My DH's side of the family. . .
I kid you not, the first few years we were married we were given the 'approved' list from my youngest brother in law of things he wanted. One sister in law is so snotty, NOTHING was ever good enough and she'd talk about it behind my back. Another sister in law is just damn hard to buy for. And my in laws have everything they could possibly need and can afford what ever they want! *Once my father in law was in the hospital and I had to go to the house and pick up somethings. I wasn't snooping, but had to get in the closet to get his slippers and found 3-4 bottles of cologne, un-opened, given as gifts over the years.

Again, at MY insistence, I suggested that the kids (11 nieces and nephews) start drawing names, which we've continued over the years and the kids love! They get to focus on ONE person and it's meaningful to both the giver and receiver.
I also suggested, the adults 'adopt a family'. Because we were spread out all over the country, we rotated. One year we adopted a family in Kansas City, the next in Buffalo, the next Portland, the next St. Louis. We took the money we would normal use to buy something for each other and used it to help a family in each community. We figured we'd spend roughly $50 per person so $100 per couple X 4 families which gave us $400 to use on the adopted family. Let me tell you, that could go a long way for one family who doesn't get much. We did that probably 8-10 years. Now we just don't buy for the adults.



answers from San Francisco on

My family and my husband's family both do drawings, but both are large families.

My family has 6 children and add in spouses and children and that's a lot of presents to buy. So in my family, we do a drawing for the adults and then buy one more expensive/nicer gift than we would if we had to buy for a large number of adults. My Mom still feels compelled to give her children gifts but it's usually something small (candy, a game, etc). I (and my siblings) still give her gifts too, but we usually spend a little more or pool for a group gift. We feel she deserves it for raising 6 kids and since my Dad has passed away, she doesn't have a spouse to give her gifts. In our drawing, spouses cannot pick each other either as spouses still give to each other, but other than that there are no rules. By random chance you could give to the same person 2 years in a row. Kids typically get a gift from each adult until they are out of college or otherwise supporting themselves. Then they have the option to participate in the adult drawing. Also, an adult can opt out of the drawing if desired.

In my husband's family, they do a drawing but the price of the gift is set lower. My guess is that the limit is lower because without the drawing, they just wouldn't buy for any of the adults as opposed to my family's reason of pooling your gift money to give one nicer gift versus lots of small ones. I do not know if they have any rules about drawing spouses but I've never seen it done before. And I suspect they don't do a real drawing but kind of rotate the names around from year to year. In his family though, children still give to their parents and vice-versa. So I could "draw" my MIL name and give her a gift for the drawing plus regular gifts. As with my family, people can opt out.

I should note that it's not uncommon amongst my siblings to find some small gift to give everyone. Maybe a box of sees candy or a framed picture of the kids, etc.



answers from Dallas on

We do with my side of the family with the ones that are here that we celebrate with. With my husbands side of the family we havn't gotten with for a few years. But we would draw names for the kids and usually do a $10 white elephant exchange.



answers from Albuquerque on

We have always exchanged gifts among adults (my sister, DH's brother, my parents, his parents, and my two very close cousins). This year, though, we're skipping the siblings and cousins and just getting presents for our parents and neices and nephews. There are enough young kids now that people would prefer to spend money on them.



answers from Washington DC on

I would tell the ILs that you already bought presents and will consider the no presents thing in the future. However, I don't think not exchanging with the ILs means you shouldn't exchange with DH.

My one aunt (who I don't usually see on Christmas) let us off the hook on her family and frankly my sister and I were relieved. I was running out of gift basket ideas. :P ( is a good site, if anyone needs it). My other aunt gets some sort of family gift.

I exchange something with my sister and BIL. I buy presents for my now grown stepchildren. I would buy for my ILs, but a while back we decided not to so much. Everyone is strapped for cash, but we still buy for the little kids and we get together for lunch and play games and enjoy the day. If DH can, he buys for the family, and we expect nothing but their presence in return. My DD will be giving her family small gifts she picked out at a craft fair or made - FIL an ornament, MIL a star...

And it may be also that MIL and FIL feel they cannot do the presents thing for all (budgets are tight in retirement, too) and by saying no gifts for adults, then they aren't obligated, either.

I generally buy small gifts for my cousins' kids but not for each of them anymore, and vice versa.

It may be something DH needs to discuss with his parents and siblings, to see if it comes from a source of concern or what.

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