Wrangling the Entropy Tip #6, Happy Birthday Every Flipping Week!

It has been said that I have a fairly large family.  Actually it all depends on what circles we’re hanging in, as mine is nothing when I’m hanging with my Catholic, Mormon or Ethiopian peeps.  Five kids ain’t Jack to them and they call me names like “baby-making slacker” and laugh snidely that we can drive everyone around in one car that does not have the name “Blue Bird” soldered on the side.  But considering that the average American family still only has 1.86 children, we’re technically still above the curve.

Figure also that I have three sisters and Sheepdog has one.  Those sisters each have a spouse plus 3, 3, 3 and 2 kids each, respectively.  Add our parents, the siblings and their husbands, Sheepdog plus me and our five kids, and we are celebrating birthdays and important holidays and milestones for fourteen adults and sixteen kids each year.  It’s a lot to coordinate.  So much that it becomes a pain in the butt and I don’t always want to do it.  So I don’t do it all.

No, I do not pick my favorites and only send them presents (great idea, but it tends to lead to some family drama).  Nor do I universally ignore birthdays and skip Christmas (although some years I would like to).  We go in together on presents and we share the responsibility of buying the gifts.  It works for us.

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The Joint Birthday Gift(s)

On my side of the family we have all agreed that $25 per family is a fair amount to spend on kids’ birthday presents, especially when there are so many of them (kids, not presents).  Now, $25 is not really a lot of money anymore when you take it to a Target or Toys R Us or http://www.amazon.com.  So we decided that we would pool our money and get $75 worth of gifts (one big, several small… whatever works based upon the kid’s wish list).  That way, too, only one person has to do the shopping and wrapping and card making.  The gifts are very personal (not just a gift card) and it doesn’t feel like so much of an obligation or a chore because you are not doing it every few weeks (which is seriously how often gift-worthy occasions come up around here).

This was the signature page for my niece's 2nd birthday card. And it doesn't even include her mom and dad or her siblings.

The UoweME List

My sisters and I keep a running list because we are always rotating who does the shopping.  This also comes in handy for bridal and baby showers, graduations and flower deliveries.  We agree upon a dollar amount, pool our money and buy something a little bigger than we would be able to buy if we each bought gifts separately.  We give the responsibility of maintaining the list to one person and settle up quarterly.  If the buying/ spending is done equally then we rarely have much to settle up.

The Christmas Pollyanna/Secret Santa gift exchange

At Christmas we assign a cousin to each kid (Kid A gets Cousin 7, Cousin 7 gets Kid E, and so on until all of the cousins are giving to and receiving from somebody).  We give those Christmas presents a $30 limit, with some flexibility.  So instead of buying a dollar store piece of junk, or overshooting your Christmas budget every year, we buy nice gifts that the receivers actually want.  Everybody gets fewer gifts overall, but it’s quality over quantity.  Win/ win.

For the siblings and our spouses, we set up a similar gift exchange but we do couples gifts that have a $100 limit.  Sister B and spouse buys for Sister D and spouse, Sister D and spouse buy for another sister and spouse, etc.  We each submit wish lists or ideas so that everybody is also getting something that they want.

For our parents, we get ideas from them and then go in on the gifts together.  This cuts down on returns, limits everybody’s overall shopping and because all of the presents are from everybody, it ensures that there are no favorites (my gift was nicer/ more expensive/ more personal than your gift, so of course mom loves me more).

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Now, a few things need to happen for these systems to work.  My group happens to be my immediate family, but any group with similar buying interests would work just as well.  Maybe you have a circle of friends and you all buy birthday and other holiday presents for each other and/ or each other’s kids every year.  You also need to have similar budgets.  And there can’t be any slackers in the group either.  Everybody has to step up to shop for, pay for, wrap and deliver some presents in order for it to work.

So go find your own group and give yourself a break every once in a while.  It’ll be your own little present.  So, you’re welcome.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

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