Christmas gifts for people I don't like
November 30, 2015 9:31 AM   Subscribe

I have step brothers & sisters, whom I only see at Christmas every year. We aren't close but always exchange gifts anyway.

I have many adult step brothers and step sisters...and they have children...and it's just always been expected that we all exchange gifts every Christmas. I've begged for the last 5 years that we draw names for Christmas...but no one wants to do that. None of us are close, we aren't even facebook friends, we only see each other on Christmas and I struggle every year with what to get everyone. There are 5 women, 3 children (ages 2-4) and 5 men. This year, finances are tight, so I'm looking for cheap gifts to give everyone. I am very open to making things too...but it would have to be easy because, as Grinchy as this sounds, I don't want to spend a lot of time OR money on these people...but I also don't want to show up without anything. Help me figure out what to give these people without looking like I couldn't care less. Past gifts have been: movie gift cards, gloves & a scarf, manicure sets, fleece blankets, games, baked goods, candy, handmade ornaments, etc. I'd like to do something unique that costs almost nothing to do. Please help the Grinch!!!! I've looked through past posts, but I still come up with nothing. I'd really like to keep their "gifts" around the $5 range or is better, LOL.
posted by Amalie-Suzette to Shopping (31 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I donated a can of worms to oxfam in the name of someone I couldn't stand.
posted by brujita at 9:37 AM on November 30, 2015 [22 favorites]

How about nicely presented mason jars of homemade granola? A big batch shouldn't cost too much in raw ingredients - oats are insanely cheap, and you can keep pricey ingredients like nuts and coconut to a minimum.
posted by nerdfish at 9:38 AM on November 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

Every year on Pinterest I see hostess gifts for things like spice mixes, hot coccoa mix, homemade vanilla sugar/paste/extract, etc. Get some cute glass bottles and ribbon for cheap online or at IKEA, buy spices from the bulk bin (or online: My Spice Sage is reliable and does TONS of sales/samples, etc if you sign-up for their emails), and make a cute set of 3-4 different types, stick it in a dollar store basket with some tissue and cellophane, and boom! You have a cute inexpensive gift that would cost upwards of $15-$20 at a place like Williams-Sonoma. That would probably run you about $5 or less a person, easily.
posted by PearlRose at 9:38 AM on November 30, 2015 [7 favorites]

Donations on behalf of the adults and small gifts for the kids?
posted by cecic at 9:39 AM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's not too late to opt out! I'm serious. Send an email to everyone that says:

Dear Folks,

I'm excited to see everyone at Christmas this year. My budget is stretched this year and I am unable to participate in our annual gift exchange. I'm able to provide small gifts for the kids, but it is not possible for me to be as extravagant as we usually are at the holidays.

Have a merry!

The other option is Starbucks gift cards and hope they get the hint.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:40 AM on November 30, 2015 [15 favorites]

Hit the thrift stores and get each person a coffee mug that "reminded me of you". Thrift stores usually have lots of coffee mugs, and even kids like to have their "own" cup. Bonus points for buying some packages of cocoa to tuck in each mug.
posted by The otter lady at 9:45 AM on November 30, 2015 [22 favorites]

Cookies. Bulk bags of flour and sugar are pretty cheap, the butter might be the priciest part. My aunt and uncle gave a freezer bag's worth of m&m cookies to each one of us kids every year until she passed. Use whatever you like for add-ins, or just go to bulk barn and spend a few dollars on sprinkles for sugar cookies... or go plain! Bake en-masse and freeze them until the time comes to gift.

Home made crackers are also easy. I just made olive oil crackers on a lark and my sister-in-law liked them better than the fancy ones. Literally olive oil, flour, a bit of water, and kosher salt. Herbs optional. In a nice paper bag will look nice and the families can use them for holiday entertaining.

I'm making my nieces and nephew little felt toys for xmas - online Pinterest patterns should make it fairly quick to do over a few evenings. Each sheet of felt costs 59 cents so I've bought $5 worth of new felt and will sew them little toy animal stuffies. I also have collected some Altoids type tins and will line them with felt to make mouse beds, with the mouse toy and a pillow and blanket. Pinterest is my inspiration.
posted by lizbunny at 9:46 AM on November 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

posted by bdc34 at 9:46 AM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

I started doing a donation to charity for adults I didn't feel like buying stuff for a while ago, and it's been really nice. I hand make the cards (usually 30 minutes for 5 total). I always pick something innocuous that everybody likes, like a children's group home or a local foodbank. I've gotten a few sarcastic remarks from an uncle and aunt I don't like, but whatever. It just proved they're jerks, which I already knew. For my kid cousins, I made them cookies and maybe attach a small toy.
posted by kendrak at 9:48 AM on November 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Candy in a decorative jar - bulk barn for the candy, dollar store for the jar (or tins!). Might be $5 tops for each present depending on the candy you pick.
posted by lizbunny at 9:50 AM on November 30, 2015

Melt and pour soaps. This is a fun and cheap afternoon project.
posted by vunder at 9:55 AM on November 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you really don't care for them, just give them the same thing you gave them in a previous year. Why go through the struggle of trying to come up with something you haven't given them before? Manicure sets and movie gift cards still work as a repeat present.

My one creative idea: Bargain bin DVDs, packet of popcorn, couple of bags of candy - wrap it up nice and label it "Family movie night" - You can cover a whole family that way.
posted by like_neon at 9:56 AM on November 30, 2015 [18 favorites]

I give you: Gift Shopping for People You Hate, The Passive Aggressive Shopping Guide [protip: the answer is always Menard's].

Previously seen on The Blue.
posted by chainsofreedom at 10:03 AM on November 30, 2015 [10 favorites]

If you do the coffee mug thing, you can also personalize them with sharpies.
posted by raisingsand at 10:08 AM on November 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

I have lots of nieces and nephews. We definitely do the "family gift". Get some dvds cheap off Amazon. (I've been doing the older Disney or Muppets movies that they aren't as likely to own as Frozen. ) put the movie in a bag with a packet of microwave popcorn, a big bag of m&ms, and some twizzlers.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 10:39 AM on November 30, 2015 [4 favorites]

I go to the library book sale and get books that remind me of them that I think they might like. Include a note for each about why I thought they might like it (whether it was because *I* liked it or something else) and then you have something personalized, easy to wrap and not very expensive but also something "of value" if that matters. The good news is that for people who don't really read this can seem like a bit of a "fuck you" present but what are you going to do, tell you they don't like the present because they don't read? Classic.
posted by jessamyn at 10:57 AM on November 30, 2015 [14 favorites]

Go to the dollar store. You can find lots for the kids there. For the adults, eh...get a multipack of movie tickets from Costco or give them $5 starbucks cards. Fuck em. You've tried to explain you don't want to buy them gifts. Or just stop giving gifts. That's the other way to do it. I don't give my stepsiblings gifts and they don't give me any. Works fine for us.
posted by SassHat at 11:05 AM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Here are some things you could order from Amazon if you don't want to deal with making or hunting for deals.

Also, a thought for next year - suggest instead of gifts doing an ornament exchange. Play it up as a way for everyone to build up a fun collection of ornaments that will have meaning.

I just ordered a slightly more expensive version of this
cellphone camera lens add-on
as stocking stuffers for people I do like.

The version I linked is $3.85. Who doesn't like playing with their phone taking pictures?

Here's another one that is only $2.55

USB LED Night-light $4.90

Also, Amazon has a ton of cheap/interesting kid toys.

Singing Birds

Turtle Playdoh Set - $5.59

Stuffed Frog $3.87
posted by MadMadam at 11:15 AM on November 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

It's not too late to opt out!

That's what I was thinking on the whole thing. If Amalie-Suzette doesn't care for people at the holidays, skip the holidays. Stay home. Don't go. Spend the day with people you actually do give a shit about. Don't worry about looking like you "couldn't care less" when you couldn't care less. Care less! Life it too short to not be a Grinch! Don't waste it on people you don't like.

Then reschedule for a later date with those you actually do want to spend time with.

I celebrate Thanksmas (it's like Christmas but in November, or like Thanksgiving but with presents) with one part of my family just so I can avoid the people I don't want to see on Christmas. I tell people it's because I don't like to travel during problematic weather, but its mostly so I can stay home on Christmas and not be a ball of stress having to be polite to people I'd rather bury in a hole.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:27 AM on November 30, 2015 [13 favorites]

My local toy store has dozens of different wind-up toys, most for $3. It would be fun to give everyone a different one and then have races!

Or just give them to the kids and make a donation to charity in honor of your family... But I know that's not what you asked. Good luck!
posted by areaperson at 1:03 PM on November 30, 2015

Underwear. Seriously, everyone needs underwear and for the adults you can play it up with funny ones (where I live we have a shop that sells cheaply made funny underwear cheap). Maybe having to unwrap a thong in front of gramma will make the adults reconsider mandatory gift giving.
posted by saucysault at 1:31 PM on November 30, 2015

My great-grandma gave us underwear every year. She had no idea what size we were. My 4 year old sister got panties that fit me. A skinny 10 year old, I got granny panties the size of small wind sails.
posted by lizbunny at 1:48 PM on November 30, 2015 [7 favorites]

Along the same idea as underwear, almost everyone likes fun socks. You could get Christmas ones at the dollar store for the kids and "better" ones at a store like Walmart or Target (for about $2) for the adults.

I have made this recipe for caramel with great success. My 7 year old helped, so it is pretty easy. The worst part is wrapping them all.
posted by Giailh at 2:04 PM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

You could make chocolate bark (melt chocolate chips, toss in pretzel bits, craisins, nuts, whatever) and put them in cute jars or bags. You could make flannel scarves by literally cutting flannel ($8 a yard at Joann's Fabrics) and fringing the ends. You could make these cute ornaments out of ribbon.

What do they give you? Do you simply not like them, or want to show that you don't like them? Or do you just not really care? If you are really averse to these folks, I think you might want to figure out why you go through the motions.

You could always regift shit you get at work parties!
posted by hippychick at 3:05 PM on November 30, 2015

Saltine Caramel Chocolate bark is unbelievably delicious, and it's cheap and easy to make. Also good using Matzo instead of saltines if you're invited to a Seder and don't know what to bring.

Cover a foil-lined cookie sheet with saltine crackers or matzoh, salt-side down.
Make a quick stovetop caramel by cooking butter and brown sugar for a few minutes.
Pour the caramel on the crackers, spreading to coat them.
(If you used Matzo, which isn't as salty, toss a little sea salt on top now).
Put it in a warm oven for a few minutes so the buttery caramel can permeate the crackers.
Layer on good-quality chocolate chips or melted chocolate, spread to coat.
Add nuts if you roll that way, although they are not needed here.
Let it cool, bust it up into irregular pieces, put it in dollar store tins, gift freely.

It is some of the most delicious candy I've ever had- much better than the sum of its parts. I've made it for parties and people go NUTS for it, and nobody needs to know how little effort you put into it.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:26 PM on November 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

I've had good success making Smitten Kitchen's homemade cocoa mix - you could put it in littleish mason jars and then dress it up with a bow or ribbon and include some marshmallows. It makes a good "family" gift too - the kids don't need their own jars.
posted by meggan at 7:41 PM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

+1 to the idea of special socks
posted by salvia at 8:11 PM on November 30, 2015

Is there an ikea or Five Below store near you?
posted by oceano at 9:44 PM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

My ex felt this way about my family. He would go to the dollar store and pick out the biggest item that cost a mere dollar for each family member. Zero effort, super low cost!
posted by Polychrome at 5:51 AM on December 1, 2015

Last year I made soaps for people with a Lego Minifig in them. It took maybe 20 minutes top, and was cheap since I used pre-owned minifigs. I bought a soap mold and some of that clear soap base from a Michael's, put the toy in, poured the soap over, and it was done. You could stick any cheap dollar store toy or whatever in there, or buy a blind lot of ebay minifigs for cheap. It was amazingly well received for its low time/cost investment.
posted by wizardpants at 1:56 PM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the great ideas!!! Now I have ideas for years to come!

It's not that I can really opt out of seeing/gifting the step-siblings. My mom has always had xmas day dinner at her house (since my Granny stopped at hers...when I was a teen). When she started seeing her, now husband, she always invited him and his kids to our xmas day dinner (starting when I was 31- now 43). So, it's more like they were invited to our family dinner for a few years, then they became family and tradition just stayed, we still go to mom's on xmas day. If I don't go, I don't see my mom, brother, sister, sister in law & niece. We aren't mean to each other or hate each other or anything, we just really don't speak and don't know each other. Over the years everyone has married, divorced, had kids, etc., so the number of people you end up buying for is gradually getting larger. That's why I'll ask my mom if we can draw names (adult-adult, kid-kid); or do an "only buy for the kids" xmas? EVERY YEAR I get shot down. Ugh, and I hate that we end up with all of these crappy presents that we have to haul home too. My argument is that it's easier to draw names and have a $15-20 limit than it is to buy for everyone. My mom said she's afraid they will feel obligated to buy us something and she doesn't want them to feel that way, plus she is afraid they won't have the money but then be obligated. (She has a point. They will all show one year, then only one or two of them the next. One step sister has never gotten us anything, neither has one step brother. Sure, I could just stop making sure they get a gift, but I'm giving everyone else something and don't want to look rude. They all RSVP'd to my brother's wedding with a date and NOT ONE of them showed!! They were bailing the oldest girl out of jail from her 3rd DUI...)
No, no Ikea or Five Below stores near here. :(
posted by Amalie-Suzette at 11:51 PM on December 2, 2015

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