Budget-friendly collective gifts for family members?
November 27, 2017 12:05 PM   Subscribe

I'm in a situation where I have a largeish family that resists the idea of Secret Santa or Kid Presents Only. The idea of getting everyone individual presents has irked me for several years already, and I'm super broke this year and am struggling with gift ideas for my siblings and their families. Can I improve upon previous collective gifts for 2017? I've got a budget of about $150 for 15 people this year.

Sibling A has a partner and two teenagers around the "surly teenager" age. The kids would probably like money or video games; the games are out, the money seems too tight this year to be useful (I dunno, would a surly teenager be ok with a $10 gift card?). Sibling B has a partner and a tween. Honorary Siblings C and D have partners and little kids.

Previous collective gift attempts:
1) boardgames (did not go over well)
2) Heifer International animals (pleased me, did not go over well)
3) 2016: Donations to the SPLC and similar groups (Siblings liked it, kids didn't)

Any other ideas? Oh-and I have ZERO handicraft skills, so, like, knitting everyone a Hogwarts scarf or baking stuff from scratch is out. I also live several states away so things like "IOU: Babysitting!" aren't practical.
posted by TwoStride to Shopping (28 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
How about $150 worth of lottery tickets? I'm generally anti-lottery but it can be fun for people who have everything and need a little excitement - esp if you get 150 dollar ones. I sometimes put one in a birthday card instead of a gift for fun. But yeah not as socially useful as a charity ...
posted by EtTuHealy at 12:17 PM on November 27, 2017 [7 favorites]

Can you write everyone a heartfelt note and buy each of them a fancy candy bar that they will like? (I am obsessed with the Compartes ones right now.)

Oh and on preview, yes, scratch-offs are a huge hit with kids and teens in my experience.
posted by leesh at 12:18 PM on November 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

I think a $10 gift card for a teen or tween is just fine. If they're in the Apple universe, an iTunes card for $10 will get them some in app purchases or the like. If you do that, then you just need gifts for the siblings/partners (something consumable for $20 for a couple to share seems do-able). Depending on how little the "little kids" are, you could do stuffed animals, an interactive toy like squeeze poppers, or maybe classic games like Hungry Hungry Hippos and Connect Four?

In a different direction, what about a collection of glow sticks and accessories (basically connectors to make glasses or headbands, or necklaces/earrings)? Fun to play with in the moment (esp. if you're opening presents in a group in the evening), everyone can do it, etc.
posted by msbubbaclees at 12:25 PM on November 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Coffee from a local (to you) roaster plus some hot chocolate mixes or candy for the kids.

For littler kids (early elementary school), I've found little eraser figures and temporary tattoos pretty fun.
posted by hydrobatidae at 12:27 PM on November 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Socks, ridiculous socks. Try TJ Maxx, for instance.
posted by dywypi at 12:32 PM on November 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

I got one used bowling pin from the "artistic" uncle one year when I was a teen. I liked it and still have it. I was reminded of this unique gift on Saturday when I saw similar "vintage" bowling pins while browsing in an antiques malls this weekend. Perhaps for the teens you could hit up a thrift shop or antiques store and pick out something weird and unusual yet cheap.

For little kids - I think games are still a good plan. I sent Sushi Go! and a Memory Game to relatives this year and they both went over well. They're in your budget.
posted by rdnnyc at 12:34 PM on November 27, 2017

Give the nieces and nephews gift cards for music or cool tees from threadless or woot. Get something very small for siblings and partners, like a few stocking stuffers. Yummy chocolate truffles, half bottles of champagne, or get some great crackers, cheese, mustard and salami, maybe some wine, gift wrap for the adults. I gifted for my niece and nephews well into their late 20s.
posted by theora55 at 12:38 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also, it's fair to let them know that funds are tight and you're keeping gifting small this year, partly so you don't feel bad if they go big.
posted by theora55 at 12:38 PM on November 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

- Can you order stuff online? I know many places such as Old Navy are offering 50% off for Cyber Monday. Kids' clothes and graphic tees for the older kids might be an idea there.
- Many books are $10 or so, especially little kids' books and mass-market/pocket paperback books.
- $10 gift cards are fine, especially for iTunes and other digital content. Or perhaps for Dunkin Donuts, Baskin Robbins, other fun food places.
- If there are bulk food shops near you, you could buy some candies or nuts, tea bags, etc., and make treats packages for the grownups. Get Xmas containers from a $ store to pretty them up.
posted by methroach at 12:39 PM on November 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Would it be an option to get one gift per family, instead of individual gifts? That increases your budget to around $35 - $40 for each family unit and gives you more firepower to work with:

-Gift card for a family outing, like a movie theater chain, or some mid-range restaurant
-A box of treats (Godiva chocolates, macaroons, giant popcorn tin, whatever) for the family to share

If individual gifts are a must and you're committed to the goal of "one universal thing I can buy for everyone," then:

-Moleskine notebook (or similar) + pen
-Flashlights or head lamps
-Beer or wine for the couples, 6 packs of quirky bottled sodas for the kids?
-Money Soap
-Earbud organizers
-A multi-color set of Sharpies
posted by castlebravo at 12:44 PM on November 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Last year I gave every single person in my family a 10 foot generic iPhone charging cable; the brand I bought is out of stock but this version is similar. Super cheap, used by everyone*, seems like it would be more expensive than it actually is. If you wanted you could supplement with some of the other ideas in this thread, or get everyone a small succulent/fancy chocolate/pinch tin of fancy salt (that's what I'm going with this year) in addition. Looking for "best stocking stuffers 2017" might give you some ideas, too.

*even my dad, who didn't see the utility until I reminded him how annoying it is to have to talk on the phone sitting on the floor next to an outlet...
posted by stellaluna at 12:47 PM on November 27, 2017 [6 favorites]

I like to give people books. I find something about that person or their interests and find a book suited to it. Nice, pretty, interesting or unusual books can still be appreciated by people who don't usually read if it's relevant enough to them.
posted by Polychrome at 12:57 PM on November 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I think if I was in this situation I would go with a food type gift. Lindt is having a lot of specials today for cyber Monday. 125 truffles for $30.

If you are familiar with their locales there might be a bakery or restaurant that would deliver a nice whole pie or cheesecake on or about December 23rd.

You could be the giver of sweets! If you are mailing chocolates yourself you can include some gummy bears or fun candy for the smaller kids.
posted by MadMadam at 12:57 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh but for collective gifts, my family tends to all give each other fancy food baskets, one per family.
posted by Polychrome at 12:59 PM on November 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Parent of two "surly teens" here (13 and 15): $10 gift cards would definitely be valued over pretty much anything else you might buy for the same value. If they are Starbucks drinkers, that's 2 free drinks! Goes a fairly long way on iTunes two (a few free songs, etc.)
posted by yawper at 1:12 PM on November 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

How about a movie night/couch potato basket for the families? Fill it with popcorn, movie size boxes of candy (I've seen these at dollar stores), fun sodas and the like.
posted by sarajane at 1:22 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: These wallet-sized multi tools are supposed to be the "hot" gift this year, and they're $4 each on Amazon.

$10 iTunes gift cards are always fine for teens.

6 dollar shirts has cool $6 tee shirts (or 10 for $50)

There are plenty of great kids books out there for all ages in the under $10 range.

There are also plenty of under $10 Lego sets.

This one is trickier, but is always a big hit: Go to their Facebook or Instagram page and download a few nice, fun photos of the kids or the whole family. Take them to a photo printing place like Target or Walgreens. Prints are generally under a dollar. Craft places like Michaels sell lovely inexpensive frames. Or make tiny prints and use these holiday ornament frames.

Penzey's Spices has the SOUL gift box (3 spices plus cards and a pin) at $12.95 each or 2 for $20, with free shipping at $29.95. Or their Joy of Cinnamon gift box is $7.95.

There are lots of Burt's Bees gift sets in the sub $10 range, particularly if you look for sales.

Five Below is a store dedicated to amusing items for $5 or less.

Agreed that scratch tickets are often a big hit.

Listen, I know that you really resent spending the money, but there are TONS of options out there for under $10 gifts. With a little bit of poking around it should be fairly easy to find something appropriate and thoughtful for everyone.
posted by anastasiav at 1:23 PM on November 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

So, a few years ago, I bought every single personin both my and my spouse's families (22 in all) their very own Flying Screaming Monkeys.

Everyone either loved it (all the teenagers and smaller ones) or loved to hate it (all the parents). Monkeys flew all over the houses across the country for days through the holidays, and firmly cemented my position as coolest uncle for years to come.

And, given that they are now quite cheap (the six-pack linked there is only $20), you could buy them all, and then do a $10 gift card for each of the older kids as well, and keep you well under budget.
posted by liquado at 1:24 PM on November 27, 2017 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Stalk the Quonsar thank you thread
posted by slipthought at 1:40 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Steam gift cards may work for video-game minded kids; $10 is either one nice indie game or a cluster of them on sale (Steam has lots of sales). Humble Bundle may allow gift-wallet contributions but doesn't have a specific digital gift card setup.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:49 PM on November 27, 2017

If it were me, I'd donate again to the SPLC for your siblings (since they liked it) and go for either gift cards or cash money for the kids. See if you can possibly throw the 2 teenagers $20 instead of $10 and you'll be the most popular relative ever!
posted by 8603 at 2:06 PM on November 27, 2017

I just bake people christmas cookies. Cut them in shapes, decorate festively and wrap nicely. A little tag that reads "made with love by ___". Fudge also works.
posted by windykites at 2:19 PM on November 27, 2017

Annnnd I just saw the "no baking" requirement. My bad. I think storebought fancy cookies/treats are pretty much just as good.
posted by windykites at 2:24 PM on November 27, 2017

Sure, $10 isn't a lot, but for an app store (Google Play for Android, iTunes for iPhone) or a coffee shop where items generally cost less than $10, a gift card will get multiple uses. If you think you can scrape around your budget and bump it up to $15 per person, all the better, but I don't see a problem with gift cards.
posted by AppleTurnover at 4:08 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

For a low-budget and no-bake idea, you can always mix up dry ingredients for cookies, layer them in jars (looks nice!), and put a cute tag with instructions for the rest of the ingredients and baking instructions. Here's a simple, fuss-free example. I did this one year for 6 hard-to-please high school classrooms and it was a huge hit. The cost is minimal when you buy everything in bulk. Mason jars are cheap and you can buy a bow to stick on the top with the instructions attached.

The frame idea above is fantastic. I'm not on Facebook, but I'd totally do this. It shows a lot of thought, is inexpensive, and it's personalized.
posted by onecircleaday at 5:00 PM on November 27, 2017

I'd like to echo the others and say that an app store giftcard is probably the best you could do here.

My other idea is to make a huge batch of alton brown's beef jerky (you CAN use an oven or dehydrator to cook it) and give it out. Everyone likes beef jerky*!

*Except vegans and people who don't like salt.
posted by bbqturtle at 5:05 PM on November 27, 2017

Stocking stuffers can be fun if you wrap them individually. Or a nice ornament for everyone - one with their name on it would be cool, I think.

A couple of years ago I got my kids a Hot Wheels track and my brothers and I (all in our 40s-50s) played with it for two days straight. So if you're going to be together for a while, something like that where you give everyone a bit to make up a mega track could be lots of fun.
posted by dawkins_7 at 8:54 PM on November 27, 2017

Best answer: Even today, I will never not appreciate and use a gift card, in any amount, to iTunes, Starbucks, or Amazon. This may be especially true for kids without their own incomes.
posted by oblique red at 9:50 AM on November 29, 2017

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