Christmas and Gift Giving
Berkeley Parents Network >
Holidays and Special Events >
Christmas > Christmas and Gift Giving
Financially speaking, my inlaws are very ''comfortable'' so can buy
anything they want or need. And since we don't live near them I am
not good at recognizing what would suit them. On the other hand, with
my own parents that live nearby, I always know what to get for them
because I know they could always use a new (fill in the blank) and
they are fond of (fill in the blank). My inlaws are good at buying
gifts for us, things that we really would never buy ourselves, that
just take up room, like, Christmas tableware and decorations that are
not our taste, yet I do use them (because they were a gift) and I
really appreciate the thought and the gesture. I feel like I have a
hard time buying something when I know it's just extraneous ''stuff.''
My husband and I try to be environmentally conscious, try to buy
things used when possible, and try to avoid a lot of unnecessary stuff
to prevent waste and keep our footprint smaller when we can, but we
are suckers sometimes for some of the latest technology to go with our
computer or what not. And Christmas time is the biggest sucker time
for us. Back to my inlaws: any suggestions for around $100 that would
be appreciated and hopefully at least somewhat useful?
How about food, be it snacks, prepared meals, or grocery? Floral
delivery or seed delivery if they like to garden. Fruit baskets?
Chocolates? Box of statinery or correspondence cards.
What about a digital picture frame. You can get them at Best Buy for
(some are less, depending on size) and load it with a few pictures to
get them started.
That is what I plan on doing for my in-laws and filling it with pictures
of my kids.
Just a thought.
If you need to give them, or they will be slighted if they don't get,
a ''thing'', then my advice might not be helpful. But otherwise,
consider a gift card from donorschoose.org, a non-profit web-based
organization that matches teachers in need of funds for basic and
enrichment projects with donors who can give any amount of money. It
is really fun to find a project or type of school/classroom you care
about, and to help that teacher buy furniture, supplies, books, etc.
The gift cards allow you to fund a donation for the receiver, but the
receiver can choose where to give the gift card funds. MANY of my
relatives, some of whom have expressly asked not to receive
''things'', will be receiving these gift cards this Christmas.
I suggest making a donation to an organization or cause that they
support in their
honor. We do this for all of our extended family and they are always
thrilled that we
have done something meaningful rather than givng them a token that they
Ah, this is my favorite kind of question! I too have ''comfortable''
in-laws, and it is ALWAYS a huge challenge, so i will look forward to
the others who answer. As for me, we have had success giving the
1. photos of grandkids
2. gift cards to a really nice local (where they live) restaurant (I
usually find out in the course of casual conversation)
3. annual pass to one of their favorite museums
4. overnight at a nice B&B/hotel
5. gift cards to local theater company/orchestra/opera/whatever
Sometimes it hasn't worked, but for the most part, they have seemed
What about a donation in their name to a charity that your
in-laws support? I started doing this when I realized that my
father didn't need another book, DVD, trinket, whatever. He
always supported the Boys and Girls' Club, so now I make yearly
donations, at the holidays and on his birthday. He loves it! And
we both know that the gift is going where there is real need.
I'll tell you what I want: an AEROGARDEN!!!
Do you have small kids? Have the kids make them pictures and
then frame them. Or go to one of the online photoshops (I like
snapfish.com but there are many others) and make them a calendar
with pictures of your family for them to enjoy all year long.
These are some things that I've done for years and the family
always appreciates it. I've also made some mugs on snapfish
too. there are lots of relativly low cost and low stress
options there. Good luck!
If you think they'd appreciate it, you could make a donation in
their honor to one of their favorite charities. When I do this
with my parents, I usually supplement it with a paperback I've
enjoyed during the year or some other small gift.
I would do a Google search of their town, and find a notable or famous
restaurant, or just a highly recommended one, and buy a gift
certificate. You can have it mailed to them, or mailed to you, so you
can put it inside a nice, personalized card, and then mail it to them.
They can go and have a nice dinner (or two) on you. I don't know if
you have kids, but you can always do a ''grandma & grandpa gift'' with
your kids names on it, or with your kids' artwork included. Try some
websites like PersonalCreations.com, where you can personalize gifts
(jewelry, clothes, blankets, keepsakes, mugs, artwork...). Good luck!
I know they live in a different city, but you could find (via the
internet) a local playhouse or restaurant that has gift
certificates. My in laws have made it clear they don't really
want anymore ''stuff.'' So, we get them tickets to a show or a
certificate to a nice restaurant near them. Also, food gifts are
great. We have had great luck with wine and gourmet baskets for
out of town relatives. You can do ones heavier in fruit if they
are health conscious. Lastly, living or flowering gifts are
always appreciated, especially some of the lovely flowering bulb
gifts that can provide some indoor color in the winter and late
spring. All of these types of gifts are readily available for
online ordering and direct shipping, so it is very easy to do.
Here are some companies I have used successfully for these types
I'm in somewhat the same situation with my extended family,
parents, siblings, siblings' spouses, nieces and nephews. We're
all reasonably affluent now (no one's rich) and usually can buy
ourselves those little extra somethings when we want to. But we
have a long tradition of Christmas presents. And we all live
hundreds or thousands of miles apart.
A solution that I came up with a couple of years ago was to make
a donation to a charity in that person's name and then to give
them a little something extra: a book, a CD. I try to pick
charities that have some particular interest to the person. For
example, my brother and sister-in-law really love dogs, so I give
money to an animal rescue site, then find a cute little something
for their dogs. For my father two years ago, I gave money to a
fund that was helping small businesses in New Orleans rebuild,
then gave him a CD of New Orleans jazz. A good site to find such
gifts (and some charities themselves) is thehungersite.come,
where you can click through to various worthy causes, give them a
little money, and order gifts that will help those causes too. I
helped pay a teacher's salary in Afghanistan for my mother and
bought her a lovely pashima shawl from the same area.
So far everyone has been quite happy with this. It gives them the
warm glow that comes from doing good, and they get a little
something for themselves too, which (of course) we all like.
My parents are also pretty comfortable, and we very often buy
them gift certificates at their favorite restaurant where they
live in Florida. They love getting this as a gift. Maybe that
could work for you.
How about making a donation in their name? We always do that for
our family members who are well off. They don't ''need'' anything
and there are so many people who are honestly in need. Our
family members are very happy with this kind of present.
give in their name
Hi there- when we were in a similar situation, we established a
practice of donating to a charity in the recipient's name. It
takes some work to find one that is close to the recipient's
heart - but it has always been appreciated, especially if the
charity provides a gift acknowledgement to them. This way, you
can give to the ones that are truly needy, and delight your
inlaws all the same.
trying to make it Happy Holidays for all
Instead of ''stuff'' for Christmas how about an experience? I think
that this is a good idea, no matter how much money or space
someone has. How about tickets to a play, concert, or restaurant?
Or a night at a B & B? Or a membership at a museum? Another
idea is food. It only takes up space for a short while - very
nice chocolate, or olive oil, or wine. A basket of gourmet goods
from our local producers would be nice - there are local
chocolate (Charles), cheese (Cow Girl Creamery), olive oil (Round
Pond and others), and of course wine makers to choose from.
There's Rancho Gordo that does dried beans. Full Belly Farm
offers gift baskets. Most of these places will even ship for you.
Too Many Geegaws
I have a similar situation with my in-laws. I would suggest you
check out the nonprofit charity called Heifer International. It's
a pretty incredible organization - in case you haven't heard of
it, they allow you to purchase a farm animal for a family in
need. The families live in the Ukraine, South America, Asia,
Africa - all over. The family is expected to raise the animal,
and hopefully benefit from the animal (for ex, sell or use its
milk or eggs) and then benefit from the offspring as well. To
give you an idea of the prices: One llama is $150, one goat is
$120, one sheep is $120, one pig is $120. A set of tree
seedlings: $60, a trio of rabbits: $60. Honeybees - $30. A flock
of chicks or ducks/geese is $20. Their catalog can be found at
It's a pretty fantastic organization. Sixty Minutes did a great
piece on them once. If you check out the catalog you'll get to
read about them and their mission in much better detail than I
can provide here.
Another idea, though more money than you want to spend (perhaps
you could go in on this with other family members): an electric
composter, which apparently fits into a standard kitchen cabinet.
Apparently you can purchase one for $300 at naturemill.com
Final suggestion: photo books and photo calendars of your best
photos from the year. Last year we made my MIL a photo calendar,
including shots of all the family members, indicating their
b-days on the calendar, etc, and she claimed it was one of the
best gifts she had ever received. Photo mugs are good too. Just
make sure you put the order in soon enough for it to arrive on
time - this is a popular thing to do, and I think it gets really
jammed in the second half of Dec.
A photo book of the entire year's pictures can be really
fabulous, too - you can add captions for the pictures, and an
extensive book would probably be in the range of what you want to
pay ($100-ish). It's time consuming to make them (but also fun)
so don't leave it til the last minute.
I'd get them a digital picture frame and put pictures of the
family in it. In laws love that stuff (no matter how
comfortable they are) and you can help them change the pics to
whatever they want in the future - vacations, pets, friends,
grandkids, whatever! They're right around $100 and they sell
them everywhere - I saw one at Bed, Bath & Beyond last month.
You are so thoughtful to want to get them something nice -
they're lucky to have you as a daughter-in-law.
Happy Xmas Shopping!
One gift I've given the past couple year's to my Mom &
Grandmother (who need nothing else) is a calendar w/ pictures of
my daughter. I've produced these through Shutterfly. It is
really simple to make & a great keepsake. I take a lot of photos
so I try to pick one to a few pictures for each month that I took
the previous year. My family has really appreciated this simple
Does anyone have holiday gift ideas for family or friends that
seems to have everything, but still likes appreciates a nice
i have recently enjoyed giving certificates to nice restaurants
($75-$100 for a couple or teachers) they may not (or may) ordinarily go
to. for ex: chez panisse cafe, slanted door, bewolf, la note, mokka
coffee... a very well received gift. or, tix to a show or sporting
event are always nice if the recipient is a fan and doesn't already
hold season tix. teens like itunes giftcards and movie tix. or,
experiences together -- perhaps for a girlfriend a ''lunch date'' or
''pamper date'' coupon that you treat her to and are present for/the
best part! and consider your trade. are you able to offer a skill to
a friend or elderly person in your family? a haircut? organizing
services? dog walking? the possibilities are endless... get creative!
school auctions have generally turned me off to ''things i don't really
need'' and on to ''experiences to remember''. hope this helps!
We LOVE the alternative Gift Catalog from Heifer International. Heifer
is a non-profit organization that works to promote sustainable
community development around the world by giving culturally appropriate
Their online Gift Catalog says:
Choose a meaningful gift to give a loved one and help children and
families around the world receive training and animal gifts that help
them become self-reliant.
Click any of our gift animals and find out how your gift will provide
families with resources they need.
I received a teacher grant to go to Honduras this past summer and visit
their projects. It was an experience I will never forget, and I will
keep working hard to promote their good work.
I llike to give an experience, instead of an item, when possible. A
gift certificate for a meal or a massage, or a date for tea together,
or a sports event, or perhaps an art class that you could do together.
I've got children on my list who have everything, and this is a fun way
to build a memory together.
i don't want too much stuff either
Basically, stuff that they haven't gotten yet and stuff that they can
do, instead of have! Just released books, magazine subscriptions, gift
certificate to a new/talked-about restaurant, tickets to a concert...
How about ''experiences''--gift certificates to a nice restaurant or
spa, tickets to a concert or play, etc?
cheese baskets - california cheese - whether they live in california or
not. check out cow girl creamery. I had huge success with fiscallini
cheese (out of modesto). I really am a fan of consumable gifts - plus
its great to have some nice cheese in the fridge around the holidays
for guests etc.
Give them a gift certificate to kiva.org. This website coordinates loans
from people and distributes to those that need it to better their life.
It is wonderful to see where your money is being used. We can only afford
$50 right now but we are helping 2 women and it feels great.
It is not a donation, it is a loan. You get your money back and can take out
I have 5 nieces and nephews to buy for, ages 6 months to 11
years, who live far away and whose parents buy them all the
latest stuff. In the past I have given savings bonds and gift
certificates, both of which I would personally like to receive,
but which feel so impersonal and are probably unsatisfying to a
child opening gifts on the big day. I also don't want to clutter
their houses with toys, and it's hard to choose books for kids.
I prefer to do all my shopping online, since I need the gifts
shipped them and don't have time to browse in shops. Could any
of you recommend gift ideas or websites where I could browse for
useful/educational gifts? I'm thinking perhaps crafts kits. Any
advice would be much appreciated.
Think tickets, subscriptions and memberships. You can find
excellent magazines for any age child with any assortment of
interests at www.cricketmag.com and most kids love getting
mail! Or research museums and zoos that are located in your
relatives' area and buy them a one-year membership, or a one-day
pass, depending on budget. (Most of these places have websites
you can use for the purchase.) You can send along a thematically
related small toy, perhaps; something like a stuffed animal or a
book about animals to accompany a zoo membership.
For older kids, something like a movie ticket or amusement park
pass should be well received. But also, something
as ''impersonal'' as a Target gift card can be a ticket of sorts --
it provides the opportunity for a fun shopping trip where they
get to make their own choices, instead of having to appeal to
their parents, ''can we get this?''
One of the advantages of a magazine subscription or an annual
membership is, if the kid likes it, for NEXT year's gift you can
just renew. :-)
A great store (and online store) for educational materials is
Lakeshore Learning. (www.lakeshorelearning.com) It's a store that
many teachers go to for buying materials for their classrooms but
it's also a great resource for parents. (And wonderful relatives
who are interested in buying thoughtful and useful gifts!) The
products they offer online are categorized by age and/or grade so
it makes it easy to know what is appropriate for each age group.
-Mom who appreciates useful/educational/environmentally friendly gifts
If your neices and nephews are at all into playing board games,
I highly recommend educationallearninggames.com (horribly
repitively named, but still great). ELGames is probably one of
the most robust I've ever come across as a source of fantastic
and treally fun and challenging educational games that appeal
to all sorts of kids and adults.
The site is nicely organized by both age and genre, so if your
7th grade nephew likes sports games and his 4 year old sister
likes puzzles and their parents want them to learn something
about religion, you don't have to go any further than the site.
It's also a great resource for class gifts. There are lots of
great games that classrooms, camps and after care programs
would like as well. It really is by far and away the best site
for fun and interesting games for everyone.
Likes to give games
How about magazine subscriptions? Carus Publishing, the folks
who put out Cricket magazine, also have a host of other quality
magazines for kids of various ages.
How about a magazine subscription? They are a hit in our house.
Cricket Magazine Group has magazines for all ages, including
infants. And they have no advertising.
Here's the Website: http://www.cricketmag.com/home.asp
I have a number of website links for Waldorf-type toys/crafts...
Why not get the older kids a knitting kit or a felting kit. This
could lead to some real interest in a hobby at some point
(children as young as 6 can learn to knit). These places also
have some nice things for babies that can't be found at toysrus!
Check out a few of these websites
(Many of their things are not imported and many are made by WAHM's)
http://www.atoygarden.com/ (located in Sacramento)
I just LOVE these places!
I'd definitely go with the craft/art/nature/etc kit idea. Check
out Magic Cabin, Nova Natural, and Rosie Hippo. The websites are
great and they have all kinds of wonderful kits!
Craft kits and science experiments are great ideas. But also
consider magazine subscriptions -- Ranger Rick, National
Geographic, National Geographic for Kids, Reader's Digest... all
great choices, depending on the age and interests of the kids.
And comic books, too -- X-Men Classics and Spider-Man Classics
are classics for a reason. And maybe MAD magazine?
I love getting and giving magazine subscriptions. There are tons of
magazines, like Cricket, Ladybug, National Geographic kids or Discovery
really fun to get something in the mail! Also think of outdoor/exercise
watching kits and roller skates, a gift card for running shoes, jump
Books! Books! Books! You can research them online and buy them
that way too (Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Cody's). 8 year olds love
the Magic Tree House series (50+ books in the series). 10
year-olds love the Boxcar Children series (100+ books in the
series). Both excellent mystery series and I still have to meet a
boy or girl who didn't like them. Crafts are popular with girls
(beading/jewelry making). Michael's is the store for that and
they also sell online. Just google Michael's craft store.
We encourage relatives to give museum memberships. Since they
are a bit pricey, it is usually given to a whole family or both
children. But, we love being able to attend the museum all
year and use the membership reciprocally when we travel.
Memberships are also tax-deductible!
Tickets are also a good gift--to shows or events.
Our local park & rec also offers gift certificates that my kids
can then use to select a class or activity to attend.
When we use the gifts, we always try and remind the kids that
going is a gift and who gave it to them.
Sounds like we have very similar nieces and nephews! When my
first niece was born, I made her a Christmas Tree ornament for
Christmas,a nd have done so every year since--for all nieces and
nephews, godchildren, my own child, young friends and the like.
I make about a dozen every year, which is a big commitment, but
fun when I finally get around to it. It's not a toy, not a video
game, not a glam dress--they'll get those things from their
parents and grandparents (I'm talking about nieces and nephews,
here, not my other young friends). Sometimes, I don't even know
if they like them, I never hear. But I keep thinking that one
day they'll come across years worth of personal, hand-made
ornaments and be thankful. Even if that never happens, I do have
fun making the ornaments, and now my son joins in the fun (which
is a gift for me!).
Other ideas for gifts that fit your bill: how about a
donations in their name to an animal rescue or conservation
organization in their area (one that would appeal to their own
interests)? that could start them on a life of giving. Or how
about giving them subscriptions to magazines? The folks who put
out Cricket have a lot of good magazines for different ages, and
with their own subscription, they'll get something new every
month. Next year, just renew!
My grandmother, who had the same criteria as you, hit on the
perfect gift for my son when he was not even 2 -- it was
National Wildlife Foundation's (www.nwf.org) toddler
magazine ''Animal Baby''. After a year or so he upgraded to
their preschooler magazine ''Your Big Backyard'' which he still
loves at age 4.5 (they have another upgrade too called Ranger
Rick). Every now and then he says ''Mommy, is there any mail
for me? Did My Big Backyard come today?'' He absolutely loves
getting mail. So my suggestion would be a magazine
subscription like that. It doesn't create clutter as they're
small (or recyclable), they're usually fairly reasonably
priced, and you can order online. Voila! BTW, when we've
given this gift, it's gotten rave reviews from parents.
mom of a happy reader
Lakeshore Learning (www.lakeshorelearning.com) has some fun
craft kits and quality educational stuff. I also like the
offerings from Cricket (www.cricketmag.com), including their
magazines, which are a bit pricey but make nice non-cluttering
gifts. Lastly, museum memberships (or tickets to specific
things, if the memberships are too costly) and other intangibles
are great for people who don't need/want clutter.
Kiva.org is a website set up to help people in developing
countries start businesses, make a better life, etc. They
coordinate loans (start at $25) and then distribute money to
people who have applied.
You can give them a gift certificate to Kiva (at the least the
older kids). Then the parents can go online to kiva.org and
read all the stories of people who need the loan and the child
can choose who they want to help.
It is not a donation, it is a loan. They will get the money
back and then can help another person. You can replenish again
and again so good holiday/birthday present for future.
Teaches children (and me) to give to others but also allows us
to watch what they people are doing with our money. It is very
cool and it makes me feel good. We can only afford $50 right
now but I know that is making a difference to another person.
My boys ages 4 and 7 love these types of things which are not
toys or money:
- cartoon character toothbrushes or bandaids (seriously popular)
- a washcloth with a sports team or favorite animal on it that
is their own
- Ditto for cloth napkin/placemat that is unique and theirs
- disposable camera (not so great for the environment but such a
treat once in a while)
- art supplies
- folding stationary (ie fold and mail - envelope and letter
paper in one)or note cards with some fun theme
- cool new waterbottle (check out the Sigg ones or KleanKanteen)
- a real grownup wallet
These types of things are repeatedly their favorites of the
Christmas/Birthday gifts, more than the toys which can be very
hard to pick well...
this page was last updated: Nov 17, 2013
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2014 Berkeley Parents Network