Holiday Balance and Budgets

By Rebeldad Brian Reid

There's plenty to be crazy about this time of year, what with the eggnog-induced weight gain and the hand-cramping that comes with writing out addresses for holiday cards, but this year I seem to be acutely aware of the year-end financial stresses.

Maybe it's the uncertainty of waiting to see if there'll be a holiday bonus in my stocking, or maybe it's just the cumulative effect of dozens of holiday purchases. I'm just coming off of the sticker shock of cooking at Thanksgiving (there's no such thing as a cheap 20-pound bird), and all of a sudden I'm faced with sixty bucks for a tree (borderline-outrageous for a guy whose childhood Christmas trees grew in his backyard), plus a few dollars on lights at Target, plus the Secret Santa gifts, plus end-of-year tips, plus the family presents and kid presents and Santa presents.

In some ways, it gets worse each year, as the extended family grows. In the last five years, I've added a brother-in-law, a sister-in-law and have a new niece, with at least one more niece/nephew coming by Christmas 2008. Both sides of the family have gone to a gift exchange system -- everyone draws names at Thanksgiving -- taking some of the stress out of trying to grab the perfect gift for every single member of the family. That's helped put more of the emphasis back on family and away from consumption.

But I'd like to be even better at making the holidays more focused on togetherness and less on the wanton spending of money -- after all, the holidays ought not be measured by the pile of wrapping paper on the floor. So I'm curious: How do you all keep the budget-busting holiday excess at bay?

Brian Reid writes about parenting and work-family balance. You can read his blog at rebeldad.com.

By Brian Reid |  December 13, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts
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We just have always budgetted for Christmas expenditures. We both get 26 pay checks a year. We make our budget out for 24 pay checks or 2 a month. That leaves us with two " bonus" checks a year. The one that comes closest to summer is used for our summer vacation and the one that comes near fall/winter is our Christmas money. We buy for our daughter all year round, so she is never an issue. We set an amount that we will spend on each other and keep to it. Then there are the relatives. We buy for my three nephews and my two nieces. We pick up a small gift for my mother. At her age, she prefers small disposable gifts like Bath and Body works lotions. For husband's side of the family it is more difficult. We buy for both sets of parents and step parents, niece and nephew, childless sister and brother in law, two of his cousin's daughters. All the little girls are super easy because they are the same age as our daughter. So we just pick things up during the year that will match their interests. But it is always high drama with his parents and his siblings. Personally, I wish they would stop the adult gifts because no one seems to like what others have picked out for them and they refuse to gift a list or suggestions. BTW, the sage green towel set and bath rug arrived last week!!!

Posted by: foamgnome | December 13, 2007 7:27 AM

Emily -- congratulations on the birth of your new daughter! May she grow up to a life of happiness, health and good deeds!

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | December 13, 2007 7:38 AM

Oh congrats Emily. What a wonderful edition to your family. Sending all our love and hugs.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 13, 2007 7:41 AM

This year my husband and I cashed in our reward points earned on our debit cards. Our points earned us about $350 in Target and Red Envelope gift cards which we then used to buy gifts (and even holiday decorations!). The combination of carefully making a list, budgeting for the items on the list, and using the gift cards, has allowed us to spend less than half of what we usually spend celebrating Christmas.

Posted by: jenniferebirks | December 13, 2007 7:52 AM

Eeks, I meant addition to your family!

Posted by: foamgnome | December 13, 2007 7:58 AM

First and most important: CONGRATULATIONS EMILY! Saw the announcement yesterday too late to post then, but great news, and great to have you back with us whenever you can join.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | December 13, 2007 8:20 AM

Emily, congratulations!!

The only thing I've found that helps is the gift exchange, with a dollar limit. This year for Hanukkah, the grownups skipped the gifts, and cousins just got one gift for one other cousin, with a limit of $10-15. And yet every kid got something that he or she really, really liked. I think with only one gift to get, we put a lot more thought into making that one just right.

The problem for me isn't family -- it's all the non-family obligations. I know last year we spent more on teacher gifts than we did on the kids themselves. !! Well, ok, that's not really a fair comparison, because we've never had to spend much on the kids -- we have little kids who haven't yet learned to value the $100 gift more than the $5 one, and we also have three sets of grandparents who already provide a big pile o' loot, so I actually try NOT to get them a lot to keep things from becoming completely overwhelming and materialistic.

But still, the non-family obligations really add up -- and that's one thing I don't know how to cut back on (I can't really propose a present swap with my daughters three teachers, can I?). It's not like we spend a lot on each of them, but even $25 gift cards add up when you have to give them to 7-10 people. Add in people at work and all the various tips to the people who have helped over the year, and we spend far more on non-family than family.

Well, except this year. I got a bonus, so we got a big-screen TV. :-)

Posted by: laura33 | December 13, 2007 8:24 AM

As far as controlling spending at Christmas: planning, planning, planning (and sticking with budgets).

It was hard when we first got married because DW's family and mine are completely different. Her family is small and local (they all lived in Montgomery County). So they saw each other all year, and Christmas was about small gifts and getting together for dinner. As adults, MIL and FIL buy gifts for and get gifts from each of their kids and grandkids; everybody else exchanges names and buys for one sibling/in-law. Nobody buys for nieces and nephews.

My extended family was much larger and much more scattered. In addition to us, my mother's sister was married to a Marine for years, and there were times when we were in Germany while they were in Okinawa. So we rarely saw each other. Christmas was a big, big event because everybody would try to get together at one set of grandparents or the other, and we could actually see each other. Even when we couldn't be together, everybody always got gifts for everybody else because you wanted to remember this uncle or nephew you hadn't seen in 5 years. (Plus, to kids in the states, toys sent from Germany are big things to get, and to kids in Germany, stateside items are cause for massive celebration.)

After getting married, it took us quite a while to achieve "balance" because I wanted to keep making Christmas a big honkin' deal and spend lots of time and money, and DW wanted to keep it like she knew it. We've finally reached equilibrium, I think. In her family, we just give gifts to her parents now, and exchange cards with the siblings and nieces/nephews. In my family, we still get stuff for everybody and they get stuff for all of us, but we keep it within a strict budget.

One thing I've discovered as I got older, though, was that the gifts I like to give and get are the ones that show somebody spent a lot of time thinking about likes/dislikes, needs and wants, and picked out something special. I think most people are like that. I really like getting DW something that I've thought about a lot, and know she'd like, but that she'd never buy for herself. A few years ago, I got her a skirt that I knew would look nice on her, but she'd never buy for herself because it came to just above the knee and she would consider that far too short for someone of her age. But after I gave it to her, she wore it and got lots and lots of compliments on how she looked from some of the other women at church and school, and now it's one of her favorite things to wear. She's told me time and again that she now realizes it's one of the best gifts she's gotten. (The other favorite is a cashmere sweater I bought her a couple years ago. She'd never buy herself a cashmere sweater; she considers it too self-indulgent when we have four kids to get through college. But she loves it and appreciates the fact that I went to the trouble of getting it for her.)

It's not the dollars you spent on the gift, it's that you cared enough to spend the time and energy to get a "special" gift.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | December 13, 2007 8:33 AM

"There's plenty to be crazy about this time of year, what with the eggnog-induced weight gain and the hand-cramping that comes with writing out addresses for holiday cards, but this year I seem to be acutely aware of the year-end financial stresses. "

It's crazy because you choose it to be crazy.

"I'm just coming off of the sticker shock of cooking at Thanksgiving (there's no such thing as a cheap 20-pound bird), and all of a sudden I'm faced with sixty bucks for a tree (borderline-outrageous for a guy whose childhood Christmas trees grew in his backyard), plus a few dollars on lights at Target, plus the Secret Santa gifts, plus end-of-year tips, plus the family presents and kid presents and Santa presents. "

No, you're not "stuck" with anything; and there nothing "all of a sudden" about it. There's no gun pointed at your head to do any of this stuff. You're not trapped in a Kafkla Christmas hellhole! You have free will, duh! These are all choices; own 'em.
Sheesh!

Posted by: chittybangbang | December 13, 2007 8:37 AM

For the kids I feel I have a good handle on keeping things under control. They are each allowed to ask Santa for 3 gifts. We tie this to the fact that Jesus received 3 gifts from the Wise Men. We make a craft each year for all the relatives and have the kids help make the cards. I think they have a decent sense that Christmas is not all about getting gifts.

But the some total of gifts and random extras that we now buy is totally frustrating to me. Baking cookies for each kids' class and the Brownie troop, cups for the neighborhood party, hostess gifts for a few parties, teachers gifts, Secret Santa gifts etc. All add up to lots of extra money. Each one seems to reasonable but the total always shocks me.

Posted by: ChesapeakeBeach | December 13, 2007 8:50 AM

I don't post much, but wanted to comment on this from ArmyBrat

"One thing I've discovered as I got older, though, was that the gifts I like to give and get are the ones that show somebody spent a lot of time thinking about likes/dislikes, needs and wants, and picked out something special."

This is so true! I love shopping for that certain something for a person. Its hard not to be a least a little hurt when your BIL's family (of 4) considers the cheapest thing on an amazon wish list to be acceptable. Its not about the money, its the thought that counts. And when there is obviously no thought involved, it stings.

Posted by: rubytuesday | December 13, 2007 8:55 AM

Congrats Emily!! Enjoy your little lady cherish this special time with her at this special time of year!

Re; family gifts, we finally realized that we weren't able to get thins for sisters in law etc.. that they liked and we have shifted to charitable donations in their name. Each person chooses a charity of their choice. That way we do something good with our money instead of just another sweater that sits in the closet. DH and I ususally do not exchange gifts, but get or do something that we both like or want for the house.

Teacher gifts, one thought for next year is the group gift card. It takes a little forethought and organizing, but works out well. We do $10 a teacher. Not every family participates, but in the past we have been able to provide the teachers with Visa or Amex gift cards for nearly $200! We feel good that instead of another #1 Teacher ornament, or hand cream we are able to collectively provide them with a gift that they can use as they wish. It does take some work to call everyone and collect the money, but well worth it. We do have the children make cards for the teachers to include a personal touch. We just give cash to the garbage man and mailman. I hear about people giving gifts to their hairdresser, children's dance instructors etc... Where do you draw the line?

Posted by: moxiemom1 | December 13, 2007 9:11 AM

Moxiemom: We give to day care workers, teachers, bus drivers and teacher aids. We also give to garbage people and postman. But I think your suppose to give something to dance teacher types. When we took our kid to My Gym, a bunch of parents showed up with small gifts. Some were just plates of cookies. I didn't know that I was suppose to give them a gift, so I just rushed out of there feeling embarrassed. But now that I know, I would have a small something for them as well. I don't give to my hair dresser because she doesn't personally know me and I only cut my hair a few times a year.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 13, 2007 9:15 AM

So Moxie, does your Christmas budget include some larger clothes for dancing princess barbie? Or is she just going to have to learn the safety pin trick like the rest of us? (that was "shoot milk out of my nose" funny, btw).

My daughter's school did the group gift card last year, and I agree, it was fantastic -- and I'm sure easier for the teachers to manage, too. Alas, no one picked up the ball this year (including me), so guess it's back to the usual.

Posted by: laura33 | December 13, 2007 9:22 AM

"When we took our kid to My Gym, a bunch of parents showed up with small gifts. Some were just plates of cookies. I didn't know that I was suppose to give them a gift, so I just rushed out of there feeling embarrassed. But now that I know, I would have a small something for them as well. "

They do that here to, but to some degree, I'm like, aren't I already paying you? Heck I see the checker at the grocery every week, and I don't tip them. Their classroom teachers nurture them and guide them all day every day. The dance teacher, one hour a week! I wonder if the dance teachers really want more cookies and stuff either. Sometimes all these "little gifts" just end up piled in someone's drawer. Wouldn't a heartfelt note be more appreciated? I don't know. Dance teachers of the world - feel free to enlighten me.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | December 13, 2007 9:24 AM

moxiemom1

"Sometimes all these "little gifts" just end up piled in someone's drawer. Wouldn't a heartfelt note be more appreciated?"

What kind of a holiday bonus would you like to receive from your employer? A "little gift"? Home baked cookies? A "heartfelt note"?

Posted by: chittybangbang | December 13, 2007 9:29 AM

moxiemom: I keep reading that teachers appreciate a hand written note more then anything in the world or a note about them to the principal. But true story here, I once gave my daughter's speech teacher who she saw for 1 hour for a sum total of 4 weeks a nice hand written and letter and she looked totally disappointed when she opened the card and realized there was not a gift card inside. So now I just cough up the money and buy them a gift card. Like Laura, we spend a ton on day care and preschool gifts.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 13, 2007 9:34 AM

No little ones of my own to shop for yet. This year, my husband and I are only getting stocking gifts for each other and are then using the money we would spend on a "under teh tree" gift for each other for other people. We've adopted a family of 5 and are hoping to get teh kids bikes for Christmas. We figured that we had enough ourselves and didn't need the extra Christmas gifts.

We did buy gifts for our family though. We have a lot of Nieces and Nephews and I love shopping for them!

Posted by: Thought | December 13, 2007 9:35 AM

My husband and I have a Christmas budget category that we contribute to all year long. We stick to that limit.

I love the gift exchange idea for family, foamgnome. In our family, we're not big on surprises. Everyone tells each other what we're looking for and sets limits on prices. And for Christmas dinner, we're doing a potluck thing so no one gets stuck with all the cost and prep work.

For neighbors, bosses, etc., we bake cookies or do little gift cards.

The things I always seem to break the budget on are the stockings! They are my favorite, and I always try to stuff too much stuff in them.

Posted by: Meesh | December 13, 2007 9:35 AM

Oh, and our parents usually get donations in their names to Heifer International. They always say they have too much stuff anyway. Same with the grandparents.

Posted by: Meesh | December 13, 2007 9:37 AM

" I once gave my daughter's speech teacher who she saw for 1 hour for a sum total of 4 weeks a nice hand written and letter and she looked totally disappointed when she opened the card and realized there was not a gift card inside. "

See, that would really bother me. I am getting really sick of the "holiday shakedown" and I just really want nothing to do with it. What about all the kids whose parents are too poor to shell out all this cash? Our elementary school is in a mixed-income community where some kids are in $2m houses and others are in low-income housing, and I don't think it's right to create a climate where some kids are going to get favorable treatment because their parents are able to buy their teachers gifts. When my mom was in school, it was forbidden to give gifts to teachers because of this issue (just like it's not permitted to give gifts to your boss if you work for the Fed), and I wish we could return to that position.

Posted by: floof | December 13, 2007 9:53 AM

Oh, and why would she open it in front of you? That's pretty rude of her, IMO.

Posted by: floof | December 13, 2007 9:54 AM

Meesh, I love Heifer Int'l too (insert favorite fat SAHM joke here)! There is not a thing in this world my parents need. The just love having the kids around. Such an awesome charity.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | December 13, 2007 10:01 AM

Well I wish I could get into the gift giving spirit this year, but it's just not happening. I don't mind buying for kids and giving to charity but the whole gifting thing between adults just seems like such a waste of time and money to me. I know, I know, I'm a party pooper! I'm not even interested in looking for that special well-thought out gift because I know next year I'll feel compelled to keep it up in the neverending obligation to prove to people that you care about them by spending money. I think this year with my first child I feel that time is the most valuable consumable out there. What I really want for Christmas is just a few more hours to myself each weej and more time to be with family. The rest just seems like a bunch of bologna.

Posted by: pinkoleander | December 13, 2007 10:14 AM

pinkoleander, I'm with you. I have gifts in my basement from ILs that have never been opened or used (a weathervane??? what are we going to do with that- we live in a townhouse!). We have been slowly cutting back- we opted out of the extended family (read- cousins we see every 4 or 5 years) gift exchange years ago, and this year DH and his siblings decided to skip gifts and just have a nice lunch together. I just want to spend time with people, I don't need more stuff. A really nice gift would be taking me out for coffee and a brownie.

Posted by: floof | December 13, 2007 10:25 AM

Rubytuesday, what is the point of creating an amazon wishlist if you will resent whoever uses the list to get you a present?

for preschool teachers, I give cash in a card. I know it's tacky to give cash, but I don't care anymore. I'm an exhausted working mother and cash is easy-- for both the giver and the receiver. right now I'm all about making things easy.

Posted by: baby-work | December 13, 2007 10:30 AM

What a fricking shakedown! As far as I can tell, all these people you're tipping have paying jobs, including the mailman and garbage man and speech therapist. No one's tipping me for doing my job. They can't, actually, because of conflict on interest, but I wouldn't expect it and be disappointed if I opened a card and cash didn't fall out. We did give a group gift (13 sets of parents) to our daycare providers (3 teachers, a floater, and 2 senior staff), who lovingly take care of our babies all day.

As far as family, ours are easygoing on both sides, so there's no pressure. We asked for family pictures from everyone this year. And, no, they don't have to be professional!

Posted by: atb2 | December 13, 2007 10:34 AM

I use the dependent care spending account money taken out of my paycheck each year. I ignore it and cash in about $1,000 of it for Christmas. That covers everything from stamps for the cards to the holiday ham to Santa's loot to the day-care worker gift cards. We make it stretch.

As for difficult parents or in-law gifts, they don't need another sweater. I goggle shows in the areas where they live and get them tickets to something fun, plus a gift card at a restaurant near the show. They love an evening out, I don't run around like crazy. Just plan ahead and make these kinds of arrangements in November, so you have time for mail delivery woes, etc. (I have the tickets delivered to me, then I wrap them.)

Posted by: meanderson | December 13, 2007 10:34 AM

We also make a donation to Heifer International as a family instead of gifts to and from the adults. We will give a classroom gift this year rather than individual gift cards to the teachers. My daughter's class just moved into a new classroom and we've asked the teacher to give us two or three ideas of something she would like for the room - wall map, globe, books etc... We also give to the classroom library a couple of times a year - i.e., to celebrate a birthday or other holiday. We've talked with our three kids (14, 11 and 6) about "less stuff" this year. It is crazy how many things they get that they never really play with or use. Instead, we'll do a few gifts and a family ski trip. Time together rather than "stuff." We're also building gifts around a theme. For the foodie kid, he'll get cooking classes and cooking related items. The little one wants to learn to ride a horse so she'll get lessons and a few horse-related things. I hope the activities build memories that "more stuff" would not. Ask me in 6 months! Even if we don't change the budget, I think the value of the lessons might be greater than the value of the stuff.

Posted by: Stacey | December 13, 2007 10:35 AM

BW: WE give cash to the day care workers. It seemed tacky to me too but they seemed to really like it. A few of them have told me that they bought Christmas trees or extra presents for their family with the money. So it works for me. But for the preschool we give gcs because it seemed weird to give public school teachers cash. I did ask her teacher last year what type of gc her aids and the bus drivers might like. She said Target. So I got them Target cards. I guess she figures everyone goes to Target. We do give the actual teachers gcs to book stores. I am just guessing all teachers like to read.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 13, 2007 10:35 AM

Flloof, I may have a suggestion for you on that weather vane thing, maybe a cute centerpiece of some kind could be improvised. Alternatively, I have discovered that if I find enough similar miscellaneous junk round the house (sets or wroughtiron junk, glass junk, candles, shiny junk, ceramic junk, etc) if I put them all together they sometimes make a nice little display. Anybody else out there got any ideas for that weathervane?

I used to like buying gifts for friends, then I realized that the next year I felt that I HAD to live up to what I had done before. And, on top of that, I had more friends to give to, and then it all just felt like a dreary obligation. I like the coffee and brownie idea.

Posted by: pinkoleander | December 13, 2007 10:40 AM

I try to shop sales throughout the year so I am not hit with everything at year's end. I hit the semi-annual sale at Bath and Body Works and picked up some great stuff at 75% off (great if you like bubble bath, scented candles, etc.). I managed to buy for all nine teachers and spend about $50.

The toughest part is shipping to family across the country. I tend to buy lightweight stuff (DVDs, CDs, etc.) to cut down on shipping costs.

Posted by: pepperjade | December 13, 2007 10:41 AM

Way to go Emily! What is the baby's name?

As far as this holiday is concerned, I just blew a wade of money to have AF dau home for Christmas. This will be the first time all 4 of our children will be home for a holiday at the same time in many years!

I don't mean to say I don't care about the money, but I really don't in this case.

Oh, and the fifth child will also be present--the longstanding boyfriend of the older daughter.

Posted by: Fred | December 13, 2007 10:42 AM

"Rubytuesday, what is the point of creating an amazon wishlist if you will resent whoever uses the list to get you a present?"
Oh I knew I'd get blasted for what I said. I've mostly use it for my own personal reminders. But frankly, a $3 reference book for my husbands dog just doesn't warm my heart. Especially in a family that tradiationally has equated love with gifts (I've known the family since high school, and yes, there are many, many things wrong with that!). Eh, so be it. Its not really upsetting me or making me resentful or anything.

You can call me greedy and materialistic if you want, but know that I treasure the handmade sock my other SIL made me (with maybe $2 with of yarn), and tin of homemade cookies from my sister and her family.

Posted by: rubytuesday | December 13, 2007 10:46 AM

pinkoleander -- I understand the bah-hug feelings. While it is better to give than receive it can be disheartening to put special thought into giving and feel like an afterthought in return. (I always say it's human nature to not keep "score" until a situation feels out of balance/uneven).

My new found holiday spirit has me focusing on the stuff I like and ditching the stuff I don't. The hardest part of the holidays is remembering to be flexible and adapt to new people, constraints etc.

As for the cost of food -- I never volunteer to host if I am not comfortable fitting it into my budget and/or asking for assistance with certain dishes. (e.g. I don't make pies and someone I invite to Thanksgiving loves to -- boom that's her gift to the group and one less thing to buy or make.) As "foodie" of sorts I'd much rather splurge on good food than gifts that are shoved into a closet.

Foamgnome -- I forgot about the sage green thing. I laughed when I saw it earlier.

Posted by: tntkate | December 13, 2007 10:49 AM

We celebrate Hanukkah, so this end-of-year gift giving to everyone in the world really annoys me, although to some extent, I do it in the spirit of an appreciative thank you.

But the expectation that I'm supposed to gift give to every Tom, Dick, or Harry that does anything for me during the year (for which they are paid, by the way) gets under my skin.

Certainly the teacher, who is most certainly *under*paid and teaches my child every day with kindness and patience.

Same for my child's karate instructors, whom I feel go above and beyond. I am happy to give them a gift card to someplace I believe they will find useful.

Other than that, I will not be suckered into debt for a holiday I don't even celebrate (and I'm sure Michelle Singletary would agree)!

Posted by: Post43 | December 13, 2007 10:52 AM

RE: the garbage men and mailman. I tip the garbage men for three reasons. #1) I am around often when they pick up and they are always polite and plesant to me. #2) If they do not like me they can make my life difficult. I've found that a little tip at the holidays can go a long way when you have an extra large item to get rid of and its not a large item pick up day or if you have more bags than allowed etc... #3) it has to be one of the most difficult, least respected jobs out there.

I tip the mailman because he is a part of our community (this is party because I am at home) he is always considerate and friendly, when my kids were little and napping he knew when not to ring the bell and just knock lightly and always takes great care with our letters and packages! He's one of those inbetween stranger/friend people. That's my rationale.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | December 13, 2007 10:54 AM

Other than that, I will not be suckered into debt for a holiday I don't even celebrate (and I'm sure Michelle Singletary would agree)!

Posted by: Post43 | December 13, 2007 10:52 AM

You are SO right! I saw Michelle Singletary on CNN discussing this very thing. She said that she and her husband had budgeted $200 for both families and stayed on budget...rather impressive.

Posted by: pepperjade | December 13, 2007 10:57 AM

I don't really feel a financial crush during the holidays, because I simply try to not do more than we can afford. I think a lot of times people do things because they think they're expected to (like end-of-the-year-tipping and teachers gifts) instead of what they truly want to give from the heart. I do give my children's teachers a small (~$10) gift when they're in elementary school, but not after they have several teachers each. And other stuff I just choose to forego - not to be scroogy, but just because I don't give out of obligation.

Both my and my husband's families have eliminated gift giving among siblings and siblings-in-law. We did the gift exchange thing for awhile, but several years ago just decided that we would concentrate on the children. Occasionally I will give them something homemade - jams or a mix-in-a-jar or something like that, but not every year.

Specifically regarding the other things mentioned in Brian's blog entry:

Secret Santa gifts - do they have to be expensive? How about a cute candle from the dollar store, or something homemade?

20 lb. turkeys - look for a store that offers them for 49 cents a pound (or less) with a $50 purchase.

$60 trees - I'm a die hard real tree person, but if I had to pay that much for one I'd be tempted to buy an artificial one.

lights/decorations - we haven't bought new lights or decorations in years and years because last I checked they're reusable ;o). But maybe buy the LED lights that last much longer than regular ones.

Posted by: fake99 | December 13, 2007 11:03 AM

1) Dollar store for children
2) as a teacher, I appreciate nice notes (copied to principals as appropriate) thanking me way more than mugs or gift cards. Really.
3) strict budget of $100 per person in our family, $20 or less for extended family.

Posted by: caburger | December 13, 2007 11:14 AM

I won't go into the holiday budget busting, but I will say that I just gave a sizeable tip to each of the (two) guys in the parking garage at my building who I see every day (and have seen every day for almost three years). They park my car, sometimes wash it for me, and are very pleasant every day. Yes, they have paying jobs, and yes, I pay to park in the building. But I'm sure they don't make much more than minimum wage and I know they both have families. So to me, Christmas is about giving to those who need it and can appreciate it. Both of them have told me thank you multiple times and I'm glad I did it. So when you complain about "holiday tipping" to those who you know make considerably less than you do, just think about what those tips can mean to them.

Posted by: plawrimore1 | December 13, 2007 11:18 AM

"BTW, the sage green towel set and bath rug arrived last week!!!"

Oh. My. God. Foamgnome, you have no idea how much I needed this laugh today. What will it be next year? Sage green hot-pot holders and dish towels?

On topic, neither of our families exchanges gifts with adult family members. To the extent we can, we buy for our own children and consider the efforts and cost adults make to get together to be the best gift of all. All we want is for as many of our family members as possible to celebrate together over the holidays. Fred's gift of airline tickets for his daughter fits right in with our ethos. It helps that both DH's family and mine have similar approaches on gift-giving. Heck, it means I'll never have to figure out what to do with a sage green sweater or towel set, LOL.

Posted by: mn.188 | December 13, 2007 11:27 AM

Mn: Considering last year we got the sage green down comforter (birthday) and the sage green blanket's cousin showed up for Christmas (sage green sheet set) this year was the bathroom, the kitchen/ dining room is the last to go. I really doubt they could afford the sage green couch. So I am betting on the kitchen. :)

Posted by: foamgnome | December 13, 2007 11:30 AM

So when you complain about "holiday tipping" to those who you know make considerably less than you do, just think about what those tips can mean to them.

That's true of people who you know are making little more than minimum wage, but some of the people who are being discussed here are already making a very comfortable living (I'm sure my mailman makes as much as my DH who works for the Fed). I also know people who tip the school principal, which I just think is bizarre.

pinkoleander- yeah, the weathervane is very, very large though. Like something you would see on a barn- it's probably 3' tall. We are trying to majorly declutter this year, since we are in a small house with a kid and one on the way, and we are pretty much done keeping things that we don't use.

Posted by: floof | December 13, 2007 11:35 AM

I don't think the point necessarily is whom does and does not deserve a tip, as plawrimore duly notes. The point for our family is that the tip list is busting the budget:

the mailman
the deliverers of two newspapers
the hairstylist (is a friend and takes care of 4 family members)
teachers
garbagemen
babysitter
pet sitter

it just goes on and on, when you consider people who serve you routinely all year long. As someone else noted, those $25 giftcards add up to a lot. It's not the newspaper deliverer's problem that we're having a rough year financially. To her, it just looks stingy if we don't tip. And we WANT to tip her because she is working hard to make ends meet. But at what collective cost?

Posted by: mn.188 | December 13, 2007 11:43 AM

floof - you could post the weathervane on Freecycle or Craigslist or donate it to the Salvation Army or maybe Habitat for Humanity might like it. I bet there is a lady out in Loudon county who would love a huge weathervane from the Salvation Army - o.k. actually, its me, but I'm too far away. If you give it to salvation army, you can take a tax deduction too! Good luck.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | December 13, 2007 11:58 AM

Yeah, it's so strange to me this giving of gifts to teachers. At least in 'real' school. We were NOT ALLOWED to give teachers gifts when I was growing up as it would appear to be improper. Not to mention I think it's a little unethical. So I think a gift from the whole class is okay (as long as no one is checking to 'make sure' that everyone donates) and so no one knows exactly how much anyone gives.

So I don't know if it's more prevalent in recent years, a southern thing, or something that was just progressive where I grew up. But it's strange.

And Hanukkah is over, we spent a grand total of $100 for both kids - with one night them getting nothing, one night at grandparent's house, one night a donation to the religious school. We gave books to nephews. I agree that this whole thing is crazy. I love the season, though. I love the parties and the fun and the lights, etc.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | December 13, 2007 11:58 AM

I'll just note that my bill for the "dead tree" version of the WaPo every month includes a line item for "Carrier tip". That is, you get: bill __________ carrier tip _______ total submitted _______

Every month. Not just at this time of the year!

Posted by: ArmyBrat | December 13, 2007 11:59 AM

"Anybody else out there got any ideas for that weathervane?"

Regift within the family. You can start a family tradition, "Guess who gets the weather vane this year?" Much funnier than a fruitcake that goes round and round for years.

Regift outside the family. Wow, the other kids in your child's classroom would be way outdone if you give the teacher a three-foot weather vane.

Ebay. There's a farmer out there somewhere that's looking for a great deal on a weather vane for the top of his barn.

Yard sale. People will buy anything with a 25-cent price tag on it. When I bought my house, the previous owner had "decorated" her baby's room with two-foot high lattice stuck to the wall with silk flowers pinned on it...some sort of Martha Stewart project gone terribly wrong. Anyhow, I had to pull that lattice off the wall, but it was too big for my garbage. So I took it over to the neighbor's yard sale, and I got $2 for it.

Posted by: pepperjade | December 13, 2007 12:04 PM

altmom: I grew up in LI NY in the late 70s-80s. I remember public school teachers getting small nominal gifts at Christmas time. Plates of cookies/ brownies, scented candles, #1 teacher mugs. Corny stuff like that. It reminds me of the movie The Christmas story. Anyway, I think the gc thing took hold because how many #1 teacher mugs does a teacher need or want. I did read in the WaPost that in some select private schools the teacher gifts go beyond outrageous. Like a week at some one's vacation time share. Now that sounds like a bribe. The article said that a lot of schools say no gifts allowed or put a $50 limit on gifts.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 13, 2007 12:05 PM

Foamy, atlmom and pepperjade: Thanks for keeping a smile on my face this morning!

And Floof: Glad to know I'm not the only person who uses the word "majorly."

Emily: How are you doing today? Hope all continues to proceed well.

Posted by: mehitabel | December 13, 2007 12:12 PM

Oh, and to Mãe Portuguesa: Glad to see you back the other day. Missed your interesting contributions in recent weeks!

Posted by: mehitabel | December 13, 2007 12:14 PM

Emily: congrats! Get some sleep!

Posted by: atlmom1234 | December 13, 2007 12:20 PM

I have done several things the last few years to cut back:

1. My sister and I now just exchange ornaments each year, so we have something to open from each other (we live in separate states and usually are not together). My other (local) siblings and I no longer do gift exchanges.

2. A few years ago DH and I were spending so much money on moving and our new house, we decided to skip gifts for each other. We liked it so much, that we have kept up the tradition. No more stressing about the "perfect" thing to get each other. We do this for birthdays, anniversaries and the holidays. We always exchange cards, though, and special notes.

3. To save on the card writing hand cramping, we have our address book on the computer and print out the address labels. We also use printed return labels.

4. My nieces and nephews are all adults or teenagers now, and prefer cash, so that is what I give them. I always come up with a small gift to go with it, or something unique. A couple of years ago I gave them their money in a puzzle that had to be solved before they could remove the check. It was a big hit.


Posted by: cjbriggs | December 13, 2007 12:26 PM

A couple of years ago I gave them their money in a puzzle that had to be solved before they could remove the check. It was a big hit.


That sounds awesome. Where did you get that puzzle?

Posted by: foamgnome | December 13, 2007 12:28 PM

"A couple of years ago I gave them their money in a puzzle that had to be solved before they could remove the check. It was a big hit."

"That sounds awesome. Where did you get that puzzle?"

Fred has a side business making and selling the puzzles. That's how he funds the vans...

Posted by: chittybangbang | December 13, 2007 12:31 PM

The van broke down coming to work today. So, I need to sell a lot more puzzles!

Posted by: Fred | December 13, 2007 12:55 PM

Make sure you tip the paperboy with cash!

Back in the day of delivering papers, I gave my customers porch delivery and in those days, the paperboy was expected to go door to door and charge each customer the going price every 4 weeks. The December collection was bonus time for me, which I got $5, $10, and the $20 jackpot from my customers. Even the lawyer's wife with the Mercedes parked in the driveway would let me keep the 40 cents change as a tip. One year though, as she was handing me the check, she slipped a whole bag of grapefruits into my other hand and gave me a huge, sweet as can be, "Merry Christmas!" I politely thanked her as usual and went on my way.

When I was walking down the driveway, I took a peak at the check. NO TIP! And here I was holding a stupid bag of grapefruits that she had obviously purchased from the Lion's Club down the street. Now, what was I supposed to do with that? OK, so I realized I had been chumped, so I reversed myself, walked back up the driveway, and tossed the entire bag and its contents in her trashcan at the side of her house.

Funny thing, when I came collecting down the other side of the street, I noticed that she was digging the bag of grapefruits out of her trash. Where they finally ended up, I have no idea, mailman? piza delivery? She did learn her lesson. Next year she gave me a $5 tip, no grapefruits and there afterwards I would take the paper out of the bushes and put it on her porch if I missed.

Posted by: GutlessCoward | December 13, 2007 1:15 PM

GS:That is hysterical. When my brother was a paper boy, he usually got $3-5 worth of McDonald gift certificates. Now the paper boys do not seem to be boys at all. I was shocked when I learned my paper boy was an adult.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 13, 2007 1:20 PM

Tnt, maybe this isn't the holiday spirit I was craving but this discussion has got me motivated to get rid of stuff and to focus on what's important. Though they're not selling it a Macy's the gift of laughter is always much appreciated (thanks pepperjade).
I expect a 3' weather vane won't do much to keep the creepy van running but it could be helpful during the next hurricane season...

Posted by: pinkoleander | December 13, 2007 1:21 PM

This whole idea of "gifts for everyone and anyone" has always amazed me. Our family has always celebrated Christmas with gifts for family members, close friends, and occasionally folks who perform a service above and beyond the routine...like my wife's hairstylist (one suggestion in a list someone posted above). But gifts/tips for garbagemen (you actually see them?), paper deliverer (the guy flings it out his car window at 25MPH), teachers, mailman, etc? Sorry, those are not even on the radar screen.

Posted by: Kellyinbalto | December 13, 2007 1:32 PM

Kelly - do you have children? I agree with you abou the paper, garbage, and mail guys/gals, who spend mere seconds a day performing a service for you. But a teacher who is spending 6-7 hours a day with your child seems just as worthy, if not moreso, of a gift as your hairstylist. :o)

For those of you who tip the paper/garbage/mail guy: how do you do it? Our garbage cans are picked up by the arm of a truck, not a person. The paper is flung out the window into the driveway at 5:00 a.m. I wouldn't know how to tip them even if I wanted to.

Posted by: fake99 | December 13, 2007 1:43 PM

My paper deliverer is an adult who throws the paper out the card window as she rounds the corner going 20-30 mph. I'm lucky if the paper lands in the yard, never mind the driveway.

About this time of year, she includes a signed Christmas card with the paper, along with a self-addressed envelope.

Two years ago, I slipped in $20 and a (what I thought was polite) note: "Thanks for delivering my paper every morning. We have automatic sprinklers; please try to throw the paper on the driveway so that it stays dry until I pick it up."

The paper still landed on the grass, or the curb/gutter. Last year, I sent back the card with the same note, and a Target gift card for $10.

This year, no note, no card, no cash (even though due to water restrictions, we've cut off the sprinklers).

Posted by: kate07 | December 13, 2007 1:44 PM

The DRB II code is P0300 on the Creepy Van (tm). Huh? you say. You know the little computer someone plugs into the car to read the "CHECK ENGINE" light.

So the Creepy Van (tm) will be getting its Christmas present a bit early this year!

(yea, it really broke on the interstate this am. not too fun at 6 am!)

Posted by: Fred | December 13, 2007 1:44 PM

For those of you who tip the paper/garbage/mail guy: how do you do it? Our garbage cans are picked up by the arm of a truck, not a person. The paper is flung out the window into the driveway at 5:00 a.m. I wouldn't know how to tip them even if I wanted to.

Posted by: fake99 | December 13, 2007 01:43 PM

That's just kind of silly, fake. If you wanted to, it wouldn't take you ten minutes to slap your forehead with an idea. I'm not being snarky - it's just not rocket science, as they say.

Put cookies or some sort of good quality food item (no fruitcakes) in the mailbox.

Take ten minutes of your time once per year to watch out the window, walk out, wish the trash guys a happy holiday, and provide either a basket of homemade goodies. Really, just treating them like they exist is appreciated. That truck with the arm doesn't drive itself. The garbagemen are riding along in that truck, in all sorts of crappy weather, smelling our refuse.

Ask your paper publisher if your delivery person doesn't provide you with a self-addressed envelope - as ours do. The paper is being flung out the window at 5 a.m. 365 days per year by someone who is getting up at 3 a.m. in order to pick up the papers and drive around delivering them. This is only a part-time gig by someone who works another full-time job. I consider that that work ethic merits a once-per-year remembrance, whether or not I ever get up, walk out and shake her hand. The only task I do 365 days per year is feed our dogs, and I can do that in my skivvies.

ArmyBrat - we don't get an invoice because we've arranged for e-payment. For those who still get a bill, you are spot-on about tipping the delivery person.

Posted by: mn.188 | December 13, 2007 1:54 PM

We only give gifts to the children on my side of the family. There are no children on DH's side (except our DD), so we still purchase gifts for DH's brothers. We also give gifts to our parents.

A friend told me that their family stopped exchanging Christmas presents entirely, except for small gifts for the children. The family pools their Christmas money and donates it to an agreed-upon charity. They spend Christmas together cooking dinner and enjoying each other's company. I thought this was fabulous and would love to do it. DH thought it was horrible (not the charity part, the no-gift part). I would love to get my family to that point one day. No one in my family needs another thing and many gifts end up being returned. I'd rather we all donate it and enjoy the gift of each other's company.

Posted by: vegasmom89109 | December 13, 2007 1:55 PM

"The things I always seem to break the budget on are the stockings! They are my favorite, and I always try to stuff too much stuff in them."

I'm with you Meesh-it's all about the stockings. And, that's where my budget goes south, too, because I always find "just one more thing" to cram into it. My mom used to go all out for us girls when it came to Christmas stockings and I remember the joy and anticipation as we unwrapped each and every gift that was in the stocking. One year she even bought a "life size" stocking and put ALL my Christmas in it! When I told my boys about that they thought that was the coolest thing...so much of Christmas is about memories and making memories...

momof3boys

Posted by: CheleFernandez | December 13, 2007 1:59 PM

Kellyinbalto, so the pizza guy comes to your house what, once a week or so? And every time he gets a tip, right?

And then the paperboy delivers to your house 365 times a year and doesn't get squat.

That's an abomination!

Watch out, If you don't tip the paperboy you just might get jinxed with a daily dose of bad news. LOL!

And if your paperboy has bad aim, get some sidewalk chalk, and draw a target for him/her on your driveway. Concentric circles with a score & bullseye and running score could help. :-)

Posted by: GutlessCoward | December 13, 2007 2:01 PM

The weathervane! In fact, it is not a generic weathervane. It is a William & Mary weathervane designed as a replica of the one that sits on top of the Wren building. The thing I feel really bad about is that this was not a cheap present- it was just a badly-thought-out one. I tried to convince my husband to regift it back to his family members, but since they lack a sense of humor about this kind of thing he nixed the idea.

Posted by: floof | December 13, 2007 2:02 PM

Stockings are the bomb. If we are going to break the bank, it's definitely on making each stocking special and personalized for each household member. No bananas or oranges filling out the toes. No dental floss, or what else did my mom put in our stockings? I know - Scotch brand tape. Useful, but, geez, Mom.

Posted by: mn.188 | December 13, 2007 2:03 PM

Fred, the Creepy Van doesn't happen to be a Ford, does it?

Posted by: GutlessCoward | December 13, 2007 2:06 PM

We always got the Lifesavers Storybook in our stocking when I was a kid.

DH always goes to Ethel M Chocolates and picks a special selection for the stockings. Yum! Nothing like dark chocolate caramels and toffee at 6 am, LOL.

Posted by: vegasmom89109 | December 13, 2007 2:06 PM

From http://www.obd-codes.com/trouble_codes/generic/p0300-random-multiple-cylinder-misfire-detected.php

P0300: Random/Multiple Cylinder Misfire Detected

What does that mean?

Basically this means that the the car's computer has detected that not all of the engine's cylinders are firing properly.

A P0300 OBD code indicates a random or multiple misfire. If the last digit is a number other than zero, it corresponds to the cylinder number that is misfiring. A P0302 code, for example, would tell you cylinder number two is misfiring. Unfortunately, a P0300 doesn't tell you specifically which cylinder(s) is/are mis-firing, nor why.

Causes

A code P0300 may mean that one or more of the following has happened:

* Faulty spark plugs or wires
* Faulty coil (pack)
* Faulty oxygen sensor(s)
* Faulty fuel injector(s)
* Burned exhaust valve
* Faulty catalytic converter(s)
* Stuck/blocked EGR valve / passages
* Faulty camshaft position sensor
* Defective computer
________________________________

Not firing on all cylinders? I've sure felt like THAT on many occasions! :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | December 13, 2007 2:06 PM

Emily, congratulations! Hope all is going well.

I have two streams of thought.

One is that how I manage it financially (and I do the bulk of the gift buying) is that I make a budget out sometime in the summer and then I finish my shopping by mid-Nov, except perhaps for kids of ages to have real and last-minute wants for particular toys. Then I stop. shopping. My problem is not so much with the actual day of gifts, but it's all the days around it - Christmas candy and goodies hit the stores as if you're supposed to pig out for the whole month. And caught up in all that it's so easy to keep getting that "one thing more."

So. No shopping after mid-Nov. And for groceries, no "holiday products" except for the day itself.

My second thought is that it really is out of control and no one wants to be the one to stop it. But we all have to. I'm still not sure what I will do about the daycare teachers (most are not Christian, but they do seem to be celebrating secular aspects with the kids).

But generally speaking I give my thanks and good wishes with a handshake and a kind word. I know I get some sidelong glances but I really can't see a way to stop participating other than stop participating.

Posted by: shandra_lemarath | December 13, 2007 2:22 PM

Ok, more questions on tipping. We have at least three different mail delivery people on our route and as far as I can tell, there's no rhyme or reason to who comes what days. Do we need to tip all three? The quality of the mail delivery here is also way lower than anyplace else I've lived - it is slow (things sent from the same place routinely reach my mom, who lives 10 minutes away, three days before reaching me) and stuff is constantly being delivered to the wrong houses (which may be the source of the delay, I don't know), but I don't know if they're all equally bad at it or if there's one bad egg in the bunch or what.

Posted by: LizaBean | December 13, 2007 2:26 PM

No the creepy van is a Plymouth with 177,822 miles on it now.

And yes, Army Brat, the Creepy Van will be getting new spark plug wires for Christmas.
(Helps when your brother is an ASE certified auto mechanic. I just said PO300 and he said, misfiring on cylinders.

The P0300 code goes up to P0316 for a V-16 engine. I guess you are sol if you have a v-18! :)

Posted by: Fred | December 13, 2007 2:26 PM

To Shandra: Do you find your approach leaves you more time to enjoy the less tangible aspects of the season? Whether it is baking with your kids, holiday programs at school, church, trimming the tree etc. I know for me I get caught up in the to-do lists and forget to enjoy the "good" stuff.

Posted by: tntkate | December 13, 2007 2:31 PM

tntkate - well this year it doesn't feel like it 'cause I'm juggling ill parents and a toddler! But yes I think so in a lot of ways. I do admit I love driving PAST the malls with the full parking lots. :)

Posted by: shandra_lemarath | December 13, 2007 2:38 PM

Fred, new sparkplug wires are a heck of a lot cheaper as a Christmas present than a new catalytic converter!

I've done some research on the OBD codes in the past, and I think it's funny (but honest) that a "possible cause" for every single code is "Defective Computer". In other words, the computer may have gone out and it's telling you some complete lie about what's wrong with your car.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | December 13, 2007 2:44 PM

I set a dollar amount on gifts and told everybody. Some relatives, like Grandma, don't stick to it. My brother's family has happily adhered to it. That way there aren't any hard feelings.

Our family likes to open presents, so I go with more small gifts. Makes the tree look lavish.

Teachers get cookies. They're salaried employees with health coverage and pensions -- which I'm already paying for. I feel my appreciation can be expressed without breaking the bank.

I tip my cleaning woman/babysitter a week's pay.
I also give them a small raise each year in addition to picking up their share of social security and Medicare. I'm sure they don't appreciate it but further down the road I will know I did the right thing and they'll probably cash the checks!

I usually give my aerobics/yoga teacher(s) a small gift as well.

Posted by: RedBird27 | December 13, 2007 2:44 PM

"I'll just note that my bill for the "dead tree" version of the WaPo every month includes a line item for "Carrier tip". That is, you get: bill __________ carrier tip _______ total submitted _______

Every month. Not just at this time of the year!"

Army Brat, I wondered if I was the only one who found that to be odd, if not downright offensive. I leave that line blank every month, too. :)

Posted by: lsturt | December 13, 2007 2:46 PM

Hooray for Emily and her little one -- glad to hear you are doing well, even if a little sleep-deprived Can you put sleep on your Christmas list?

I adore Christmas but I also plan for it well in advance. If you buy presents during the year, December doesn't hit as hard. My girls and I also celebrate advent Sundays by lighting candles, eating a special desert and we do a daily advent calendar with windows to open. This way Christmas isn't about a day of gifts but about a whole set of rituals in December. This year we're reading Dickens "Christmas Carol" and having fun puzzling out some of the antiquated language.

I'm curious how you deal with members of the family who have divergent views about gift giving -- either they hate it or go overboard or whatever. How do you negotiate? I've been given gifts by someone who clearly resented it but felt he'd look bad if he didn't. Not much of a gift with that attitude and I couldn't convince him not to bother!

Posted by: anne.saunders | December 13, 2007 2:54 PM

"I'm curious how you deal with members of the family who have divergent views about gift giving -- either they hate it or go overboard or whatever. How do you negotiate?"

I don't. I give in the way that works for us and let others do the same; if they feel resentful then that's their issue and they can stop giving to us or bring it up or whatever. My SIL comes from a family that has a tradition of huge, over the top expensive gifts. I've let my bro know that they don't need to do that with us and we're happy just to hang out and do gifts for the kids. But for the last few years they've given us pretty big gifts and we've given more modest gifts.

Posted by: LizaBean | December 13, 2007 3:14 PM

Christmas Tips:

1. I guess I'm a bit more assertive than most people, but we draw names for my family AND my husband's family, and it's because I insisted that we do that and everyone went along. For my family, we each draw one kid and one adult, so all the siblings/nieces/nephews/etc are all covered. There's a $50 limit, which is meant to be $15 for the kid and $35 for the adult, but you can arrange the funds according to how you want. With my DH's family, there's no kids yet, so each of the adults draws one other adult.

2. Best tip I've heard all year: put used, crumpled wrapping paper through a shredder, and it makes pretty confetti to use for stuffing presents in the future.

3. People think I'm incredibly generous because for birthdays I bring them a card, a balloon, and a book. Grand total spent: $2.50. I go to my excellent Dollar Tree store and pick out whichever book seemed to fit the person best (there's always one that's close enough!), get a nice shiny balloon, and the cards are all 2 for $1. Honestly, people, this is EASY! You're making yourselves crazy for no reason, esp when shopping for kids or coworkers, etc!!!

Posted by: newslinks1 | December 13, 2007 3:16 PM

That sounds awesome. Where did you get that puzzle?
Posted by: foamgnome

I don't remember exactly, but I have seen many different varieties (I get a lot of catalogs). Here is one online:
http://www.bitsandpieces.com/^Gift+Guide^Customer+Favorites^Money+Holder+Puzzles/08-W2622.html?&itemType=PRODUCT&RS=1&keyword=Puzzle+Bank&productPrefix=W

Posted by: cjbriggs | December 13, 2007 3:25 PM

On the paper carrier, we e-pay so can't (or don't, I'm not the one who pays) tip there. We've gotten two cards with Happy Holidays! and two pictures of different smiling families in with our paper this week. Our paper comes at 4:30 am, I've only been up for it once. Do we send a tip to both? Set the alarm for 4 and tip whomever comes? How much do you tip the paper carrier?

Posted by: MaryL | December 13, 2007 3:26 PM

Gutless coward @2:01PM:
Believe it or not, I don't get pizza delivery--it would always come cold. And if I actually had a "paperboy/girl", a kid who delivered it to my porch--like I used to do many years ago--they'd get a nice tip every week. I don't tip someone for flinging a newspaper out a car window.

Posted by: Kellyinbalto | December 13, 2007 3:35 PM

Kellyinbalto, I gave up delivering the Washington Post 18 years ago. I still live in the same area where I delivered and still meet old customers at craft shows, grocery stores..., and the first thing they tell me is how much they miss porch delivery and haven't had it since I left.

Welcome to today's service in America!

I think it's the same way with gift giving during the holidays. Everyone is busy, busy, busy and time is at a premium. It's so much easier to buy a nephew a football or bat and baseball than it is to play a few hours of catch or throw pitches at him.

For the last few years, I've let my family members know that if they buy a gift baught at a retail store, I don't want it. However, if someone wants to offer their talents like something handmade or some home repair that I can't do, the gift will be greatly appreciated.

Posted by: GutlessCoward | December 13, 2007 4:11 PM

plawrimore1

Thank you for simply remembering those less fortunate than yourself. I like to tip the person who comes around to empty the trash and vacuum at my office. I see him/her every day and it helps them feel appreicated for their minimum wage position.

Posted by: WorkingDad | December 13, 2007 4:48 PM

Our paper comes at 4:30 am, I've only been up for it once. Do we send a tip to both? Set the alarm for 4 and tip whomever comes? How much do you tip the paper carrier?

Posted by: MaryL | December 13, 2007 03:26 PM

In the front-page article of WaPO, they say, "holiday tips to these independent contractors can range from $10 to $30 or $50." I'd tip each $10 for $20 total, but it depends on your means and your budget. I'll tell you this, the cost of their gas has sure as heck gone up this year and I'll bet their pay hasn't kept pace with it.

Posted by: mn.188 | December 13, 2007 4:56 PM

Thanks, MN.

Posted by: MaryL | December 13, 2007 5:44 PM

mn - I'm not sure how that WASN'T snarky, but apparently I'm an idiot so what do I know.

How is someone supposed to watch for the garbage pickup guys and take a basket of goodies out to them when the person is never home (for whatever reason) when the garbage is picked up? Also, we have three different trucks that pick up - garbage, recycling, and yard recycling - at three different times a day - which vary greatly depending on the week. So a person is supposed to take off a day from work or life to sit and wait for the three trucks and run out and try to wave them down as they haul butt down the street?

I don't live in the DC area, thus don't take the WaPo. Our paper is delivered very early, we don't have a paper box, there is no spot for tip on the bill (which we receive and pay via mail) and we've never received a tip envelope. I'm well aware of what time the delivery guy gets up, having personal experience with middle of the night newspaper delivery. I'm just literally not sure how I'm supposed to tip him unless I get up and sit on the sidewalk starting at 4 am. And if you say that's what you would do, I call BS.

Posted by: fake99 | December 13, 2007 5:57 PM

wow, fake - defensive AND name-calling. That's a two-fer, LOL.

If you want to tip a city employee and don't know how, I'm sure you know how to dial the phone and call the department of sanitation. If you don't know how to dial the phone, I call BS. (THAT's snarky, LOL. I have no opinion on your intelligence or the breadth of your knowledge. I bow to your obvious expertise on both of those subjects.)

My sanitation engineers arrive at approximately 7:30 on Friday morning. It's no major effort for me to re-arrange my work schedule one friggin' time per year to be nice. It's worth it to me. It's not to everyone. So be it.

The "I wouldn't know how to tip them if I wanted to" excuse is a sorry cop-out. In my opinion.

Posted by: mn.188 | December 13, 2007 9:08 PM

mn.188 "The 'I wouldn't know how to tip them if I wanted to' excuse is a sorry cop-out. In my opinion."

My garbage is picked up sometime on Tuesdays. I have no idea what time. They are not city employees - they work for a private company. Assuming everyone is in the same position as you are is presumptious. I would not choose to tip the garbage men in any case, but again, if I wanted to, it is not as simple as you claim. There are a lot of people in the world who have unpleasant and/or low paying jobs. I can't tip all of them, and don't choose to tip anyone with whom I have no contact and no relationship.


Posted by: cturner | December 13, 2007 9:32 PM

"My sanitation engineers arrive at approximately 7:30 on Friday morning. It's no major effort for me to re-arrange my work schedule one friggin' time per year to be nice. It's worth it to me. It's not to everyone. So be it. "

Well, I have no interest in tipping them, but even if I wanted to our garbage men come anytime between 7am and 4pm and there is no pattern to it. Not everyone's trash collection comes at the same time.

I do have one question about homemade goodies though- do most people really eat stuff given to them by complete strangers? I mean, if someone I didn't know came up to me and offered me a plate of homemade cookies, I think I'd politely decline.

Posted by: floof | December 14, 2007 11:10 AM

My father was a mailcarrier, and loved the edible goodies he would find in mailboxes on his route. When he subbed for someone else, he passed the gifts to the regular carrier. For family, I send the everyone a Christmas ornament. The nieces and nephews like building their own ornament stash for when they move out, and the adults like getting something new. My cleaning gal gets a week's salary. My hairdresser and pedicure lady get a bottle of wine. Lately I've been knitting socks, but those are for family and close friends, and they receive them as soon as they are finished - just little gifts throughout the year. Works for me!

Posted by: babsy1 | December 14, 2007 3:11 PM

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