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What would you do?

last month
last modified: last month

This has been a bad year for me financially and health wise. My only income is my monthly social security check. As everyone knows this inflation and economy is affecting everyone in a negative way...unless you can afford inside trading!

But for the first time in 60 years, I am not buying anything for Christmas for my children...exceot for greats. Thankfully my children and grandchilden are gainfully employed, but my heart is aching... I will be hosting the Christmas dinner but it just won't be the same for me. Do you have any ideas? I know better than to suggest a while elephant exchange...that is just taking junk from one house to another!

Comments (29)

  • morz8 - Washington Coast
    last month

    Phoggie, you are a dear. I'm sorry Christmas won't be the usual for you but as a daughter of someone who had been on a tight budget, I can assure you the only expectations that won't be met will be your own. How I tried, and for years, to convince my mother it was not about the gifts. Only about being together as a family, sharing a meal.

    I would just begin with the truth, and tell your family you cant shop for Christmas this year. They are not going to mind!

    If I can't convince you and you must do something -

    Do you have a skill, or talent? (I'm sure many but I don't know you well enough to guess which)

    Something baked, with a pretty bow. Draw? My sis was given a colored pencil sketch of the home she had bought that year. And - loved it.

    Could you write notes telling each adult child what is special about them and what you admire in them.

    Without meeting them, I'm confident what they want for Christmas is some time with you, and you happy and content. ((((hugs))))

    phoggie thanked morz8 - Washington Coast
  • Kathsgrdn
    last month

    I'm sorry things have been rough for you. I hope your family is helping out with side dishes and not expecting you to make everything yourself. I wouldn't worry about giving gifts. Everyone should understand and Christmas shouldn't be about gifts anyway, it's more about spending time with family.

    I've cut back this year myself.

    phoggie thanked Kathsgrdn
  • socalgal_gw Zone USDA 10b Sunset 24
    last month

    One year a relative was unable to get out Christmas shopping. She must have ”shopped” her home. I still have the beautiful Swedish vase that means more to me than anything else she ever gave me.

    phoggie thanked socalgal_gw Zone USDA 10b Sunset 24
  • maifleur03
    last month

    Can you even afford the dinner? I have known several who after providing a family meal had no money to feed themselves. They saved year-round to provide for the meal reducing their food budget and only buying the essentials for themselves. Perhaps it is time to actually talk to your family about your income or lack thereof. SS never keeps up with inflation so things will only become worse.

    phoggie thanked maifleur03
  • Elmer J Fudd
    last month

    Adults shouldn't expect or need to receive gifts. And hopefully their understanding and concern for your welfare and happiness should be a greater priority to them all anyway. Don't give it a second thought.

    If you need more monthly cash flow, have you considered a reverse mortgage on your house? A life insurance policy to discontinue or borrow against? Or, how about a "Support Grandma/Mom" program with your family members. When my in-law's kids (my wife included) realized she had nearly exhausted savings used to supplement social security to cover living expenses, we all agreed to chip-in monthly support money. It continues and has worked out well to provide for her needs and to put everyone at ease.

    PS - true "insider trading", which is making stock transactions based on having non-publicly disclosed information, is not common. It's a felony that's aggressively prosecuted when detected. The SEC has an enforcement group that does a pretty good job of finding law breakers.

    Good luck.

    phoggie thanked Elmer J Fudd
  • eld6161
    last month

    You need to be honest about your situation. At this point in time you are still okay, but just don't have money extras.

    Talk to your children.

    Maybe this could be year everyone cuts back on the gift giving.

    I'm not sure what an elephant exchange is, but a Secret Santa where each person gets one person to buy for could work. No need to get junk.

    As the great grandmother, you should be exempt from all of this.

    phoggie thanked eld6161
  • JustDoIt
    last month
    last modified: last month


    Management. Let one of the family members who cooked a good turkey, ham, etc., bring that item. No need to mention finances simply ask:

    "Can you bring that ____ you made last year. It was sooo good. That would really help. You know my health situation and this way I'll be able to enjoy my family here. ________ is bringing _______. I'm doing the deserts, vegetables or simply the paper products. Great. I'll mark you down. Boy this is going to be a great time with everybody helping out."

    Gifts. I guarantee you your family does not expect gifts. But here's a thought. Go through your family photo album and select a picture of each member, write your favorite memory of that person down and present these throughout the day. You can even include lost family members. You can invite other members to search for a funny memory and laugh about it.

    In preparation, place a photo in a red/green envelope with a number on it. Arrange the envelopes like a Christmas tree on the wall. Approximately every hour, ring the bell (or let one of the younger kids select an envelope) and start. "Here's my gift to ______. Remember the time we _______. Priceless."

    If you want, you can actually "gift" them the photo. Only cost is a pretty envelope. (Don't forget to either scan the photo in or have a copy made.)

    phoggie thanked JustDoIt
  • seagrass_gw Cape Cod
    last month

    I am still incensed that my almost 91 year old mother was left hanging and alone on Thanksgiving. I am slowly recovering from my anger, since it's a 14 hour trip to go see her. I don't owe anyone presents or care if I see them again. My favorite smell is homemade yeast bread. That would be an incredible gift in my mind,

    phoggie thanked seagrass_gw Cape Cod
  • rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7
    last month

    I’m so sorry that things are such a struggle for you, Phoggie. Have you made your family aware of your situation? If not, please do so. They certainly won’t expect a shower of gifts from you and they certainly don’t need any.

    When we all grew up and left the home, we adults decided to draw names out of a hat for gift giving. As I recall, our dad put all of our names in a hat and did the drawing for us, then secretly sharing who got who to give a small gift to. Those who were gainfully employed partook in this draw. We didn’t let mom and dad draw at all but we each got them something.

    The small kids were still treated by the adults, but no one went overboard.

    phoggie thanked rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7
  • phoggie
    Original Author
    last month
    last modified: last month

    If I can not give, I do not want to receive! One of my daughters needs help and I so want to give it to her. She had a terrible fall in June and shattered her shoulder, surgery to rebuild with cadaver bones, in a huge brace for months and has 6 more months of PT...she is a teacher (and we all know how poorly they are paid), and has extremely high deductible.She had wanted to retire this year, but can not afford to do if her daughter is getting married in May. Her boys both are engineers...but student loans up to their necks...but appreciate everything I do or give them.

    I have a son who has been an nuclear engineer for 37 years...married late in life and has no biological children...needs or expects nothing. They live close and are here in a heartbeat when I fall or need help.

    Then my other daughter and family...husband is in a management position and makes a huge salary...her's isn't much less. Their sons were born with a silver spoon...every penny of education, vehicles, trips, ect was paid for. They never even acknowledge anything I give my penitence is not worth mentioning....

    I love them all but one family is easier to like than the other. i am hoping after I get through all my taxes, multiple insurances, high heating bills, etc., I can find a way to help them in some small way. I have been making wedding bouquets for my one and only has done so much to give me something positive to think about.

  • HU-154865359
    last month

    Have a potluck where everyone brings something.

    I think it is going to be a rough Christmas for a lot of people. I went to buy a pair of jeans at the mall today. The guy working the cash register said that Black Friday was busy, but Saturday and Sunday were kind of slow. Some people are buying online, but my guess is a lot of people simply are not buying.

    phoggie thanked HU-154865359
  • seagrass_gw Cape Cod
    last month

    With the exception of collecting gifts to send in a package to my mother I am free of shopping for Christmas forever. Except for heat and electricity and about half of the food we were formerly able to eat we don't need or want anything. Giving can be satisfying but also unrewarding.

    phoggie thanked seagrass_gw Cape Cod
  • dedtired
    last month

    Phoggie, i am so sorry you are struggling. It is so wearing to have to watch every cent you spend.

    I love Justdoit’s suggestion about the family photos. What fun to relive memories. Are there things you intended to give them ”some day”? Might be nice to give them now while youcan tell the story of each item.

    This is one reason i dont particularly like theholidays, the feeling that you should somehow make things wonderful by spending money on stuff most people dont need.

    phoggie thanked dedtired
  • matthias_lang
    last month

    Phoggie, you probably already know that Social Security is supposed to increase by 8.7% next year. That probably wont catch you up to where you have been previously, but I hope you can feel a positive difference...and that inflation slows down!

    Do you know if all your children understand each others' circumstances? Maybe they'd kick in with some help for your injured daughter.

    Over the years, I've had reason to help four of my five siblings, and have been so forward as to tell them that I would expect similar help from them if ever I needed it. That's the real law of the jungle: grab your fellow monkey's arm when they are missing the limb they were swinging for; pull 'em up and don't let 'em hit the ground.

    phoggie thanked matthias_lang
  • Olychick
    last month

    I know it's hard to want to give and not be able to. I'm not sure if this could work in your budget or not, but if you could manage even $5 per family, you could make a donation in each of their names. No mention of the amount is necessary and I don't thing charities that acknowledge gifts mention the amount either....something like "A donation has been made in honor of your family to our organization by Phoggie. It will help us continue our work with rescued animals, " or something similar wording.

    You could even write a card to each of them and say what you've done, again not mentioning the amount. You will have the satisfaction of doing something for them, a charity will benefit and you family will not have more 'stuff' to deal with. Then you would be free to do what you can and want to for your daughter who needs more help.

    I hope you are taking advantage of benefits for seniors like the food bank and senior services for rides, etc if those exist in your community.

    And 2023 will give SS retirees an 8.7% raise, so hopefully that will help you a little.

    phoggie thanked Olychick
  • lily316
    last month

    I'm not in financial difficulty and neither is either kid but we exchange zero gifts. We used to go nuts years ago buying each family member multiple gifts. Then we got it down to one gift per person and then decided why any. We get what we need when we need it and are certainly trying to pare down at our age. The rule was when the grandkids graduated from college, they were considered adults and got no gift. Maybe you could have this discussion with your family.

    phoggie thanked lily316
  • salonva
    last month

    oh Phoggie- I am so sorry that you are so worried about this.

    I think hosting ( just providing the setting ) is plenty!

    I guess it's hard to stop if the gift giving has been the tradition, but it seems it's causing more worry than benefit.

    I do like the idea of a photo for each person, or something super simple and small but meaningful like that.

    Maybe do that and then have it going forward to be a joint effort for the dinner and celebration. It sounds like the part everyone seeks is the gathering together, not the gift giving.

    phoggie thanked salonva
  • laceyvail 6A, WV
    last month

    I'm another one who thinks we all have too much 'stuff' already and that Christmas shouldn't be about consumerism. I give very modest gifts to the children in our families, but nothing to the adults. I do, however, give a donation to a charity--in my case the SEVA foundation which does eye care around the world--in the name of my son and his wife. You could do the same for the adults.

    Another way I've found to save money has to do with birthday cards. Cards are so expensive now that instead of buying a birthday card for $5-$7, I turn to my stock of blank cards and just write in Happy Birthday and a short note. I buy the cards by the box when I find some on sale and are a particularly beautiful set.

    phoggie thanked laceyvail 6A, WV
  • Annie Deighnaugh
    last month

    (Man, I posted something last night and it's gone. I've been having that happen recently.)

    I was thinking along the lines of JustDoIt. I have many family pictures that I have no idea who they were, where it was taken, or why it was special to them. Now I have no one to ask. I think if you could find a photo to give to each person and a story or a memory behind each, that would be so meaningful to them, and to you.

    I also still fondly remember the time my grandmother gave me her aquamarine ring. (We both were born in March.) It was a very special moment for which I am grateful. There are many things I wish I could ask my parents or grands now, but can't any longer.

    We are currently in the process of updating our wills and facing the reality that, in our case, there is no one to pass these things down to. And yet there are so many keepsakes that I'd love to be able to. (We have a white painted wood block in our attic that no one will know came from Sir Thomas Lipton's mast...unless we give it to someone and tell them.) Perhaps there are things in your home...or storage... that have a special meaning that you could give to each one, explaining why it's meaningful. If you don't do it, the meanings and memories will be lost forever. And believe me, they'll mean so much more to them than some purchased something or other.

    phoggie thanked Annie Deighnaugh
  • nicole___
    last month

    I also think gifts are over rated. But....I understand it's tradition and you would miss it. Let me offer bargain suggestions. Dollar Tree: They have fluffy house socks for the women on your list, $1.25ea.....or knit a pair? Ferro Roche chocolates for the men, $1.25ea, or bake cookies or brownies & wrap as gifts.

    I like the just-be-honest and tell them it's been a hard year. We understand....they will too.

    phoggie thanked nicole___
  • maifleur03
    last month

    While the SS increase will help SS was never intended to keep up with inflation. For one thing it only covers part of last years inflation and not next years. While your loved ones are there as hard as it is actually talk to them either before the dinner happens or immediately after. They probably have no idea what your financial situation is since many parents do not talk openly to their children. Before then start looking at programs that are available for low income seniors as you may need it in the future.

    phoggie thanked maifleur03
  • Kitchenwitch111
    last month

    I'm sorry it's so hard for you, Phoggie. I know the feeling, actually! I don't know where you live, but my state (NJ) has many discounts for seniors for property taxes, utilities and EZ Pass. We have a great local senior center with $1.00 lunches (or free if necessary), and my gym is free through my supplement insurance. I would not have known about these programs but I have friends who shared the information. Maybe there's a place where you could look up senior discounts in your state and I hope that can help you.

    At Christmas 2020, my adult children and I realized that we came through the lockdown better than some some people and we decided to not buy gifts and instead we each donate to our local food banks now. We don't have any little kids, so that makes it easier to not do gifts at Christmas and it has really eliminated the stress and expense that Christmas shopping can bring, as we all have so much already. We make a big fancy Christmas dinner together and roast beef is pricey, but we all chip in.

    phoggie thanked Kitchenwitch111
  • blfenton
    last month

    I love the idea of giving each person a picture with a memory attached to it. Be honest with your kids. They know it's financially difficult for everyone right now.

    We only buy for our kids and their spouses and that's just a big joint bag of stocking stuffer stuff. We're retired and they make way more money than we bring in and they don't need anything.

    I hope you have a peaceful Christmas and fun with your family.

    phoggie thanked blfenton
  • nickel_kg
    last month

    Just the other night we were watching Antiques Roadshow. The host made a point of saying the best thing you can do is WRITE DOWN THE HISTORY of your item. Give it context: what were the circumstances, who/where/when did it come from, etc. If you don't capture that information, it's gone forever.

    I like the idea above, of presenting a photo to each person, with a written sentiment or memory attached.

    phoggie thanked nickel_kg
  • rob333 (zone 7a)
    last month

    I was in a similar position years ago, and suspected my sister was too. We all agreed no more gift giving since all the kids were over the age of 18. Freed all of us up. So much more relaxed! Just a card and the meal we share.

    phoggie thanked rob333 (zone 7a)
  • Judi
    last month

    Gift giving is the part I like least about Christmas. When we had young kids in the extended family I loved giving them gifts. I struggled with the adults. My husband and I stopped gift exchanges years ago. It makes the holiday so much more enjoyable.

    phoggie thanked Judi
  • phoggie
    Original Author
    last month

    Thank you, Friends! I have been thinking about giving some things but am having a hard time coming up with something for 2 of my grandsons... Everything of significance (wristwatch, wedding ring, wallet, etc) of my husband (their granddad) was burned and melted in the firey crash that took his life. I do have my mother’s wedding ring, my great grandmother’s birthstone, that I can give my girls, a gallon container of silver half-dollars that my son would like....I would like for my oldest grandson to have his granddad’s casket loves anything about the ancestors, and I do have those books that he can have...but I am blank about the other two!

  • Rho Dodendron
    last month

    Perhaps only give your son 1/2 gallon of silver coins and divide the rest between the grandsons. Are they old enough to want a ring with a stone and a note how the stone can be reset someday for a wife? A friend cherishes a pair of Army boots that belonged to his Grandfather.

    At 1979 Wedding shower an elderly relative gifted me a wierdo silver gravy boat and also a sugar and creamer set. She told me they were family items. Took me years to realize she shopped from what she had. No one said gifts have to be brand new. I use the awful sugar & creamer set often and think of Cousin Rose fondly. At a recent wedding shower the grooms Grandma, who could have afforded to buy Everything on Brides registry, presented her with a modest photo album full of photos of the Groom growing up.

    phoggie thanked Rho Dodendron