Buying Christmas presents is a risky business! Especially if you are on the frugal side of things and hate the idea of wasting money on a present that the person doesn't really want.
My parents' solution to this perennial problem is to set up a Christmas present store. Every year as Christmas approaches my mother keeps her eyes open for sales at stores and garage sales. She buys up a stash of items she thinks we might possibly enjoy,meticulously organizes receipts, and keeps the potential gifts in waiting until Christmas morning.
We each receive a certain number of "Christmas store dollars" as a wrapped gift. Then up from the basement come the boxes of goodies, each marked with it's Christmas store price. We have the opportunity to buy whatever we would like with our fake money and if there is any left over we are welcome to redeem it for real cash. Since people have an opportunity to choose what they would like my mother feels free to include lots of practical little items that are probably more useful than "gifty."
This system isn't for everyone. If you're not comfortable making a lot of returns, it wouldn't be economical at all. (My mother, on the other hand, is the queen of returns- all the stores know her as the "return lady").
It is a fun tradition though- a nice way to make sure everyone will probably get something they want or need and a way to de-fuse some of the stress of gift-giving.
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