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How to Bless the Less Fortunate Without Making Them Feel Like a Heel (Part 1)

how to bless the less fortunate 1

The following is a guest post from a reader who asked to remain anonymous

Growing up, my family vacationed in 5-star hotels and spent more at a single meal in a gourmet restaurant than my husband and I currently spend on groceries for an entire month!

Needless to say, the disparity between my financial situation and that of others in my family has led to some pretty awkward situations. While my own struggle with contentment is something I need to put in perspective, I’m pretty sure my family would do some things differently if they understood.

If someone you love has far less income than you, or is simply in a financial slump, they’d probably like for you to understand these concepts, too.

Remember that I Need To Plan Ahead

What seems like no biggie to you may be huge to me.

Let me give you an example: One year, my parents, siblings, and our families were together for a rare long weekend. Someone suggested that every family unit could pay for a couple meals throughout our visit. Sounds fair, right?

The problem was that my family rarely eats out on our own, especially at sit-down restaurants. And even when we do, we plan ahead, have coupons in tow, and usually drink water. We simply could not afford to foot the bill for 8 adults, plus children.

The situation was awkward, to say the least! Others footed the bills, and we felt like absolute heels. However, we simply couldn’t justify dipping into our meager savings or going into debt over a family get-together.

Let Me Serve You, My Way

The next time a family gathering was planned, I suggested (plenty of time ahead) that each of our families take care of two meals, however we wanted to do it.

For our part, my husband and I cooked up a pretty impressive breakfast — if I do say so myself! I was able to make room in our budget and pair coupons and store deals to purchase the needed groceries ahead of time. I also used some Crystal’s freezer cooking strategies to reduce my time in the kitchen that week!

Everyone was impressed, and I was glad to be able to do my part. Some of the others did take everyone out to a favorite restaurant, and that was okay, too.

Realize What I Can (& Can’t) Give

Even if I realize that I make one tenth of what some others make, giving them a $10 gift when they give me a $100 one feels crummy. Seeing my kids receive more gifts from extended family than they do from me is difficult, too.

My one sister was out-giving me with my kids at Christmas — in a big way. I told her how I felt, and that I wanted my kids to receive more from their parents than extended family. She completely understood but didn’t want to spend less on my kids than she did her other nieces and nephews.

She now gets my kids each a gift (usually after asking me for ideas, first), and then buys them savings bonds with the remainder of what she wants to spend.

Know that Conversations Can Easily Exclude or Embarrass Me

I’ll try to be excited for you when you tell me about your home renovation or trip to Bermuda, but I just won’t have much to contribute to the conversation. I don’t want you to feel like you can’t share your exciting news with me, but please realize that if everyone else is spending a lot of time talking about things I don’t have or can’t do, I’m going to feel left out.

I’m not trying to be antisocial, but I’m pretty sure that saying “My husband glued down the part of the Formica countertop that keeps popping up,” wouldn’t quite fit in.

And then there’s Christmas.

In our own home, we try not to make Christmas about the gifts or money, but when you tell me what you gave your kids and ask me what I got mine, it’s hard for me not to feel like a bad mom. It’s also a little embarrassing when people ask my kids what they “got for Christmas.”

I do try to make our celebrations enjoyable, though, so I’d much prefer that we be asked what our favorite part of Christmas was, or something like that.

At the end of the day, I don’t want to be seen as “the poor one” or pitied for my (current) lot in life. I just want to be loved and appreciated and included in the festivities.

The author is a freezer-cooking , baby-wearing, stay-at-home mama who does some freelance writing while her 3 young kiddos nap. She’s married to a wonderful man who’s the pastor of a small country church and prefers to remain anonymous due to the content of this post.

photo source

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204 Comments

  • Susan says:

    Such a heartfelt post. It is a good reminder to all of us to remember that the holidays are about spending time together, prayer and peace. Not about stress, overindulgence or extravagant gifts. My husband recently bestowed on me a wonderful gift of patience in a time of ultimate stress in my life. It was much more valuable than diamonds and will be treasured in my heart.

  • Joy says:

    Excellent article. Thanks for sharing!

  • Ashley P says:

    Amen and amen! My mom’s family (while not extravagantly rich) is considerably wealthier than my father’s side. It’s part of the reason they never liked my dad much, even before the divorce. Expensive gifts are given every year at Christmas, vacations are taken to Orlando or Mexico, things of that nature.

    This year, we’re doing Christmas only “for the kids” meaning no adults will receive gifts. The only “kids” we have in the family are my special-needs year-old niece and my 4 month old son. But I already get the feeling my son will be sent home with far nicer things than hubby and I can afford to give him. As it stands, we’re still paying off medical debt and haven’t gotten him ANYTHING yet. I was planning on getting a stocking from the dollar store and filling it with a few teething toys.

    I feel this is the first of MANY awkward Christmases to come.

    • Vzambrano says:

      Your son is 4 months old, he doesn’t even know what is going on. Enjoy the presents! 😉

    • Kristin says:

      Don’t feel bad. I agree that your son is too young to care much – and what else are you going to get a 4-month-old baby besides diapers? My hubs and I actually liked the younger years and felt a tad guilty for “cheating” by not giving the babies much. They like the box and the wrapping paper better anyway. 🙂

      We’re paying off medical bills too after incurring about $70K in charges this year. Our insurance covered the vast majority of things, but when thing are already tight, a $5K deductible can seem huge.

      We’ve been following Crystal Paine’s and Dave Ramsey’s advice for YEARS and still manage to have our goals thwarted as new crises keep popping up like gophers. It can get pretty discouraging – especially when everyone around you seems to have plenty and then some – “What ARE WE doing wrong that we can’t figure out??”

      Fortunately, my husband was able to pick up some extra work this entire month, so we’ll be able to spend about $100 this year on a family of five, while sending the vast majority towards debt incurred after charging most of our bills. I’m just praying that we’ll still be able to keep up come January – when the extra work dies off.

      I don’t know why God has us here and I’ve been fighting against it for years. I don’t have any easy answers, but I have learned a few things. 1. God has us he”re for a very Good reason, even if I don’t know about it or approve of it(strengthening our faith? testing our character? bearing faithful witness to Him?) 2. It looks like we’re going to be here a while, so I had better start getting used to it and depending on Him more, while also glorifying Him more, and 3. That my life (and all our lives) is not about pleasing me – it’s about pleasing HIM and that, ultimately, is my goal (or should be anyway).

      I don’t know if these words have helped you, but I pray that they do. I know how it is. It can be really, really HARD when you follow all the financial “rules” and still struggle every week, month, year… Hugs to you.

      • Becky says:

        Love your outlook with your struggles. It sounds like you have all of the wisdom you need. I don’t think your character is being tested, just polished. He will guide you. Keep your head up toward him, & you’ll work wonders. Merry Christmas.

      • Your outlook is amazing. Trying harder to have the same mindset. Praying for you now and thanking God for putting stories and people where they need to be when I need them. God Bless you and your family and thank you for sharing today.

    • Kristine says:

      My parents and siblings are very generous with their gifts to our children. My in-law siblings all have grown kids, so they also are VERY generous with our kids. We can’t do that. But it was encouraging to hear the approach of one sister-in-law when her kids were little — she figured out that since everyone else was giving them gifts, it was not even noticed that mommy and daddy didn’t give much, LOL. And at least at these pre-school/early elementary years, I’ve seen the same thing. We are (so far) able to enjoy the bigger gift-giving by others and not mind that we’re only giving our kiddos a very low-key gift plus their modestly-filled stocking. (And I’ll admit we’re totally blessed by one side of the family asking for ideas, so they’re able to help meet needs/wishes that we wouldn’t be able to do on our own.)

      • Katie says:

        When my mom gives my son WAY too many gifts, I save my gifts for following holidays (Easter, Birthday, next Christmas). It seems a waste if they get too many gifts. To my moms defense she lives on the other coast so I think she feels like she’s making up for lost time when she rains gifts on them.

    • Ashley P says:

      Thanks for the encouragement. It’s not really THIS Christmas that bothers me. It’s all the ones to come. Hubby and I decided long ago how we wanted to give Christmas presents to our kids. We plan on giving the kids each one thing they want, one thing they need, 2 or 3 smaller things (puzzles, clothes, etc.) and one big thing for us as a family (A vacation, game system, stuff like that). But we don’t plan on going crazy with gift giving.

      Thing is…my mom’s family DOES go crazy with gift giving. I do like the idea of saving the presents for birthdays and so forth if they get given too much. Maybe I’ll do that. 🙂

      • Tracy says:

        I am in the same situation. I only give my son 3 gifts: a need, want, and something to read. The rest of my family can go way overboard. So after he opens everything he is only allowed to open one thing that he really likes.

        The rest we take home and then the next day he takes out the presents he doesn’t like and won’t use. We then take the items back to the stores if we can and he gets a gift card instead. The gift cards I mark with his initial so I know the are his. He then has all year to use them on something he really needs or wants.

        Anything we can’t return we usually donate the next year to organizations that help families have presents at christmas.

        My son loves doing this as I tell him it is the thought that counts so to be greatful and thankful for what is given. But that he does not have to get stressed out about what to do with the gifts he has no use for. One year with a gift card he got (to me) an expensive shirt he wanted that I would not buy him. He wore that shirt so much he wore it out.

        • Ruthie says:

          I think your approach is very smart and practical, financially speaking. My husband and I spoil our kids at Christmas, and we come from large families who spoil our children as well. It’s true we often end up with too much stuff, and some of their gifts end up donated before the year is over. I like the idea you shared about returning the items for a gift card… but I think it is important to teach kids to be gracious and accepting of gifts. Period. That is far more valuable than store credit and less clutter in the closet. Most people put a lot of thought and care (and sometimes $) into gifts and that is not something to be traded in, no matter how practical! When my kids purchase or make something to give away, they really put themselves into it, and it would break their hearts if their cousin or aunt or whoever took it back to the store. As an adult, it wouldn’t offend me at all. I try to make my gifts easy to return so that whatever I spend doesn’t go to waste.

  • Sonja says:

    Awesome post! Thanks for sharing! I wholeheartedly agree!

  • Melissa says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. It is good to hear about how well meaning intentions can have unintended consequences. My situation is a little different than others in my family because my husband and I both work and have no children and I definitely don’t want to make others feel bad by accidentally doing something without thinking it through. I don’t like making other people feel awkward. I can relate to your gluing the formica countertop story too though. Just last week I glued down a loose (and broken in 2 pieces) ceramic tile in my kitchen. 🙂

    • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says:

      I’m so glad it helped you to “hear” the perspective of someone with different circumstances. Thanks for “listening”! 🙂

  • Lisa guyer says:

    I loved every word of this post. Thank you!

  • Tammy says:

    Great post!

    When my husband lost his job several years ago, a lady I knew went through her kids toys (used, some very much so) and gave me things that she thought I could give my daughter for Christmas. She acted all pleased to be passing off her crummy toys as gifts. It was disheartening.

    • Kimberly says:

      She was doing what she could to help you so I don’t understand why it was disheartening. If the toys were far too used or dirty you just say “thank you” and move on and donate them. I am a true believer that you never look at a gift given out of kindness as a disheartening event.

      • Becky says:

        Perhaps it was the spirit in which it the toys were given. Some folks give out of pure motives of kindness, while others can be quite condescending (“look how generous I’m being – aren’t you just so thankful?”)…

    • Jess says:

      I always hated that. The giving of unsolicited used things just because your “poor”. Just because I don’t have much money doesn’t mean I want used/stained/broken things! Especially if I am already making due with a smaller amount of things in good shape.

    • Holly says:

      Tammy,
      I guess you had to be there, but I know some people do things not to help people, but for self-satisfaction. Some people even “help” you out as a chain so they can hold it against you later. Truely helping is great, but it sounds to me like she was just trying to satisfy herself. That’s not to say that warm fuzzy feeling is bad, but that shouldn’t be the whole reason why you help people.

      • Tammy says:

        I didn’t see the replies to my comment until just now. It wasn’t the toys I was against – as has been mentioned in several comments, it was her attitude. It did feel very condescending. Truly, some of what I felt could have been because of pride on my part. But the toys were marked up, dirty, etc. My daughter did end up playing with them (but I didn’t wrap them as gifts for her). As Holly said, it did feel like it was for self-satisfaction rather than helping our family out.

        And I should say that while my husband was without a job, we were incredibly blessed by others – someone once gave us some cash (anonymously) and someone else bought us a large appliance. It was a lean time, but one of learning to rely on the Lord!

  • bugweena says:

    Thank you for this story and the reminder of the true meaning of the holiday season. Togetherness and making memories are far better than ‘things,’

  • Sarah says:

    Awesome post. This is very humbling and a great reminder to think of others before we speak.

  • christina says:

    Excellent post!!!!

  • Alicia says:

    This post could have been written about my husband and I, and our families! Thank you for your honest, heartfelt message, as I can completely relate. My husband and I make considerably less money than everyone else in our families, and it is the hardest and most awkward around the holidays. It’s also something I struggle with at times as I was brought up much differently. But my husband and I are happy with the choices we’ve made, and with that comes making many sacrifices and living very simply. We do the best we can, and I’ve learned to let a lot go, especially around the holidays. Thank you again, well said.

  • mommybug says:

    Thanks so much…..do to an unforseen injury we are now a one income family with the debt of a two income family. It has really put money into perspective, and I truly understand. Thanks so much this post made my week:)

  • Jen says:

    I also relate to this quite a bit, especially about the need to plan ahead. Also, I really dislike it when others say that I “can’t afford something.” In reality, we always have the things we truly need, but work really hard to pay back a huge student loan debt. And I don’t want to be the type of family who seems to be able to “afford to buy things” because we are running up more debt.

  • Sara K. says:

    Wonderful!

  • Mrs. Waste Not says:

    I agree with a lot of this, and I like what the other commenter wrote about not affording something. Just bc people in my family can afford certain things and I can’t doesn’t mean I do not have money. It means it’s allotted for other things. Like retirement!

  • Jessica says:

    I really liked this post.

    I also wanted to add that it’s not always bad to give your best to others. Don’t feel bad if you receive a gift that cost more than what you could afford to spend. Some people truly enjoy the act of giving.

    To the person who got the worn out castoff toys- I’m also reminded about giving to the food bank. Some people give that weird can of something that sat in the back of their pantry for two years, or the ubiquitous bag of dried beans. I enjoy couponing and like to share my bargains when the food pantry is in need. My husband’s work is collecting non-perishable foods for the pantry during their Christmas party next week. I try to contribute tasty (and nutritious) foods that my own family enjoys, not just the yucky stuff that we don’t want to eat, either. This year that means I’m donating some packaged baking mixes (just need to add water; some people can’t afford the oil, eggs, and butter that other mixes require), peanut butter, raisins, canned pumpkin, canned soups.

    • Diane L. says:

      I know what you mean! Several years ago I volunteered at our local YWCA shelter, and I couldn’t believe the condition of some of the items people donated–such as stained panties! Many of the women already felt worthless after the abusive situations they were in, and to be given something like that I believe would only add to their despair.
      I don’t mean to discount the many perfectly fine gently used items donated by generous people. But after that experience, I always try to find extra nice items to donate so the women will feel like they matter.

    • Diane says:

      I remember when I helped distribute food after a hurricane ripped our town up and someone donated fruit pectin. Wow, I really feel like making jam without electricity 😛

    • Kristin says:

      This is so true. We visited our local food pantry once and it was bizarre stuff and a lot of bakery castoffs – very, very stale bread, etc. I wish people would think a little more about this before donating there.

    • J says:

      I have managed a food pantry and a donation based ministry resale shop. I have heard the “beggar’s can’t be choosers” garbage many times. Opened half eaten foods, freezer burnt so badly they were powdered, outdated foods 10 years beyond date, clothing dirty, horribly stained, torn, and “Oh, don’t forget to give me my tax deduction receipt, it’s worth a lot”. God sees the motive of the hearts. If one that has little or nothing is giving out of what they have, that is a pure and true giving heart. It doesn’t matter what the condition is, for they are giving from what they have. They are giving to fill a need in another persons life. A beautiful thing. If someone else is going through their closets and wouldn’t think of wearing something because of its condition, but deems it good enough for someone struggling in life because they just don’t want to throw it away because it might look wasteful, that is something else and not from a true giving heart. God also sees that. I have seem many a beautiful child or adult give something so cherished by them that you can see the dirt or wear and they want another child or adult to have something so dear to them. Believe me that is giving and it is beautiful when you see it. Many items can be repaired and cleaned. I do have a question though, why does it seem permissible to pass those second hand toys on to a pantry? Isn’t that doing the same thing, they are not good enough to keep but alright to send on to a pantry? If they are not in good enough condition to keep then pitch them and don’t pass them on. Or return them to the giver letting them know that you appreciate their giving, but don’t have a need for them at this time. For if you won’t use them, you really don’t have a need for them at the current time.

      Something that has been bothering me here is that instead of people being thankful that others are blessing their children with gifts, even those that they can not afford themselves, they are seeing that as a direct reflection on them and not as a blessing for their child. I am proposing this thought for others to ponder on. Are eyes focused on self or the blessings of others???? It is quite possible that God is providing something for the children through someone else, not making it a reflection of the parents in anyway? I have heard it said that when we refuse to accept a gift or look down upon it we are robbing a blessing from that giver. Maybe they were told to give and they didn’t want to and God is doing something in their heart? We have to be careful that jealousy, selfishness, and pride are not flowing through our hearts. We have to ask ourselves, “do I feel badly because of how I feel or believe I look to others” if the answer is yes, there is selfishness and pride residing. Then it is our heart that needs refining. What is the motivation of gift giving? To bless the recipient or how it makes us look or feel?

      This was burdening my heart as I continued to read and I want you all to know I have no judgment towards anyone. My heart wants to see people free from self condemnation and negative views. Someone giving your child a gift that you can’t afford doesn’t make you a heel, it makes you blessed because someone cared so much for your beautiful child. That is a blessing from the Lord. 🙂 Please do not take offense, for there is none being projected from me.

      • Carol S says:

        Thank you J for your post. I was bothered by some os the “logic” I have seen on here too!! I agree that the children are being blessed by others when receiving gifts. I also like the idea that one person wrote about, regarding saving some gifts for later. Years ago, I had a single mother of a sweet baby boy, as a roommate. When he was two, she started teaching him more about the true meaning of Christmas. Each night, during the 12 days of Christmas, she let him open one gift each night. Nothing expensive, but I noticed that he looked more forward to her talks more than he did the gift. He is now a Sergeant in the Army, has served his time in Afghanistan and is now stationed stateside. He has grown into a wonderful young man and has a family of his own. All holidays, to me, are more about family and fellowship than any kind of gift. So, again, thank you for your post. It spoke to my heart!

        • J says:

          That was a beautiful tradition that your roommate began with her son. 🙂 I agree, Carol, the center of Christmas is relationship. God’s relationship with us was deepened with the gift of Christ to us. All this other to do is tradition of man. The Wise Men brought expensive gifts to HIM, our KING. 🙂 Have a blessed Christmas Carol!

  • This is such a beautiful post that will resonate with so many. Thank you for sharing!

    • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says:

      You’re welcome! Sometimes we “read to know we are not alone,” don’t we? (I think that quote is original with C.S. Lewis.)

  • L says:

    Loved the part about gluing down the Formica! We are in the market for a different dining room set and counter stools to match. It was handed down from my husband’s parents 20 years ago and it was their old set to begin with. But in the meantime, my padded counter stools are ripping a little bit. So although I am not gluing down Formica, I am finding a duct tape to match…for the time being!

  • Amy says:

    What great, practical and wise advice. I love this post, and I can’t wait to read the rest. Thank you Mama of 3 for sharing your experiences.

  • Michelle says:

    I love this! We tend to be the ones who have and like to share with others, but it’s nice to hear the other side and what we can do to help. We’ve been there, too.

    The one thing about this post that did bother me was that the writer didn’t feel able to share how they glued down the Formica. I get that compared to a kitchen remodel, it may not seem like a big deal. But if her family loves her, they will want to celebrate those little successes! My aunt is always telling me about how she stretched her dollars and was able to do a craft project with a nursing home. It may not seem like much, but it’s made me keep an eye out for things she might be able to use in other projects. It may not be much, but if it’s important to another family member, I want them to feel like they can share with me, so I too can be happy for them. Even if it’s gluing down the Formica or stretching the dollar at the grocery store.

    • beth says:

      Good comments! I sometimes think it can be awkward for the one who has more than others as well. My sister in law feels bad saying what my brother got her for christmas, but I tell her we honestly are happy for her.

    • jennifer says:

      I agree with you. That part about the formica bothered me also. Repairing things is a success to share and something that really everyone can relate to, no matter how much money you make. Everyone has little things around their house that need to be fixed, I don’t care how fancy it is.

      • also anonymous says:

        Oh, but can you see how hard it would be to bring up glueing down the formica when others are doing major home remodels? It FEELS almost shameful.

        Don’t judge her for not wanting to share this with her family…unless the “wealthier” family members will also share their quirky repairs / Aldi buys / thrift store buys, it just doesn’t feel “safe” to share!

        I will say, I absolutely love it when my “wealthier” family and friends will do just that! We can all appreciate a bargain, right? It makes me feel included when someone says they got it at Aldi! 🙂

    • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says:

      The Formica comment was meant to be funny. 😉 The point was that if everyone else is talking about things that one person (or family) present can’t afford–whether it be gourmet steak houses, high-end remodels, or Disney vacations–that individual will feel left out. Period.

      I’m assuming people wouldn’t even think twice about this, so I hoped this post would inform them and possibly keep others from feeling the way I’ve felt at times. 🙂

  • Sara says:

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! I so appreciate this post! We have been experiencing all of this and more with my sister. For the first time ever I explained to her that we just can’t keep up the pace, she became angry, stating that she “likes to give”. Well… guess what? So do I… I just cannot afford the type of gifts she gives. It has caused quite a bit of friction since being brought up right before Thanksgiving. I am fearful that Christmas will never be the same, but quite frankly, it needed to be said. Thank you again for this post. I am so grateful to know that I am not alone!

    • Sara there is no 1-to-1 relationship with gifting. Even “like” items are never the same. If you knitted a scarf, is it more or less valuable that the one purchased from a high-end department store? Does a gift lose less value if it was bought on sale?

      You do not have to give something to be “equal” to another. Give from the heart.

  • Megan C says:

    Really enjoyed this post. It had some great tips!

    We went through a 10 month period of unemployment 3 years ago and it has changed my outlook on life as well as Christmas gift-giving, birthday gift giving and more.
    I now enjoy making gifts for people and spending my time to create something with love. Sometimes I feel like my gifts are not as good as the ones relatives buy for our family because although it takes significant time to make gifts, I didn’t spend as much as they did. I keep reminding myself that gift giving doesn’t have to be “equal” in terms of money spent.

  • MM says:

    Also, as the siblings doing well, we hate to be invited out to dinner and then get stuck with the check. Lets go out for our brothers birthday shouldn’t mean that the tab gets run up with drinks and apps and we get stuck with it. It’s ok to say we would like to go out but we can’t swing it, then we offer, pick the place and you order modestly. We don’t drink and understand others do, but when there are 20 top shelf drinks on our tab, it gets old…Also, we generally get a hotel when we visit so we aren’t a burden, please don’t visit us and charge things to our room. Lastly, please don’t give us detailed wish lists with expensive presents you and your kids have to have. We aren’t living extravagant lives and it is awkward when we are asked to buy more expensive presents than our kids get. We understand your lives are tough and we want to help but we can’t subsidize everyone, we can’t take you on our vacations and buy you the big TV you want.

    • Amy says:

      It seems to me that you are describing a very different scenario than the one in the post. I’m sorry you have these troubles with your family – sounds very frustrating! I don’t believe this authors asking for much from her family, other than a simpler Christmas.

      • MM says:

        I get what the author is saying, she sounds like a great, simple person, but there are plenty of families out there who have made peace with a member of the family doing very well and they decide they are entitled to a part of it. There is another side to it, the rest of the “poor” family that wants the 5 star treatment.

        • Patti says:

          I understand where MM is coming from. My in-laws have always asked us to buy them expensive gifts even though we have a $35 limit on gifts (with names drawn so it is only one gift each). My fil would ask for, say, a down winter coat or my mil would ask for something she has seen that obviously was over $35. Or even worse… they ask for impossible to find gifts because they haven’t been able to find them when they’ve looked… such as black crew neck t -shirts in size 2 XL …. which I finally found after an extensive internet search at Ralph Lauren where they were $50 a pop. And my brother in law who loves to come in throwing $50 gift cards to his nieces and nephews so they think he is the “fun uncle”. The “rules of exchange” were established to not put THEM on the spot because they couldn’t afford to spend more. We actually can afford more but we are saving our money for future retirement and college expenses…and would rather not spend it on our “poor” relations who just blow every dime they ever have. I don’t think that is the circumstance of the anonymous post writer and I want her to know that… but there is another side to the story.

  • Ann says:

    Any way to forward this on to all of our family without them knowing it was us who sent it (and require that they read it)?
    🙂

    Maybe instead of feeling bad that we don’t have as high paying jobs as our family or friends we can feel good about the decisions that we’re making to value people more than money 🙂 That’s what I try to remind myself 😉

    • Guest says:

      Hopefully this wasn’t what you meant to say but you seem to imply that people who have high paying jobs value money over people. My husband and I both have high paying jobs and our family is still our number one priority along with giving to others. Valuing people and having high paying jobs aren’t mutually exclusive.

      • Amy R says:

        I totally agree…My husband and I would probably be considered the “wealthy” ones in our family. Many of the comments on this post make me feel like that’s a bad thing. I am a stay-at-home mom. My husband has a great job that pays well while still allowing him the flexibility to be a youth pastor and an awesome ever-present dad. This post (or maybe just the comments that follow) almost makes me feel like I should have some level of guilt over having something my brothers and sisters don’t. Our priority is raising our children to be generous and loving. We started that while we were still in the “have-not” category. We didn’t wait until we became “haves”.

        Having money does not make me insensitive, uncaring, or unloving.

        • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says:

          I’m sorry that the comments make you feel that way. 🙁 I can’t speak (or write) for the commenters, but my intention in the post was merely to help those who have more see how certain scenarios can come across to those with fewer financial resources.

          There are many ways my family and friends and church family have been great blessings, but those stories just didn’t fit with the topic of the article. 🙂

  • Kate says:

    I loved the post – though I didn’t agree with the title “less fortunate”.

    My family is in a very similar situation and although we are in a different financial place than others in our extended family, we do not view ourselves as less fortunate. Because we chose to have more children than the others in our family we need to budget very carefully, plan ahead, and give to others in our own way – yet we feel we are more fortunate from the joy our kids bring to us vs. less fortunate because of the size of our bank account.

    • Becky says:

      Thank you! God has laid on our hearts to give to another family this Christmas. Its going to be a hard year for them & we want to give BC we live them and they would do the same for us if we were in the same situation. We are not giving out of pity but out of love and friendship to our friends!!!!

    • Crystal says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. That was the title the author gave her post so I went ahead and used it. I waffled over what would be best and finally just went with what she chose.

      But I really appreciate your input and perspective!

    • jennifer says:

      I also didn’t care for the “less fortunate” in the headline. Less fortunate is a state of mind.
      My living room recliners are currently held together with duct tape and my husband I drive 15 year old cars. We don’t consider ourselves less fortunate than someone with brand new furniture and cars. We’re happy that we’re funneling money into our retirement accounts and don’t have credit card debt or car payments.

    • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says:

      I was going for the “wealthy” or “affluent” definition of “fortunate,” but I too am thankful to be debt-free and consider myself quite blessed in many, many ways! Thanks for your input! 🙂

  • jennifer says:

    WoW! A stay – at – home MOM? You my dear, are far more richer!! what i wouldnt have given to have had that when my kids were young!!

    • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says:

      My hubby and I are trying to make choices now that we won’t regret later on. We’re thankful that God provides to allow us to make that choice!

  • Guest says:

    I can really relate to feeling overwhelmed when people spend lots of money on you for Christmas and you aren’t able or willing to return the favor. I also can relate to having family out give for my own children. It’s really been hard knowing that extended family can provided more for my children than I can. I’m not saying I can’t afford a Christmas for them, but we provide what we feel is a nice Christmas and realistic, but we have family who go in debt and even overboard to provide gifts. It’s quite awkward.

  • Ashley W says:

    Thanks for sharing, this was an excellent read and I can’t wait for the rest. We’ve experienced some of this recently. Not the huge income disparity, but we have essentially gone on a spending freeze to get our savings account built up before we have more kids. My husband doesn’t make a lot and there isn’t a lot of room for income growth with his current job so it’s hard work to save up any money. Basically we’re only paying bills and buying food (and even that minimally). We’ve had some strange, and even rude comments and it makes for awkward situations when our friends or family want to go out to eat and we say no. Thankfully most of family is understanding!

    • Cynthia says:

      Several years ago, I heard my brother discribe my family saying : “They are the poorer ones, but they are the happy ones”. We are not poor, but I chose to stay home to raise our (now adult) children. We retire in 2 years and will be comfortable. Because of my choices, I made gifts, which my neices still talk about. And I am the one who was able to drop everything to be there for my siblings and mom for emergencies. I think what I have given in my time and talent and love have been more valuable than any gift cast by the wayside after the holidays. Take heart. Things of real value don’t always cost much money.

  • Mrs. B says:

    i so relate to this post.. we are a one-income family and just recently bought our first home..
    while the income hasn’t increased, our expenses has greatly increased, and still on our 6th month as homeowners, i am struggling to change lifestyles and habits that we could no longer afford.. christmas spending included.. we have 3 kids and are the only kids in my husband’s family and needless to say, are being showered with expensive gifts by my in-laws..my MIL especially.. but she doesnt take anything from me lightly.. i have spoken up before about our disagreements with how i want to raise our kids and they usually end up badly.. this is also one of my struggles with her as she always gives the most expensive gifts.. she usually asks my kids, and altho sometimes, they are asking for ridiculously expensive toys or gadgets, expect them under the tree come Christmas time, and my husband always have this feeling that we are not enough parents for not giving in to their whims, even during christmastime.. it is just so against my principle on how to raise my kids.. it is a dilemma and i hope she will be able to read this article and understand where i am coming from..

    • Tracy says:

      If you love your children and don’t give in to all their whims you are being an awesome parent. You are helping to prepare your children for the real world where they won’t get their way everytime.

      I went to a private college due to many scholarships I received it was cheaper than pubilc colllege. It amazed me how many of my classmates came close to having breakdowns because professors and staff told them no the were not entitled to somthing because they hadn’t earned it. Some even would say do you know who my parents are. It was a very rude awakening to them.

    • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says:

      I do hope you’re able to share it with your mother-in-law In fact, that’s why I wrote it, so readers with whom it resonated could share it with others to help them understand. While I wrote it from the perspective I had a couple years ago, when things were much tighter than they are now, we still philosophically have a problem with all the over-the-top extravagance that’s normative in our society.

      Personally, we were showered with so many gifts as kids and really didn’t appreciate them. I’ve succeeded so far in keeping my kids from coming up with “wish lists,” but one did tell the mall Santa that he wanted a present with his name written in green crayon on the package. 🙂

  • Brandy says:

    I am so grateful to hear from someone else who understands the difficulty.

    Not all families are kind. I have learned very recently what it is like to have family members who feel put out when you make them a nice meal when they come to visit. They don’t appreciate the meal and are resentful that we didn’t go to a restaurant with them (even though they went out to eat at all of the other meals without us). You are blessed to have a family who allows you to make a meal for them without them taking offense.

    I also understand the difficulty of conversations. I have had that same one at church. Interestingly, my husband has not had that same experience with the husbands of those same people. I think women more than men talk about the trips, the details of what expensive foods they like to buy, what restaurants they like to eat at, and what trips they like to take.

    The children of these same families tend to talk like their mothers, which has been thought-provoking for me (I wonder what I say in front of my own children!) My children have been dealing with a myriad of families who all have season passes to Disneyland (and Disneyland is the next state over!). The children take constant trips; some twice a month. My own children have never taken a vacation.

    I will disagree about the words “We can’t afford it” in the way that others have posted. Some of us really cannot afford things, including very real needs. When we say that we cannot afford to do something, it is simply that–we do not have the funds.

  • also anonymous says:

    Oh, Anonymous, bless you for writing this. YES!!!

    This resonates so completely with me, and I laughed out loud at the formica comment. This summer I was so excited because I found this product that would fill the burn hole in my formica countertop and while it doesn’t look great, it looks better. Oh, and I scrubbed my really old cupboards with murphy oil soap, and they look so much better!

    But this is hard to share when people are remodeling kitchens that I would LOVE TO HAVE!

    • Eva says:

      LOL I felt the same way. We have an old fixer upper farmhouse and my siblings all just built brand new homes. I was just excited about new plumbing and sinks.

    • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says:

      I’m glad you understood my point–it’s not that people can’t share that they’ve had remodeling done or gone on trips–it’s just that if everyone but you has that in common, the conversation will naturally isolate you. I just think most people “on the other side of the Formica countertops” wouldn’t realize how they came across unless someone told them. Someone like me, anonymously! 😉 I hope you can get up the nerve to share this article with them! 😉

  • Jennifer says:

    That was a touching and lovely post. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Katie says:

    We too have found ourselves in a funky spot these past four years. My husband lost his job, we lost the house, and so it goes. Husband went back school. I clean houses and with our second son having severe food allergies 5 of the big 8, he is with me at work. This also is a strain on the budget not just doctors visits , but food. So, for now, we are just getting by. Thankfully we have an amazing family to support us emotionally and yes, some times financially. Thank the Lord for buy sell trade sights, Christmas would not be the same without them. And my mother with her awesome self always offers to match me on the kids one big gift. Or she asks what the kids really want/ need then ships it to our house via SANTA. She gets to spoil her grankids and we don’t have to put our burden our kids. SO THANKFUL!

  • AL says:

    Oh, my GOODNESS I want to meet the author of this post. My situation is very similar. (Including the pastor’s wife part!) My kids will see the disparity between themselves and their cousins for the rest of their lives, and that’s the most challenging part for me: I don’t want them to feel “poor”, or worse, resent the church for our lower income. I always phrase it as “everyone makes different choices with their lives and their money, and we are not choosing the same things they are.” We almost always cook for the extended family at holidays, and everyone seems to enjoy that. Fortunately, I often am able to give “normal” presents by shopping the online deals after Thanksgiving.

    • L says:

      My daughter has a friend who jokingly (not so jokingly) admits that she doesn’t wear any of her shirts twice. I am so saddened by that. Not only because it’s so unimaginably wasteful but also what are parents teaching their children to be when they are adults?

    • Louise says:

      I was raised in the ministry and we got our clothes from mission barrels and yard sales, mostly. But we had fun… I’ve observed friends who have maybe 2-3 times what we had… or more, and they don’t seem any happier. It’s just the culture we live in. On a happy note, less money means a motivation for creativity! ;o) One thing I’ve learned in having a lower income, you can pray for what you need/want and when it shows up for free or super cheap, it makes you smile and know God’s thinking of you. Hehe. I hope that encourages your heart!

    • Anne says:

      I am going to remember how you phrase how everyone makes different choices with their money for when our daughter gets older. My husband and I are more cautious with our money than his family members and I stay home. My salary paid for those extras we go without now or scrimp and save for. But we are making the choice to save for retirement and for me to be home with our child and her future siblings. We are fortunate and these are our choices.

    • also anonymous says:

      I love the way you phrase this!!

      As my kids have gotten older, I’ve said, “there will always be people with more, and there will always be people with less.”

    • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says:

      Hi! I would love to meet you, too! 🙂 If you have a blog, please post a link and I’ll come visit!

  • Kristina says:

    I was going to share this post, and then I realized that the people who would read on Facebook are the exact people who treat my husband and me like this, but they do it specifically TO make us feel bad, and below them. I so love this post though, it reminds me to be gracious with my own giving, especially with people who are less fortunate, including charitable giving. I have to remember that even the homeless man down the street has pride, and doesn’t want to feel like he’s less of a person because he has less money. Even though that’s not how you meant it, that’s how I took it. Thanks for the perspective!

    • Jen says:

      LOL I had the same thought regarding FB and sharing it there. Sometimes being anonymous is a good thing.

    • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says:

      I’m so sorry that people would do that on purpose. I like to think most people honestly don’t realize how they come across. I hope I’m right and that this post will help some of them to be a greater blessing to others this holiday season. 🙂

  • Maggie says:

    What a great post! This is true for someone every year, regardless of income and it needs to be pointed out. The “haves” generally mean well, but don’t understand some of the emotional ramifications that they create for others. ~ Kudos!

  • Ellen says:

    loved reading this and can’t wait for part 2. Thank you for sharing, and congratulations on making the most of some difficult situations with poise and grace. We are learning from you!

  • Lindsay says:

    This was a great post. I was a single mom when my daughter was 3 until 10 and money was very tight. Because she was the only grandchild on BOTH sides (including 2 extra sets of step grandparents on her dad’s side) she got much more than I could provide. I was able to take it as an opportunity to focus my gift buying for her on experiences like art class or swim lessons and allow most of the other family members gifts fill up the space under the tree. She focused more on the item than who bought it anyway. Most toys were only short lived but I got to enjoy watching her use the experience gifts for much longer. Her favorite & most used gift from me was a basket full of baby clothes from Goodwill that she used to dress up her stuffed animals. 🙂

    • maggie says:

      That is great you allowed other people to spoil her! I’m not understanding these other folks who feel like because they are the parent, they have to give the biggest/ best/ most expensive gift! My SIL loves to give gifts to my kids and I let her. I don’t feel like I have to be in competition with her. On the other hand, she is in a different stage of mothering, her kids are grown. My are preschool and elementary age.

  • Sarah Jean says:

    I so appreciate it when people are just honest about things. I really need to have a couple of heart to hearts with some family members.:)

    There are things we have genuinely needed/ wanted in the past for Christmas- my son asked for a bag of Cheetos and I really needed a bag of sugar and some socks. It sounded so absurd that we were completely ignored and given ridiculously extravagant gifts . . . it was a quiet friend who picked up on those wishes and she slipped those items to me after she went grocery shopping one day.

    We need to listen to people, if we really want to ease their burdens.

    • Suzanne says:

      I also laughed reading this comment! I’ve had the same experience. I’ve asked for very needed items that probably seemed silly, but we really needed them! And of course, we received things that were ridiculously extravagant…which I returned and exchanged for what we needed. Yes, I took back Christmas gifts. It’s wonderful to get expensive gifts, but sometimes you have to survive!

      • Jennifer B. says:

        I think once you have the gift, it is yours to do with as you please (after a proper thanks to the giver), whether it is to regift it, return it, donate it, or whatever!

        My MIL actually returned a pair of Reebok sneakers we gave her one year (she needed better shoes for all the walking she does). That didn’t bother me at all. What bothered me is she insisted on sending us back the cash difference in what we paid and what she spent for a different thing!

  • Carol says:

    I can’t thank you enough for this article. It is well spoken. I just wish everyone would read it to really see the other point of view. Thank you again for reaching so many with your article.

  • Emily says:

    Oh, right?! We are exactly there, only we are also made to feel bad that we cannot or “won’t” contribute what everyone else can. During our most recent holiday together, my family travel to us. To show my appreciation that we didn’t pay for travel expenses, I bought, provided or cooked 7 meals for up to 13 people, but it wasn’t enough to satisfy the masses. We felt so stupid to be invited along to a very expensive dinner and have to order soup when everyone else got fancy entrees. It’s the last time we will ever put ourselves in that position again. Better luck to others!!

    • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says:

      I’m so sorry that you experienced that! I left out the anecdote about the $100 gift exchange in which my hubby and I chose not to participate. (Since we don’t spend that much on each other, it just didn’t seem to make sense, but the gift-exchange time that year was extremely awkward for us!)

      I also had friends (when I was single) suggest we all go a restaurant I knew I couldn’t afford. When I mentioned that, one actually asked if I could just come and order water! I have to assume he had no clue how unkind that came across–which is why I wrote this post, to help people who’ve never been there understand.

      Kudos to you for cooking that many meals. I hope you are richly blessed this holiday season and have some fantastic memories–whether they include soup or not! 🙂

  • Jen says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I can relate.

  • Eva says:

    Thank you for that, I was raised in the same way and am the avg. one now and I feel inadequate plenty. It’s always nice to be reminded that there are lots of us and I think she handles all that amazingly.

  • Amanda says:

    I appreciate this post, and I’ve found myself in a very similar situation with my husband’s family! I am EXTREMELY blessed, though.

    Without having grown up in that sort of income bracket, I was shocked at first that my “formica counter” stories were so quaint and laughable to my in-laws, but relationships are like anything else: it’s a learning curve that requires a LOT of grace on both sides.

    In time, I’ve seen the signs they are trying to relate to our place in life, (can you believe my MIL just recommended Dollar General Market to me?) while I try to learn and understand more about the finer things they enjoy sharing — food, wine, travel, decor… I might not know much about antiques or high fashion, but I think they enjoy teaching me all about it when I ask questions! Hey, it’s fascinating! And who knows that we might someday find ourselves mingling in the “finer things club” and come to need just such information!

    And the gifts are always humbling. We know we could just never afford to buy them anything they couldn’t go out and get themselves if they wanted. So we rely on photo gifts. Even the cheesiest mug is treated like fine china if there’s pictures of the grandkids on it for them to show off at the office. I also sew and craft, and even if those handmade gifts never see use in real life, I feel like they are still very appreciative of thought and time put into a gift. Next year, I have a plan to make a wish book from Pinterest projects and let them order their handmade gifts from our house. I think it could be fun!

    And, we’re just always going to be out-given when it comes to our kids. On BOTH sides. It was frustrating at first, but I look back to my own childhood and realize it was often true for my parents, and I NEVER EVEN NOTICED UNTIL NOW!!! It will be okay, because a grandparent will still never quite be able to match the level of LOVE and thoughtfulness that a parent can when it comes to the whole Christmas morning experience… Even though the handmade dollhouse my grandma put together for me comes REALLY close. 😉

    Sorry so long, but just wanted to say that sometimes, it CAN get better over time! Even if the budget doesn’t change!

    • Guest says:

      What a lovely attitude you have, Amanda! Maybe the “outgiving” is God’s provision.

    • Jill says:

      Agreed, your attitude is much better than the author’s! We are definitely considered the cheaper ones of the family, but we just laugh about it and learn from each other. Grandparents will always spoil their grandbabies, I just let them and appreciate their gifts!

    • Christine says:

      Lovely post. I especially love your idea of the Pinterest Wishbook! It’s a brilliant idea, I hope you don’t mind me using it as well…if I can figure out the whole Pinterest thing first…lol.

  • Katie says:

    I love this post. Funny how I just had a get together with a group of ladies I’ve known since childhood. They were all talking about what they got their kids for Christmas. Each of them easily spent $500 on each kid (!!). Here I am commenting that I got my 1 year old a Lego Duplo set and my oldest a Wii game. ($15 each). To me the gifts are just not that important. I would feel horrible, literally stomach turning, if I spend that much on something that will last a short while. I did feel horrible at the time. Felt like I was really less fortunate and my kids were too. But then I thought about the important things. I’m the only Stay at home parent (all others have both parents that work) and I’m the only one who owns my own home. Actually my husband makes more money than any of them. But in that minute, I sure did feel like the broke one. If they want to spend $500 on their child, that’s fine with me. But it’s just not my priority. My priority is the Lord and my family. (And I love a home cooked meal better than going to a restaurant any day)

  • This post so resonates with me! We’ve totally been there. It’s been worse with church friends, actually, because many are very affluent.

  • jennifer says:

    This was interesting to me because my parents are wealthy and we are very much in the middle, middle class. They are able to give our son more expensive gifts than my husband and I can but they are older than we are, which makes a difference, (duh) and they had careers in much more lucrative industries than my husband and I do currently. Plus, when I was my son’s age, their parents were the ones with bigger incomes.

  • Christy says:

    My husband and I are laughing so hard because the sides of our countertops are currently masking taped on. We get this post 100%!

    • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says:

      I’m glad I’m not alone, Christy! (I’m guessing your countertops aren’t granite, then? lol) Unfortunately, I think some people who completely misunderstood my point may be the ones that could really benefit from understanding a different perspective. Oh, well.

      • Jen says:

        I was just thinking this while reading through the comments. I think some of this just cannot be understood unless you’ve truly been there! Like the other day when a group of moms was discussing which cruise line is the best and which destination they should go to next, and I’m sitting there like hmmm I wonder if there’s enough change in the bottom of my purse to get a gallon of milk on the way home.
        I’m not ungrateful. I love my life, love my family, wouldn’t trade it for anything. I am learning a lot through being in the financial situation we are currently in. It’s just hard sometimes when others don’t “get it”.

  • Kathleen says:

    I just want to say that I am so feeling your journey… God has always met our needs, and we in turn try to help others… it hasn’t always been easy to be around either my hubby’s or my birth families… as they have a different perspective on what are ‘needs’.

    Thankfully our children have learned that it’s ok to be green at Christmas, giving hand made gifts from recycled items, wrapped in the Sunday Funnies… we are now at a point that we do NOT need to do that, but I love and appreciate ANY gift that is given with love and thought. *U* K

  • Katey says:

    I love the content and the tone of this post! Well done and helpful!

  • cherie says:

    This is a good post 🙂

    I think the bottom line through this and through the comments I read however is that there are all kinds of people – and those who truly mean well would be helped by a post like this but likely won’t ever read it – and there are plenty who don’t – who have no empathy and are differing levels of self-involved and materialistic – they’re not going to change – and they don’t care how it makes you feel.

    On the side of uneven gifting – I’ve been on both sides. We’ve been uber tight in our early years and we’re quite comfortable now, but always there were people with so much more than us that we couldn’t really feel in the same ball park at all. And at some point I just decided to stop worrying over it – I think it came when we started to have ‘more’ than some we exchanged gifts with – and you know what? I got what I thought was appropriate and could afford and I tried to be thoughtful of what would be useful or enjoyable for them. I gave not one iota of thought to what they might be able to give back. Then I realized that those I was worried about being too ‘poor’ a gifter to didn’t care either – it truly was the thought that counted – even if it was just a pleasant call to say thank you.

    We’re all different. We’re all at a different stage in our journey. Try to appreciate those that are trying even if they’re failing. Ignore those that are being hurtful or unkind.

    And a note to those parents worried that others are ‘outgifting’ them with their own children. First of all, your kids will never care or probably notice, at least till they’re MUCH older. And second, being a gracious recipient is an important lesson to teach them too – by not getting stressed over the barbie over the top house that showed up when you were making home sewn hand puppets. Guess what? Those puppets just got their dream home – kids don’t care about price tags.

    • Anne says:

      Thank you for your wisdom. We have a one-year old and live in a small condo. We have been feeling stressed because my in-laws are giving our daughter an expensive rocking horse for Christmas and we don’t want it because of space, our daughter’s lack of interest, and the extravagence, They are retired and my husband doesn’t think they have much money saved… just pensions and Social Security. so partially we are worried about their financial health. We also don’t want to be outgifted by them but I recently said to my husband that teaching gracious receiving is more important than how we feel about the gifts they choose.

    • Stefanie says:

      Great post. I am in kind of a similar situation, though not as extreme… brothers are doctors and lawyers, and I’m a stay at home mom with three kids whose husband is a pastor of a relatively small congregation (I volunteer all of the time I could be earning a living working with the church myself). These are very good ideas for people who have familes who are understanding, just uninformed.

  • monica says:

    Awesome. I can relate to some of these situations. This may help some realize there not alone. Thanks for sharing. Have faith. Stick to your beliefs. Christmas seems to lose meaning each year. Its very sad. I just think people aren’t genuinely happy so they have to spend money. Once you’ve found true happiness you have a different outlook on what you spend. A homemade gift means so much more. Its sad people have to feel bad for the “value”. One person can make a difference. Imagine.

  • J in VA says:

    I can identify with this post as well.

    For many years, my dh and I consciously had a much smaller gift budget that anyone on either side of the family. Both sides were over the top and, my in-laws especially, gave us things we could never and would never use. Even when asked, they never followed our suggestions and could not understand the difference between one well made shirt and 6 cheap, trendy shirts in an unfavorite color.

    Two different years, we tried to suggest that since there were no children (or latter only a couple) that we should just stop the gifts (at least for the adults) and enjoy each other’s company and a nice meal. That suggestion went over like a lead balloon. Finally, it got to the point that we were all just swapping gift cards. Our requests to have donations made to charitable groups were also ignored.

    My dh and I prayerfully pulled out of the whole gift exchange and told everyone that we were not shopping, that we were giving money to a charitable group that gives to those with nothing and did not wish gifts. Our dd was old enough to understand that when she needs something she can ask and we will provide it if appropriate.

    It has been a great relief not to participate in the commercial side of Christmas and just enjoy the reflection on the Savior.

    However, because our families chose to continue not to join us, we can’t visit on Christmas as we live far enough away that an overnight stay is needed and we are not going to be present for a gathering that involves gifts. It’s sad when gifts are chosen over relationships. All these *adults* could buy for themselves the gifts they are receiving and instead receive the gift of family fellowship.

    I don’t want to be heard as complaining or sound bitter because I am not. I just grieve the self-centeredness, the willingness to put things over people and the loss of relationship/memories for our daughter.

    My family gatherings as a child were about relationships. The small gifts were just extra.

    Something to pray over and think about……………………………………

    • Anon says:

      Something from the otherside: you are choosing to miss out on the relationship because of the gifts. I’m not judging you, I just think it’s sad that you are choosing to let the gift thing big you so much you won’t spend time with family at Christmas.

      As a family, we stopped doing a gift exchange at the Christmas party and instead we get two kids names and wishlists for a sub for Santa.

      • J in VA says:

        There is no real relationship. They don’t really care about seeing us the other 10 months a year except to whine that we can’t come at T-giving and Christmas. The primary reason is because of dh’s work schedule and his inability to have vacation this time of year. They are not pleased that he gave up his white collar job due to excessive stress and God’s leading and took on a blue collar job instead. In the past when we’ve tried to go on a week end some other time during this part of the year, everyone else “was too busy” to come by so we’ve stopped trying. We’ve invited them here but “they don’t have time.” These are retired folk and teachers with weeks off so…….

        I know that some say that the gift thing is because the wisemen brought gifts to Jesus, but mostly it is commercialism and an unnecessary stress to an already emotionally charged time fueled by media.

        Jesus never told us to celebrate his birth, with or without gifts, and if a group of adults can’t have family time without gifts, that is a big reflection of childishness. Study the history of Christmas –all this gift stuff is very recent and not something the early church fathers or apostles would have encouraged.

        That said, if all are in agreement with exchanging gifts that is a choice and something that should be pleasant not a burden.

    • Anon in MT says:

      I am saddened by your post. Why would you ask your extended family to change their ways to yours, and then be disgruntled when they didn’t. Christmas is about our Savior, but it is also about spending time with family. That is something you are taking away from your family and your daughter. Participate or don’t participate in the gift giving, but I bet your extended family sees your family as the selfish ones.

  • J in VA says:

    Another thing to think about…………………

    A woman I know recently told me she was working overtime because her two sons wanted the latest electronic gadgets that are in the $500-600 range (one for each!)

    She said that they were scaling down the holidays. How sad that a gadget is more important than time with a mom that works fulltime and further separate them when she is home.

  • TopPic says:

    This post really hit home for me. It actually made me cry. The author is a strong person to be able to be with her family given her situation and feelings. It is too hard for me to be with my family (except my mom since I have lost my job). There are no gifts for me to give my daughter this year and she understands. If you are able purchase your child even one gift, do you know how blessed you are to be able to do that.

    • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says:

      And I’m sure you’d much prefer to be given money to choose a gift for your daughter instead of having someone else giver one, wouldn’t you? I just wish people would understand how it feels so they can be a better blessing to you and others in your shoes.

      I’m praying you can enjoy some sweet time with your daughter and giver her the kinds of gifts that far outlive anything you wish you could put under the tree.

  • Karen says:

    You described me and my situation perfectly.

  • As a Preachers’ Kid, we grew up without a lot. But we didn’t know it. Our parents loved us, and took care of us, and some of my favorite meals now are the simplest things my mom mixed up with what we had on hand. (like “pizza” made on plain white toast with ketchup and garlic salt and american cheese slices.)
    One of the biggest blessings we received, was at Christmas, when the church members would “pound” us. Each family gave us a pound of some type of food. And usually a Sunday School class would go in together to buy us a ham. It was wonderful. If you have a need in your town, consider this idea. It was not as hard for someone to give food as it was to ask everyone for money. A couple of cans of soup were well appreciated by our family, and noone was embarrased that they couldn’t match the twenty-fifty-hundred dollar donation of someone else.

  • Johanna says:

    This was excellent. Thanks for sharing as I know it will be a help to many.

  • Erica O'Hara says:

    To whomever wrote this article, God bless you my dear!!!!!! We have the same situation. What beautiful and non-confrontational way to voice your feelings. I do know that my children are much better in all aspects of their lives than my nephews. They understand work, responsibility, accountability, forgiveness, caring, sympathy, empathy, the list on and on. Keep up the good work! Merry Christmas!!

  • Alayne says:

    Thank you for an excellent article – I can absolutely relate to this!

  • Ann S. says:

    It’s always interesting to me how people see these situations so differently. With my husbands family, we are the “poor” ones, yet it doesn’t bother me at all. I hear the other family members talk about their big trips, buying their newest vehicle, all the toys and things their kids get and so on. My BIL recently spent $15,000 on some old sports cards as an impulse purchase for a collection he’s working on. While I wish I had that much extra money lying around to spend like that, I know he works very hard for his money. I see their huge house, expensive vehicles, and nice stuff, but I’m content with my small home, old vehicles and less stuff. Someone out there will always make more money and have more stuff that us and someone will always make less and have less. Rather than comparing myself to others and feeling bad that they can afford more, I look at all the blessings I have in my life. And it doesn’t bother me at all when I hear about a family members big trip to the all-inclusive Caribbean resort. I’m happy for them and then I happily share our family camping trip where we cooked all our meals at our campsite and spent our time hiking in the woods, playing in streams and enjoying beautiful nature. Our trips don’t compare at all, but we all both created happy memories and that’s all that matters. And if someone wants to look down on me because my financial status is not as high, then it’s their problem, not mine. But I also don’t mind if others want to buy more or spend more on my kids. It’s their money and they can spend it how they’d like. I make sure my kids are gracious and I teach them that when they take care of their stuff, whether given as a gift or something they purchased themselves with hard-earned money. I’m not putting anyone down who feels the same way as the poster, I’m just saying that our society seems to spend so much time comparing ourselves to others and should instead focus on ourselves. It’s amazing how freeing that can be.

    • Debbie says:

      Thank goodness! Someone who feels the way I do! I hear this kind of thing on FB all the time! People are so resentful and jealous that they can’t even rejoice when someone else has a blessing in their life.
      We don’t know how long that person has worked or saved or prayed for that blessing, so to do anything other than rejoice for them, is self centered.

      And, it seems that this author is trying to control what others can talk about or share about their own lives, so that she won’t have to be offended.

      This is a heart problem to me.

      • an says:

        Exactly. To me this is a matter of the heart. It’s time to change this culture of giving to extend beyond “special” occasions. You can change the culture by giving throughout the year. It can be something as simple as a baked good or a dollar store find. Giving throughout the year will bless you and help you change your attitude about receiving gifts. There shouldn’t be this much of a pride issue in giving or receiving gifts graciously. Your attitude is what matters to God not the gift. It’s not our place to judge the motives of the person giving us a gift. If we can’t receive material gifts graciously, what does that say about us receiving God’s gifts?

      • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says:

        I think you misread some things, but thanks for your input! The idea was that if everyone else is talking about things one person can’t afford to have or do, that person will naturally feel isolated and will not be able to meaningfully participate in the conversation.

        My husband, who comes from a very different background, was seen as “antisocial” because everyone was talking about their favorite gourmet restaurants, and he’d never been to one, so he didn’t chime in! 😉

        The idea was to inform those who would want to understand someone else’s perspective and be a blessing to them, and I hope it helps some to do just that. 🙂

        • an says:

          I disagree with the premise that a person should feel isolated. Why can’t it be seen as a cultural learning experience. My foreign born friends have very different backgrounds than I. When in groups, if they begin to speak about customs unfamiliar to me I receive it as an opportunity to learn. A person doesn’t have to travel the world to be genuinely interested in the experiences of others. Never having been to a gourmet restaurant doesn’t keep a person from learning how to cook gourmet meals. Never having attended the symphony doesn’t keep one from appreciating the music.

    • Jill says:

      Exactly!! Why let money strain relationships with the ones you love? It’s all about attitude, and I like yours!

    • Amy R says:

      Thank you…thank you…thank you!!! Having money does not make me evil or materialistic. I consider myself a funnel. God gives through me.

      I have been on both sides of this story, and to me, this original author sounds almost ungrateful. Maybe right now, in her current situation, God’s way of providing is through generous family. Why resent that?

      For years, we made very little money. I heard other friends and family speak of their financial blessing often, but not once did I feel the way this poster does. I rejoiced for them. This post makes me feel like when we see my in-laws for Christmas (who we haven’t seen in two years) that we shouldn’t share our pics from our Disneyworld trip (which was paid for all by money I earned taking surveys!!!) just because my brother-in-law may not be able to afford to take his kids.

      I think it’s all about perspective! There are blessings in every stage of life. Sometimes you just have to look a little harder to find them rather than envying the blessings of others.

  • Tawna Jones says:

    Very refreshing! As a mom of 4 little ones 7, almost 5, 3.5 and 18 months with a 5th baby due next a month, I totally get this. Love being a homeschooling mom to 2 of our kids & playmate to our other 2:)

  • Hope says:

    I grew up very poor and family get togethers were awkward, especially when my parents siblings who made more money found it difficult to relate to my parents’ situation, not to mention my cousins who would sport the newest gadgets or talk about cable television programs I didn’t know existed. This is a great posting to remind others that there are creative solutions to problems that are created by money challenges. Kudos for the article!

  • Nichole says:

    What a great post, something we all need to keep in mind year round. My husband and I were trying to establish spending quality time/going on a weekend get-away with the family instead of gifts for Christmas. We rented a lake-side condo last year (off season=affordable) and had a great time. We have a small family with 7 adults and no grand-kids yet. But this year we moved to the United Kingdom… will be here for 3 years. So instead of gifts, our family members are saving to come see us in the next 3 years and we are saving to help them with their vacation to come see us.

  • Debbie says:

    The heart of this post and other comments like this that I see on FB at times, really sadden me.

    Each of us are supposed to be content with the blessings that God has given us, in different seasons, and yet, I read people’s comments and now this post, about how others are not supposed to share their blessings (vacation, new car, etc.) because it might offend someone who has less than them.

    This is totally self centered!

    We should rejoice when others are blessed! We should truly be happy for someone else’s profitable season (unless they robbed a bank or something).

    Further more, this kind of attitude filters down to our kids and they become bitter little brats, because someone else got something that they didn’t. (My kids have witnessed these kids).

    How would you feel if God truly blessed you with something you had been praying for and then when you told someone, they chastised you or showed no joy for you at all?

    When others share their blessings, we don’t know how long they’ve waited for that trip or that car or what they sacrificed to get it. It’s really not up to us to do anything but rejoice with them.

    My intention is not to hurt this woman, but hopefully to shed light on it from a different perspective. This is a heart issue.

    • Dianne says:

      Thank you

    • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says:

      I’m sorry you took it that way. The aim was to help others who haven’t “been there” understand how to be a greater blessing to family members or friends who are less financially well-off. I hope this post helps even just one person to be more considerate toward others.

      I did not say people shouldn’t talk about their blessings in front of me, just that if everyone else is talking about extravagant vacations or up-scale remodels, I won’t be able to relate or participate meaningfully in the conversation. From the comments, I’m clearly not alone in this kind of scenario, and I hope some people will read this and think twice before unwittingly leaving others out.

      The assumption is, as I mentioned in the article, that if my family realized how certain things came across, they would do things differently. I choose to think most people don’t intentionally hurt or isolate others–including myself. 😉

      If I had wanted to hurt my family members or just “rant,” I would have used my FB page, not posted anonymously. 😉 I want to help others avoid having similar situations.

      • Melinda says:

        I for one would like to thank you for your post. I am one that will (I hope) be more considerate of others after reading your post. My husband and I are the well off ones on my side of the family; admittedly it can be hard when my siblings make comments about how much money we have. (My husband is a hard worker and works many hours [and currently two jobs]).

        Your post had (I believe) its intended effect with me. I know there have been many times I have wanted to help my sister and her family . . . because I love them. Yet I am not sure how it would be received. I don’t want either her or her husband to feel like we offer to help because we think they are not doing an adequate job caring for their family. I appreciate the ideas for how to be loving and sensitive.

  • Georgeann says:

    I think you should add: Try not to make your family member feel crazy! I can’t tell you how many times our family makes us feel like complete whack jobs! “You’re adopting more kids? Why on earth would you do that?” “You’re only eating 7 foods for a month? You’re crazy.” “You only spend $300/mo on groceries… what do you eat? Ramen and mac n cheese?!” It’s gotten to the point where we don’t even discuss many things with family or friends anymore because we feel like loons!

    • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says:

      Oh, dear! Yes, it is a good “survival mechanism” to just avoid certain topics.

    • Guest says:

      To be fair, those actions are pretty different than our typical culture. I am all for living counter cultural, however, I don’t think that it is fair to expect everyone around you to understand. It can be a catalyst for discussion (or not!)

  • April says:

    Can we all just agree to stop asking *anyone* what they got for Christmas? Most of the people in my circle all agree that Christmas isn’t about the gifts, but still the question comes. Not only does it contradict what we *say* we believe about the holiday (whether that’s the birth of Christ, being with family, helping the less fortunate, etc.) but it puts undue stress on members of our society that struggle financially (which is MANY). I love the idea of asking what your favorite part of Christmas was because I’d much rather talk about the night my family took a trolley ride to look at lights or how my daughters and I spent the day baking cookies and delivering them to friends and family. THOSE are the things I want to share, not the things I unwrapped.

    • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says:

      I couldn’t agree more! I think my kids (and most kids) enjoy the preparations and festivities for the season at least as much as opening gifts–which they sometimes enjoy more than the gifts themselves! 😉

    • Jennifer B. says:

      Thank you! That doesn’t seem to have been addressed in the comments until now. I know for us, especially when my son was younger, it was the “What did *Santa* bring you” question — even at church — that was the problem. We chose not to “do” Santa gifts and have focused on the real meaning of Christmas instead. So, imagine the reaction when the asker heard my son say “nothing.” c:

  • Veronica says:

    Thank you for sharing!
    This sounds like my actual situation. I’m SAHM dealing with economy as many people.
    But his morning, as always, I thank The Lord for my three kids, for their beautiful hearts, their healthy bodies. I give thanks for a caring husband that works hard to provided for his family of five, I’m thankful for the warm house, for the love in our family. We eat three times a day. I don’t think in things that I don’t have, or others have and I can’t afford, that’s useless. My lord has giving me enough, just what we really need, and I think we still have more than that. About Christmas, remember, Jesus is the reason if the season!
    May the love of Jesus full your hearts and bless your families.
    How could I be poor if I’m a king’s daughter!

  • Di H. says:

    The meals I totally get, but gifts and conversations I completely disagree with the author and many posters. I believe that too often our pride gets in the way. Yes that P-word! God has given us all different gifts and talents. For some it is the gift of giving. When we say things like no one is allowed to give more gifts to my kids than I do? What are you really saying? Even though God has given you the gift of giving, you love us, and can easily afford these gifts without going into debt, but it might make ME look bad, so I’m not gonna let God bless you by your giving to me. Plus we are also saying to God, you can’t use them to bless our family. Whoa! That is incredibly selfish and self-centered Perhaps we need to put our pride aside and graciously just say “thank you”. When done in love it’s not a competition. Let God reign! Let him bless you how He sees fit!
    Just because you might not go on extravagant trips there is no rule you can’t learn and see what it was like by asking questions and looking at their pics. I have relatives who have let me “see” Alaska, Spain, Greece, Germany, Thailand,South Africa and more. I will never probably see those places in my lifetime in person, but it doesn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy them and learn about them. Use these opportunities to learn about things and places you don’t know about. Why must one feel like they have to contribute or be center of attention?
    If we choose to join others and go out to eat, we pay our own bill. If someone sneakily pays our bill, we simply and graciously say “thank you”! If friends want to pass on outgrown clothes and toys, we simply and graciously say,”thank you”! If anyone loves my family and gives of their time and/or money, we don’t begrudge them for it. We are so grateful for all we are given. God uses others so often to take care of our needs and many of our wants. So we tell them “thank you” while allowing God to bless them in their giving and tell God “thank you” for using them to bless us! This is what God has taught me thru sermons and His Word and I felt it needed to be shared.

    • Kimberly says:

      I read with interest your comments about pride and the kinds and amounts of gifts. We have many times asked our family members to scale back, but it has more to do with guarding our children’s hearts… helping them see the true meaning of Christmas (Jesus) and not about all the stuff. We are a little more flexible with birthday gifts but the excessive gifting from some of our family members was more than our 700 square ft apartment (for a family of 6) could handle. We really push for experiences…. a special date or overnight with just one kid, museum or zoo memberships, or a box filled with all their favorite snacks I won’t or can’t buy on a regular basis.

      • Di H. says:

        Kimberly you have made some great points. You have brought up that sometimes it’s not the parent’s pride that is an issue but rather the kids’ pride. God has given us each the children we were meant to have and the responsibility of guarding their hearts. I feel that there are many ways in handling that rather than saying no to others /God. In addition to celebrating with family, We celebrate as our own family unit and put the emphasis on Christ’s birthday, sing Happy Birthday to Him with bday cake and all, we hang out as a family doing special fun things like baking, crafts, etc. Doing an advent that puts the focus on God all month long. Santa is not celebrated. I feel that using Santa makes kids think they deserve the gifts when in fact gifts should be what they are defined as: undeserved, unearned favor or kindness. That is how God’s greatest gift of salvation is given – it’s not earned. We write thank yous to the people who give the gifts so kids do not take them for granted or feel a sense of entitlement. I want them to be grateful to the giver for the gifts as we are thankful to God for His gifts!
        I understand about small spaces we are in same boat as we are in 600 Sq ft rental for 4 people but we are happy cuz we know we are where God wants us at this time. I agree with you in that I too offer suggestions of “experiences” and those are awesome gifts! Donation towards ballet classes, zoo or museum memberships have been wonderful gifts!
        No matter how tight things get, we found there are always people who have less than we do and whether we take the excess of what we have been given or buy something as simple as coloring books and crayons from dollar store so another family can have gifts for Christmas, I want my kids to be a part in the giving as well to also help keep them from becoming “me-centered”. I let them help make the cookies and wrap the gifts for others. Allow them opportunities to give and serve others.

  • cwaltz says:

    I guess it’s all in how you define “less fortunate.”

    Quite frankly, I would tend to consider myself fortunate if I had family that tried to help fill in the gaps because I was unable to purchase things that my family might want or need. And Lord only knows there were times when my household was surviving on a wing and a prayer.

    Then again, I tend to define my fortune by people who care for me then by income levels or who has what.

    I understand that material things can make people maudling. However, they’re just that. Instead of looking at someone as “outdoing” you, you might consider they are trying to help. A good portion of people who have the means may have at one time struggled and may just want to do something nice now that they can afford to. So I would caution that some of the holiday shouldn’t be about how it makes YOU feel (when people give or talk about things)but how it might make the other person feel as well. Sometimes it’s important to be a grateful recipient and remember that the feelings of the person giving matter too.

    • Laura says:

      Such a wonderfully written post! I am a writer and can appreciate the humor in the sentence about the Formica. We, too, are struggling financially and Christmas seems to resonate that fact. To those who were offended at this post, in this society, where “things” matter, it is very hard to enter a conversation about renovations or vacations without feeling snubbed. I have experienced small wealth and now I am experiencing the other side of the coin. This too shall pass, and when it does, I will have obtained knowledge on how to help others in need, because if you have never been there, you truly cannot know.

      • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says:

        Thank you for getting” my Formica comment! 😉

        I grew up on “the other side” and now understand some things I never realized probably hurt or offended others.

  • Jennifer says:

    I think this sums up the situation…”While my own struggle with contentment is something I need to put in perspective, I’m pretty sure my family would do some things differently if they understood.”
    I think we have to own our own situation and bloom where you are planted. Like us, they chose to have more than one kid and be a SAHM with a husband that makes a modest wage…because of that you have to make the best of it or change the situation. Unless her family is being rude or degrading…then it’s her issue and her responsibility to share with them the changes she needs made to the holiday routine. I think it’s great that her family is understanding and caring and cheerfully and lovingly tweak their traditions and habits to accommodate all the families in for the holidays. Many families would not. It sounds like she has more of an issue with her situation than they do though. It sounds like when she simply shares her thoughts and her situation…they are understanding. It’s tough to make yourself vulnerable though.
    If it were me, I don’t think though that others should have to stop talking about their trip to Paris, but bring the pics along for me to enjoy too. I think though that my other family should take interest in the funny quips my toddler has shared or the highlights of my husband’s ministry. I have family in college and yet I don’t have to be in college to enjoy the conversation. I have family that travel the world for their job but I don’t have to be the same to enjoy the convo. I give her credit for indentifying an area that she is grappling with and I credit her for being honest with family and saying, “Hey, we can’t afford 2 meals out but we’d love to serve in other ways.” Her family would have to know that a country church pastor is not going to make the same money as others in the family, but they aren’t going to say, “Hey I bet you guys can’t afford dinner out” and risk offending them. I know that it would be very uncomfortable to ask a family member if they could swing something. I’d wait for them to initiate so I don’ hurt them.
    For us, while Christmas is going to be slimmer this year, I am not hurt by others gifts but instead I am glad that while I can’t provide the big ticket gifts, my kids will feel the blessing of others that love them. Kids don’t care who provides the gifts…they just enjoy them and want them! It sounds like they’ve worked out some great compromises though.

    • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says:

      I really appreciate your insightful comment and perspective. I guess I should have been clearer in saying that when everyone else is discussing their extravagant vacations, etc., it can be isolating for someone who couldn’t afford to take one this year. I just think a lot of people don’t even think about it and unwittingly leave others out, sometimes.

      As far as gifts go, I do understand your point. However, let me give you another example. A few years ago, my hubby was asked to work some overtime around Christmas, and he didn’t tell me, but he used the extra money to buy me something I really wanted but figured I’d never have–a Keurig! (It costs far more than we typically spend on one another or our children.) He was planning to surprise me with it for my birthday, the week after Christmas.

      However, an extended family member (with whom I wasn’t even close, at the time) gave me one for Christmas–and it was a nicer model than the one he had saved up to buy for me! As you can imagine, the wind was kind of out of his sails. I guess for some people, gift-giving is part of their love language, and it does end up tied to people and emotions, etc.

      Thanks for “listening.” 😉

      • Tracie says:

        I would have happily brought one keurig back and with the credit purchased kcups for a year! Win win…that was so thoughtful of both of them!

  • Nicole Duval says:

    Wow, I completely identify with this! As a single mom, my daughter always receives more presents from grandparents and family than I can give her. I normally can give one or two present and some stocking stuffers, but this year I can only afford one due to my christmas money I put aside all year, went to a major last minute car repair. I can afford to go out to eat once or twice a month with her , and always have water with a meal and a coupon! I see friends posting on Facebook about all the trips they go on, and the last one I went to was a small road trip. Sometimes I hide those posts-hahaha.Glad I am not teh only one who feels this way!

  • CarrieM says:

    It didn’t sound like she was unhappy for her relatives successes. I thought she just wanted to have something in common to speak to them about, which is my situation also. I disagree with less fortunate. Maybe less affluent. I don’t mind getting expensive gifts knowing I can’t reciprocate monetarily. Prayers and support are wonderful gifts you can give them. So are photo and handmade/meaningful gifts. Definitely don’t like when people focus on what they got for Christmas, but that’s just how they do Christmas, and sometimes it’s not for a bad reason. They want to bless their kids and each other.

    • cwaltz says:

      I think a lot of this is going to depend on perspective. It sounds like the poster has a really nice and generous family that doesn’t spend a lot of time worrying about the cost of things because they can easily afford items. It’s easier for the OP to understand the price of items because with her budget cost does matter. Their perspectives are different, not necessarily their values IMO. Still I do get that its sometimes hard to let go of the idea that income brackets don’t need to define who we are necessarily in a society that is often centered on money.

      I’m going to admit to being a tiny bit jealous of the OP. I grew up in a dysfunctional household where I was pretty much all I could rely on(and I can count on two hands the number of times my kids once they came into the world even got so much as a phone call from “family” on important days like Christmas or their birthdays). So I think it’s pretty wonderful that her family tries to take her feelings into consideration and that they try to share and make time for each other.

      My perspective is definitely colored by my experience.

  • Cathy G says:

    Great post!! It is such a refresher to realize other people deal with the same things. Sometimes it is a matter of choices, yet other times it is simply out of our control.

  • Kimberly says:

    I am rather surprised to find this post on MSM. Generally speaking, I think the readership here is more like the author and less like the rich family members referenced in the post, so it is kind of like preaching to the choir. This post comes off as a little short on grace (which is usually here on MSM in abundance) and rather defensive. It would have been better to have more practical suggestions and less “poor me, why do you treat me like a heel?”

    • Crystal says:

      The followup post today is from the opposite perspective and I think you’ll appreciate it. 🙂 We have a very diverse audience here, so I thought it’d be great to have both sides of the coin shared.

      Thanks for your input. And my apologies if it seemed lacking in grace… I don’t believe that was the author’s intent at all.

      • Kimberly says:

        Great! I will look forward to the next post in the series. 🙂 I have such great respect for the way you manage MSM and how gentleness, generosity, and kindness oozes from the pages here.

        • Crystal says:

          Thank you so much for your sweet encouragement! It’s a learning process… and I often make mistakes. But I’m grateful that gentleness, generosity, and kindness are what you are feeling here as that is so very much my heart. {hugs!}

        • Crystal says:

          I just was editing the guest post for today and realized that I misspoke above. It’s from a different perspective, but not necessarily the opposite perspective. However, I think it will be really helpful to people — especially those who want to bless someone who is in a rough season but don’t know exactly how to do so.

          {Just wanted to clarify that since I hadn’t read the post in drafts since it had been submitted and should have re-read it before I told you what I thought I’d remembered it was about! I need to learn to stop relying upon my faulty memory!}

  • Ashley says:

    Thank you for this!
    I take the route that many commenters have taken in regards to others giving big gifts. My mom is buying the “large” gift for my son this year. I was telling her that his brother was getting a larger gift- a scooter (just an example of how Christmas gifts are small at our home too). I didn’t want my older son to feel that he was only getting smaller gifts. She is having us bring his LeapPad home to open on Christmas morning, even though she won’t be here to see him. She was happy to know he would be pleased and she didn’t even need to see him open it! It warmed my heart.
    I had to remind myself the other day that I am VERY happy with our choices and the position we are in. When I hear of the gifts my in-laws are getting their children, I first feel a little mean that we are choosing (we could afford more) to not give my children a million things. I then remind myself that next month, they will literally not remember what they got. I have had a huge shift in thinking in the last year as I think about what I want my sons to remember about Christmas, Santa and Jesus.
    My sister-in-law recently got a new SUV which leaves me the only one who doesn’t have a nice, spacious car. I was pretty sad. BUT, here’s the kicker, WE are the only ones who have savings and money in the bank. My SIL who works full-time and has a seemingly lavish lifestyle- she did not have money for a recent $5 swimming pool entry. They are living way outside their means and it is so, so sad.
    We have more than enough and a nice home. I don’t think the comparisons ever stop, no matter how much you have, because I know what drives my in-laws is “keeping up with the neighbors”. I am learning to embrace this stay-at-home income life for the true gifts and blessings it brings to our family. That is worth much more than money.

  • Heather D. says:

    “I’ll try to be excited for you when you tell me about your home renovation or trip to Bermuda, but I just won’t have much to contribute to the conversation. I don’t want you to feel like you can’t share your exciting news with me, but please realize that if everyone else is spending a lot of time talking about things I don’t have or can’t do, I’m going to feel left out.”

    This was one part I didn’t agree with and makes the OP sound resentful. Vacations, home remodeling, etc. are the stuff of their lives. You don’t have to compare to be in the conversation. “Bermuda sounds amazing! What was your favorite part of the trip?” would be an appropriate reaction. When people ask you about your summer plans, you could talk about the fun camping trip you have planned, or the story-telling festival the kids really love. Sitting their silent and brooding confirms to them that you are POOR. Not financially poor, but poor in spirit. You have obviously chosen your life. Let them see that your kids aren’t poor unfortunates, but kids with loving, involved parents and a wealth of experiences money can’t buy.

    • Allison says:

      I agree! Participate in their conversations, don’t poo-poo everything that doesn’t directly connect to your life. That is what family and friendship is all about.

  • Deanna Morris says:

    I wasn’t sure if the FB page would get to the writer of this brave post, so posted my comments both places. Sorry if it’s redundant. It was a good post. I guess I look at it more like……”This is our life, sorry we aren’t in a position to more, feel free to do what you would like.” I do understand that it was “her family” and I’m amazed she could be so open with them without huge hurt feelings, that’s great. But tell the kids that not everyone has “money” to spend/blow. God is taking care of ALL your needs. HE brings people, family….into your life for help and support and life lessons. Maybe have them think of someone that they could wrap something back up to give to someone in your church that might not be as blessed as they are. If we are trying to teach our children about the TRUE gift that came to earth for us, what better way. Do it anonymously if need be. That lets them see that ALL GIFTS are from God and that sometimes the gifts, money, cars, legos, clothes that someone gives us, can be passed on. We don’t have to keep them and feel responsible for not being able to “match” it. I think if someone gives something to me I may not need or think I need, I am SURE to know someone who does. Why not share my bounty with others. And as far a the meal thing, don’t feel badly. Your family should know your situation and not put you in an awkward place, but not everyone is sensitive to others, especially family it seems. So, just say proudly and maybe with a little happy laugh, that the Lord hasn’t seen fit to give us MORE than we need, so we can’t participate in that, but feel free to go out and have a great time, we will stay here. Or doing what you said works great to. It’s NOT YOU. It’s God. Don’t ever, ever, ever be ashamed at where the Lord has you in life. Hand me downs, food banks, 1991 Ford, 6 bedroom 4500 sq. ft. house, or Mercedes. I don’t know WHY God chooses to give some more and some less, but that’s for HIM to decided, and for us to accept with grace and dignity and PRIDE that we are in the Lord’s will and He knows best. Hold your head up and say thank you. Prepare the kids in advance to be thinking of someone they might could give some of the gifts to….(but make sure they don’t share that info. with the family 😉 We have been where you are, we have been richer, poorer, sicker, healthier, our Spirituality side has been tested in many ways, but THIS WAY, is small. I would take it over cancer, children dying, life time of pain any day of the week. Embrace where the Lord has you!! Grab hold of it and PRAISE HIM. Never apologize for being in the middle of God’s will. NEVER feel badly about being in the middle of God’s will. If we know that we are right where God wants us, WE SHOULD REJOICE ALL THE TIME.

  • thanks for opening your heart to us. This is beautiful. I hope it heals your heart some to share your story with us. Just know that you are not alone.

  • ARC says:

    Savings bonds are great, but I’d also suggest a college fund. Anytime they want to give more than the amount of gifts deemed reasonable by you then they can contribute to the college fund! Giving the children the ability to attend college without fear of how to pay for everything will be an investment that will return to them everyday for the rest of their lives plus continue through following generations. What other investment gives that much return?

    • Celeste says:

      I really enjoyed this article and could totally relate! A few years ago, things were really tight for us and I knew they were tight for my sister and her husband as well as for my parents, so we decided to set a $5 limit on all gifts. We had the most enjoyable Christmas that year and have decided even though we may be able to afford a little more now, to still continue the tradition. We have found that we are much more intentional about what we give, we shop earlier, we make gifts homemade and we receive less clutter. It is so much more meaningful than just picking up a gift card at the last minute.

  • Nichole says:

    I can relate to this so much it almost made me cry. This was my family for 4.5 years after my husband was laid off from his job and became a stay at home Dad to our son overnight. We were not financially prepared for this sudden loss of income which caused stress in itself, but then we had to adjust to a different lifestyle (of much much less). As a side note we were also the first in our group of friends to get married and have a child.

    We slowly lost most of our “friends” and even upset a lot of family members because we had to say no to almost invite we got. It was too cold to take the baby out, the place wasn’t kid friendly, we didn’t have a babysitter and couldn’t afford one, we needed to be home at 7 so the baby could go to sleep, etc. Bottom line was we couldn’t afford to go out to eat, we couldn’t afford to use the gas in our car to get there (saved for to/from work), etc and people just didn’t understand the financial situation we were in. At first we were so embarrassed, but eventually we had to spell out to people that things (like eating out) required planning and we couldn’t just go when we wanted. You shouldn’t have to explain to people, but sometimes you do. It was hard for us because of the sudden loss of income and I made just enough to not qualify for any type of assistance. In the end we just did without and bought what we had to (my husband and I didn’t buy new clothes, didn’t eat out, walked to the store, drank only water and saved milk for baby, etc). Thank you for sharing your story and know that you are not alone. Happy holidays!

    • April says:

      Why shouldn’t you have to explain to people? They aren’t mind readers. There’s nothing wrong with being assertive and explaining why something is difficult for them at that particular time.

  • Emily says:

    I can totally relate to this. We are the only single income family in both of our extended families and our resources are so very limited. Vacationing together generally sounds like fun, but we find our dietary and monetary restrictions make it that we can’t actually do much with the other family due to expenses. So we just won’t be doing it anymore and will choose to visit them at home instead.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Because each of my siblings and I have had times when we struggle to just put food on the table (I have a daughter who is medically fragile and has severe special needs), we have usually decided in the summer the “amount” allowed to be spent on the children. We do it early so that if someone has to spread out the buying (watching for sales) it allows for it. Also, I usually work retail and have to have all my Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving.

  • Kiya says:

    I just wanted to chime in from the kids point of view. When I was growing up my mom did not have a lot of money until I was in high school (when she paid off her student loans). My grandpa and step-grandma had a lot of money. So they would always give us a ton of Christmas presents. The presents would always be much more expensive then what my mom could buy. My mom never tired to keep up, she just would buy me maybe two or three things BUT those gifts always meant more to me. She are I are very close and she would always get me the best things. They may not have cost that much but they were the things that I really wanted. My grandparents were great but they only saw me twice a year. The gifts they gave were great but not as personal. So in my child mind, I never felt unloved or like my mom had “cheaped out” I should also note that half of the things that my grandparents bought were cloths and that was super helpful for my mom. She hardly had to buy me any clothing at all during the year.

    Now that I am grown and have two kids of my own, my grandparents still give far more expensive things then I do but I am not worried about it in the least. I know that the one toy that I bought for each child will be special to them because who knows them better then their mommy and daddy?

    BTW We did not even bother buying gifts for our kids until just this year because they don’t even notice with all of their grandparents and great-grandparents gifts. Saved us money for other things like flying down to see all of them.

    • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says:

      That is encouraging–thank you for sharing! We don’t “limit” the grandparents, and our kids have a full-to-overflowing play room. They really don’t need more “stuff,” but we do like for certain “big gifts” to come from us, as their parents. 🙂

  • Patti says:

    I am still struggling with the intentions of the author of this post. I can understand that if you are “less fortunate”, you may not be able to be a part of the holiday festivities, but you also shouldn’t expect others to change their ways and conversations just for you. If you can’t afford a meal out and can make the meal as an exchange, offer that. If it isn’t taken, then just don’t participate in the other meals. There is no reason for everyone to have to sit home because you can’t go out. And if other people are spending too much on your gifts, maybe you need to speak up. I had to do that with my mother when our child came along – I just told her that two of us couldn’t be Santa Claus. Not saying she understood, of course, but I just had to tell her the truth. She was able to adjust just like she adjusted to the fact that we couldn’t spend every Christmas Day with them. As for gifts, you can make your own or find inexpensive ones if you take the time to think about the other person. I had a friend in college from a large family and it amazed me the gifts she bought them on little or no money (say a pretty hair barrette from the dollar store for a sister with long hair, a map from a bookstore for a brother who liked adventure). She could find gifts for about 10 or so people for less than $20 and all of them were meaningful. And these were new gifts – I have shopped yard sales for years to pick up “used” gifts for little or nothing to give to people. I guess what I am saying is that while I agree it is never right to make someone with less income feel uncomfortable, it is also not right for someone with less income to make others with more income feel uncomfortable for their station in life. Just do the best you can with what you have and remember the real meaning of family and Christmas.

    • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says:

      Well, the intention was to help those who “haven’t been there” to understand a different perspective–because I think that many just don’t realize how their choices affect others without the same means. I hope that perhaps reading my post will help even one person to be a greater blessing to those within their family or group of friends this Christmas!

      I mentioned that when the stipulation of paying for a restaurant meal was removed and we were free to choose how we wanted to provide a meal, different family members chose different ways to do that. My point was just that it’s nice when people allow for choices that don’t ostracize those with less cash to spend. 🙂

  • Tanya says:

    Thank-you to the author of this post—your honesty and vulnerability are beautiful. The advice you offer is gentle and forthright at the same time. May your family continue to enjoy the truest blessings of Christmas!

    • Mama of 3--Anonymous Author says:

      Thank you, Tanya! (I guess I didn’t make myself too vulnerable, since I posted anonymously! lol) May you be blessed this Christmas, as well! 🙂

  • Olivia says:

    I loved this article. I moved to a new country 15 months ago and they don’t speak English here. I have a masters degree and have always worked and had good jobs in my life. I can’t get a job here unless I speak the new language perfectly.

    So for the first time I’m totally broke. It’s been a totally new experience to be just seen as *broke* and telling people this is not a true reflection of who you has been in vain. People look at your current reality and decide that’s you.

    On the other hand, it’s brought me so close to God and believe He knows why I’m in this period and it will pass. I’ve also learnt to solely depend on God to provide my basic needs and to fully trust Him with my life. (it’s not been easy sometimes I’m so mad coz I just want to shop and have had massive tantrums:)

    I’ve received free stuff that was in bad condition. I’ve had friends who really do think they are better than me coz I am broke at the moment. But for the first time in my life I realized what my duty is to the less ‘fortunate’ once this passes.

    And the best thing out of all this is God led me to my real talent which is writing and after I read the Bible a lot I realized God REALLY EXPECTS us to help people who are less fortunate. All the churches in the New Testament shared what they had so that no one would lack. As Nelson Mandela said poverty is something we created and something we can fix. He said helping the poor is not an act of charity but an act of justice. So yeah, it’s not nice to donate stained panties to those in need. I know I will give alot more now. Once I write a book next year:) I’m starting with a blog first…….if I had a normal job I would never even know for sure I’m a writer.

  • SandyH says:

    When I was a stay at home mom of four, this issue came up quite frequently. My brother and sister in law had no kids yet at that time, and my sister had just one. We would take a family trip in the summer as a family, for which we saved all year. We stayed in lake cabins. Every year, the rest of the family would go into town for expensive dinners, breakfast, etc and we simply could not. We took food with us ( each family was responsible for one main meal a day during our stay)and I do remember this being embarrassing sometimes but that’s just the way it was. It happened at other times during the year too, notably one Mothers Day when a restaurant was chosen that was way out of our price range. But no way was I going to give up my stay at home mom status just to live someone else’s lifestyle. Once my mom got a bit ugly about it, which floored me since up until that time I thought she was proud of my decision, despite its sacrifices. I have to be honest and say my relationship with her was altered in that moment. I KNOW I made the right decision for our family. My children are now 34, 31, 27& 23. I will be just selfish enough to say that my stay at home years were the best of my life.

  • Jessica says:

    As someone who has been on both ends of the spectrum when it comes to budgets for gifts, I’ve learned that the biblical principle of giving as I am able is so very applicable. There have been years that we have been able to bless a family in need, and surprise family members with special gifts, and years that we are a little tighter and can’t do that. Everyone should give as they feel led to give, and allow family or friends who wish to bless them, and especially their children, to do so. No guilt, no indebtedness, just joy and gratitude that we have friends and family to bless and to bless us.

  • Cate R. says:

    Lots of interesting comments and perspectives here. I don’t necessarily have a problem with the “less fortunate” term, but it is a state of mind many ways. Having a kind, close, in tact family is worth much more than any concern about gifts. My husband and I’s extended families are small, fractured and messy. I consider that unfortunate. Also, we are “poor” but a lot of it is because we’ve made life choices that value people over money. Circumstances are different for everyone. Sometimes you can have money and do what God wants at the same time, but sometimes not.

  • mary says:

    I really enjoyed your post this has been the situation in my family since my husband and I got married. We got married at nineteen and twenty years old and we were the first in my husbands family to have children. We were also the first to buy our own home and the first to graduate from college with student loan and college debt. The others didn’t understand when the holidays came around they wanted to buy gifts for everyone and for us to host holidays at our house. It was very expensive to host the holidays even when people brought food and my husband’s family consist of twenty-five people and it was difficult to feed them all let alone clean up after them. I was upset because my mother-in-law did not understanding our situation forced the holidays on us. She was tired of doing them at her house. We had to host one year with two children and a third on the way when others had no children or as many financial obligations. I became resentful that they would force us to host holidays. I also became resentful of my mother-in-law when she asked why I wasn’t in the kitchen cooking when my husband had agreed if I cleaned the whole house that he would do all the cooking. She didn’t like our arrangement. I spent over twelve years disagreeing with that women and then she let me have it. When the family was at my husband’s parent’s cottage they all went out on the boat and left me alone with her. She lectured me for over a hour and a half on what she felt I was doing wrong. I was pregnant at the time and already emotional. That time tipped me over to resenting her more. I tried to be agreeable with her but it was to much. My husband never stood up to his mother and let me be treated horribly until she past away. His younger brother couldn’t understand why she was doing these things to me and his sister thought I was a hypocrite because I tried to do something nice for her when she was ill. I still don’t get along with his family they never understood the abuse I put up from them. I had enough your not good enough from my own family I didn’t need it from my in laws. I am still married to my husband no thanks to his family they made it much more difficult than it had to be. I know some women have wonderful mother-in-laws but mine was stereotypical for your not good enough to marry my son type.

  • eliz a buf says:

    this is just beautiful, thank you for sharing your heart. it’s perfectly worded, just perfect. it’s too easy to take things personally, especially in a family situation, and especially during the holidays (any of ’em!) and you’ve laid it out with love and honesty. xoxo, buf

  • Sammi says:

    The conversation about Christmas gifts for our children reminds me of once when my kids were about ages 4 and 6. A woman (with grown children) asked me if I was ‘ready’ for Christmas yet. She said she remembered when her kids were young and it was a big deal to buy and wrap all the presents, etc. Without really thinking about it, I told her that it really isn’t hard for us. We give each child 2 gifts, plus a new book each, then a little candy in their stockings. She was so impressed! She said she wished she would have not given so many presents when her kids were young. For us, it’s not always about the money. We’ve had some good years and some tougher years financially. But we usually spend about the same amount on just those two gifts per child. And when people ask them what they got, it hasn’t been an issue. It’s just how it’s always been for them. Just a thought!

  • ChristinaH says:

    What a needed post about understanding and empathy we need to have for each other!

    I’ve been an unpaid Family Manager since 1992. That was fine until I got divorced in 2008 when my six figure lifestyle went right down the tubes like it had an anchor on it. I’m finishing my education and should be employed in a couple months gaining some much needed income soon, but we’re still on a tight budget. I’ve been blessed with kids who understand that we’re on a budget yet also have no idea that I’ve been taking money out of my retirement account. Last year we were blessed with a generous gift from our church to be able to afford a Christmas tree and many small inexpensive (not “cheap”) gifts for them. No one knows because I buy less, but when I do spend I purchase only needed quality items at 50 to 80% off new. I’m also very handy and can repair and refurbish anything to nearly new! In short I try to make it feel like we don’t go without.

    Here’s an example though of what someone’s perception of my life is even though they know I’m unemployed. Last year was also the year my newly divorced brother moved in to the finished basement downstairs. I charged him rent…rent that helped me survive another year without losing the house. The day he moved in it was clear that he expected me to take care of him, helping himself to every thing in the refrigerator and pantry, leaving the 20 fluorescent lights on all day and taking two long steamy showers every day. I freaked out and laid down the law, making him buy his own groceries, furniture and threatened a separate utility bill. The day he was moving out after a year of being there I reminded him that he still owed me the first month’s rent and an extra $500 for the damage his cat-from-hell did. That’s when he hit me with “you’re so f***ing stingy with your money”…”I KNOW you get $10,000 back from the IRS every year (I pay every year)”…”I KNOW you got money from your church (which I spent on my children and has what to do with you?)”…”I don’t know anyone who claims they’re ‘so poor’ yet can afford to live in a MANSION like this (um…I got divorced right when the housing market tanked, I owe more on my house than it’s worth and because I’ve been unemployed, I can’t get a loan to buy a new house…I’m stuck)!” So there it is…someone who has no idea what my financial situation is, yet has an expectation of sharing my imagined wealth! Needless to say we haven’t spoken since. I realize that’s more of a rant that I didn’t know I needed to off on!

  • Brenda V says:

    I would not worry about what others think, you do the best you can for your family and if that isn’t good enough for some people so be it. I have one income (disability) I buy gifts not fancy not expensive but my children and grand daughter are always happy.
    just do the best you can and do not let others bother you or make you feel less.

  • Tam Hernandez says:

    Thank you for sharing, I love the end… amen

  • Anne-Marie says:

    I enjoyed this author’s post so much, along with the follow up post and all of the comments. I’ve learned from it and, “Anonymous,” I thank you. But one thing sticks in my mind and I just have to say it — you’re not the only one who’s embarrassed about certain subjects when the family gets together to chat. My husband and I are comfortable, fairly affluent even, but I’d love to be able to fix things around the house and share that news with family and friends (like gluing the Formica counter). I am definitely not kidding. Frankly, we work such long hours and do home repairs so rarely that a project like that would never get done (wrong kind of glue, no time to run to hardware store, gotta look up how to do it online, another work deadline smacks me in the face, aw just forget it). Different strokes for different folks, I guess : )

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