You'd like to organize a group gift exchange this year to save some money. But breaking the news at work or with family can take a little finesse. Pointers:
HOW TO BRING IT UP
Bonnie Russell, the mother of two grown children in Del Mar, Calif., has organized group gift exchanges with family, friends and colleagues for years. She suggests these pitches for broaching the subject:
- As a fait accompli - a done deal - "so hopefully they fall like dominoes."
- Explain it's a way to join together during "our country's time of need." This approach, said Russell, who works in media relations for a legal Web site, doesn't require that people reveal personal dilemmas, avoiding any possible embarrassment.
"Unsaid, but which they will quickly grasp, is it's a completely, economical way to save a ton of money, time and stress," she said.
OTHERS IN THE SAME BOAT
You may anticipate resistance to gift exchanges where none will rise to haunt you.
Elizabeth Castro of Chicago said her extended family and her husband's family are converting to Secret Santa with a $50 limit and: "Guess what? No one is complaining about it."
Everybody had a story on how the economy was hitting them, she said. Some in the family were worried about 401(k)s. Some about not being able to sell a condo. Still others about surviving in retirement.
"We're all thinking very differently about money but when somebody suggested let's spend less, we all said sure."
TAKE A PAGE FROM TOM SAWYER
Families up against it budget wise seem to have a built-in "kid clause" that allows for the usual onslaught of gifts for little people, so try a little Tom Sawyer and his fence if you'd like to trim costs on kid gifts as well.
Karren Jeske of Milwaukee, Wis., said the kids in her extended family saw how much fun the grown-ups were having running around a mall buying for their Secret Santa exchange that they wanted to join in, too.
"Now they just receive gifts from one person like the adults," she said. "It's a blast."
PERCEPTION IS EVERYTHING
If you want to organize a gift exchange, especially if you are the boss at work, give everyone a say.
Megan Slabinski, executive director of the specialized staffing firm The Creative Group in Menlo Park, Calif., said employees should be invited to participate in how gift exchanges will work.
"Ideas are best received when employees have had a chance to weigh in," Slabinski said. "Most professionals understand that corporate belt-tightening is happening, so toned-down holiday festivities aren't apt to come as a huge surprise. The problem comes when professionals feel they haven't been included in the decision-making process."
TRY CHARITABLE GIVING
Renee Junewicz of New York City has been exchanging gifts of $25 in value with members of her book club for years, but she wanted to shift to a group donation for a care package benefiting a soldier this holiday season.
She felt "it might be good for all of us to do something a bit more altruistic than years past. It might raise all of our spirits. I had anticipated having to justify my suggestion."
Junewicz was surprised. When she brought up pooling money to buy something through Treatsfortroops.com, her 10 fellow readers jumped at the chance without the need for her to mount a soapbox.
"Somehow, I think we all feel that we will honestly know that our gift is appreciated," she said. "Not that I didn't love that scarf with the multicolored sequins."
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