How to manage the expense of holiday gift giving with a big family

Learn how to get everyone a meaningful gift this year without breaking the bank.

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The holidays are almost here, and along with the magic and general sense of merriment filling the air, the countdown to gift exchanging has begun.

If you have a big family or large group of friends you exchange gifts with, you're likely trying to figure out how you can afford to get everyone a meaningful gift this year without breaking the bank.

But you don't have to buy everyone a pricey gift to make them feel loved or appreciated during the holidays.

From secret Santa to DIY presents, there are plenty of ways to celebrate the holiday season on a budget.

1. Set a price limit on gifts

If you want to buy everyone in your family a gift, putting a limit on how much you can spend on each person will help limit the financial strain.

For instance, your family can agree to spend a maximum of $25 per person, so even if you’re buying presents for 10 people, you won’t spend more than $250.

You can also bond with your family by agreeing on the price each year, so everyone is on the same page (and talking to each other before it's time for your annual holiday gathering).

2. Secret Santa is always a good option

Secret Santa is a go-to for large groups during the holidays because it's so effective. Everyone gets a gift, no one has to spend hundreds of dollars, and you get to enjoy the fun of guessing who gave you a present.

The rules of secret Santa are simple. Each person participating will get assigned someone to give a gift to, and you'll have to guess who bought yours when you exchange presents. You can randomly assign the gifts by picking names out of a hat or use an online randomizer to make the assignments.

The only drawback of secret Santa is that you may end up giving a present to someone you don't know as well, but you can consider it a fun way to get to know a member of your family.

3. A white elephant gift exchange ensures you're only buying one present

White elephant works similarly to secret Santa, but it's even more relaxed, as you just need to buy a gift for a group pool.

Members of your family will then take turns selecting a gift from the pile when you gather for the holidays, and you can steal and swap presents throughout the exchange.

Pro tip: white elephant works best if your family members agree on a price for each present so all the gifts in the exchange are equal.

4. Create a running rotation of who to give presents to so you know what to expect each year

If you prefer a slightly more organized approach to gift exchanging, you may want to set up an annual rotation rather than playing secret Santa or white elephant.

With this system, you can create a gifting order in the style of a flow chart. Then, each year, you shift one person down, so everyone will be receiving a gift from a different member of their family until it eventually loops back around.

Everyone will still only be buying presents for one person to help you save money, but the exchange won't be random each year, ensuring you aren't constantly buying presents for one of your cousins. Your family can also agree on a price limit for the gift to make this system even more affordable.

5. DIY gifts are time intensive, but they don't have to be expensive

Another alternative to buying every member of your family a present is making everyone a gift, which doesn't have to be costly.

Some DIY projects are pricey, but you don't have to invest a lot to make something your loved ones will enjoy, such as knitting a scarf, decorating an ornament or baking a delicious holiday treat.

And if everyone agrees to do DIY gifts, you’ll be delighted by the meaningful, homemade presents you receive.

6. If your family members gift in pairs, everyone's money can go further

Instead of each individual in your family buying a present for someone, couples can buy gifts for other couples or close pairs of siblings.

With this method, you get to combine your funds with your partner, buy fewer presents overall and select something two people you love can enjoy together. Plus, you get to be creative as you think of a gift two members of your family will love, whether it be something fun for their home or a gift card to a favorite restaurant.

There can be a price limit on this method too, to ensure it's affordable.

7. Handwritten cards are a good alternative to gifts

If it would work best for your family to not spend money on presents at all this year, you can always swap handwritten cards instead.

It will take time to write every member of your family a thoughtful note, but it will leave them — and you — with a memento for years to come.

8. Choosing a theme for your gift exchange can keep costs down

In addition to being costly, gift exchanges can be overwhelming as you try to narrow down a present for each person.

But setting a theme for your family's holiday present swap can help with the price and present-selection process.

For instance, you could select a beach theme, and you can buy your loved ones things like hats, sunglasses or a tote bag. Or if your family is really into a certain sports team, you can all agree to buy gifts related to that team.

You don't have to shell out a lot of cash to fit the vibe, and it will be fun to see how different members of your family interpret the theme.

9. Share an experience instead

Rather than buying everyone presents, your family can also agree not to exchange traditional gifts and use your money to pay for an experience together instead.

Depending on your budget, you can use your money to split a family vacation, do a wintry activity together, like ice skating or even just go out for a memorable meal together.

You won't have a physical gift to take home, but the experiences you'll have with your family will be more than enough to get you in the holiday spirit.

This article was written by (Samantha Grindell) from Business Insider and was legally licensed through the DiveMarketplace by Industry Dive. Please direct all licensing questions to

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