Don’t Buy for Everyone – Pick Names at Christmas!

Christmas presents under the tree
Since there are 11 children in my family, my mom, as I have mentioned before, found lots of ways to simplify our Christmas gift-giving process. Rather than each of us giving all 10 other kids a gift, she had us pick names out of a hat earlier in the Christmas season. That way, each of us was responsible for only one sibling gift, and each of us received a gift. Simple, fair, and square.

Clearly, this suggestion is a wee bit too late for you to implement this year. But since you’re probably going to be seeing – or at least speaking with – your extended family in a few days here, now’s a good time to think about it and perhaps suggest it for next year. 

Picking Names for Christmas Gift-Giving

Now that all 11 of us siblings have grown up and gone separate ways all around the country, the name-picking process does get a little complicated. We have learned that we have to think ahead, so whenever the bulk of the family gets together for any reason (this year, it was in September, when my parents descended from their Yooper heights to spend some time with their family in the almost-South), we make it a priority to draw names for that year’s Christmas giving. Sometimes this name-picking process occurs as early as May or June, depending on we all have plans to get together.

The process has also expanded to include in-laws as they are added to the family, although we haven’t yet figured out a good system for the cousins/grandkids. We’ve tossed around the idea of having a separate name-picking process for all the children, but so far haven’t actually done that yet.

And just to make sure that all goes smoothly, it’s my mom’s responsibility to record who has whom so that when if we should happen to forget, we can give her a call and be reminded. Not that any of us ever has to do that. Ahem.

When we were little, we had a price limit of $10, if I remember correctly. As adults, I think technically, the limit is $20, but mostly, we each just spend what we’re comfortable spending (which is typically in the $20-30 range).

Also, as adults, some of us have chosen to give each sibling a small gift, whether or not we picked their name. This is totally voluntary and not at all expected by anyone. For myself, I typically try to find a nice small gift of $5 or less to give to each sibling besides the one whose name I picked, just to show them I love ’em.

This name-picking process is ideal for anyone with a large and/or extended family. It’s also a great idea for cousins and grandkids, especially if the whole family gets together for Christmas.

Make it Fun with Added Elements!

As an extension of this idea, my mom’s family does something very creative for gift-giving at Christmas. Every Christmas, there’s a standing invitation for whoever is available to come and celebrate together at this bed and breakfast. As a group, those who attend pick a letter of the alphabet, and everyone who plans to come the following year must come bearing a gift that begins with that letter. And every Christmas evening, after a very large and satisfying potluck meal, they all have fun taking turns picking gifts from under the tree one at a time. The fun twist is that when wrapping the gift, each person is supposed to write a clue on the tag and whoever opens the gift must guess first what is inside the wrapping. It’s a lot of fun, and a great way for any extended family or group to give gifts without the expense and stress of buying for every single individual.

Go Digital

And, of course, in this digital age, there is a way to make the name-exchange process simpler and more organized. Check out, a free online service that helps you exchange names and keep track of them. It even has a way to share wish lists! I’m definitely suggesting we go with this for next year’s Christmas gift exchange!

How do you make extended family gift-giving easy?

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