Let the Holiday Grab Bag Solve All Your Family Gift-Giving Dilemmas

Let the Holiday Grab Bag Solve All Your Family Gift-Giving Dilemmas

Try this fun, cost-effective way to handle gift-giving with a large family.


By Betsy Voreacos

All families have their own holiday gift-giving traditions, which can easily spiral out of control the more people you add to the mix. When the list gets so big that you’re buying gifts for every distant cousin’s child, you might want to suggest a family grab bag. Sure, some holiday traditions can be tough to change, but hopefully your relatives will realize that your suggestion will make things easier for everyone – and they’ll thank you for years to come!

How You Can Make It Work for You
It’s fun, easy, and economical. Everyone gets a gift and everyone can participate. You just have to establish the rules in advance so that everyone is on the same page on the big day. Things to consider:

  • The budget: Pick a per-gift dollar amount or price range that works for everyone.
  • The ages of those involved: If everyone’s a teenager or older, it’s probably fine to have just one grab bag for the whole group. Otherwise, consider splitting into at least two grab bags, one for kids (with a sub-group for babies and toddlers, if necessary) and one for teens and older.
  • The rules of buying: Decide if you want make certain item off-limits, like food (in case of allergies or just picky eaters) or gift cards (come on, the whole point is to get a little creative!).
  • The rules of grabbing: How will you decide who picks a gift first? Some families prefer to go in age order (oldest to youngest or youngest to oldest) or do it randomly by picking numbers out of a hat first. Half the fun of a grab bag is seeing what everyone gets, so make sure you open gifts as a group!

More from P&G everyday: 7 Tips for Holiday Party Planning on the Cheap

Customize Your Family’s Holiday Grab Bag
Incorporating some of these fun twists can make giving and receiving even more special.

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  • Enable the “Swap Option.” When it’s time to grab a gift, you have the option of stealing a gift that has already been opened or picking a new one from the bag. And whoever grabs first gets one last pick at the end – of any gift in the group!
  • Keep it homemade. If everyone agrees, keep the gifts hand- and homemade, including “IOUs” of shared time or talents (maybe someone can help with home organization, or offer tech support) for those who might not be crafty.
  • Assign a theme. This can be as wacky or tame as you want. Make everyone’s gift start with the same letter, or be the same color, or incorporate some other shared element.

How does your clan handle gift giving among extended family members?


Betsy lives with her family a stone’s throw from New York City. An overly involved mother of three children, Betsy has always been acutely aware of her shortcomings as a parent, not to mention those of her children. She documents her life in the brutally honest Old Minivans Die Hard.

Image ©iStock.com/lorenzoantonucci


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