Q&A: Pool together for group gifts when money is tight

Q: This year, three of my siblings have lost their jobs. This makes a big difference as to what we buy all the kids, up to age 17, because the other three siblings, including my own family, will be getting together and helping those that can’t spend the money just to try to make the holidays a little more joyful. Gift suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

From the mailbag:

We bought books this year. “Small Walt,” by Elizabeth Verdick, has awesome illustrations with a story theme that being little doesn’t mean big jobs are unmanageable. “Pillowland,” by Laurie Berkner, is highly creative with beautiful colors throughout that sets the imagination into full gear. “Max and Bird,” by Ed Vere, is all about the unusual friendship between a cat and a bird, which the kids love. For the cooks on our list, we got “The Complete Slow Cooker,” by America’s Test Kitchen. I had to try out some of the recipes, and so far they’re wonderful. For the babies and toddlers in our family, we bought the Sili Mat Placemat, by siliMATs. It’s perfect for use at home or on the go. It’s anti-slip and easy to clean just by wiping it or throwing it in the dishwasher. We also picked up a bapron from BapronBaby, which is an apron we use for anything from eating to arts and crafts. It’s super soft. We also got the Chunka Buns. These are pants that grow with a child and are designed with the cloth diaper in mind. See chunkabuns.com for more details. – S. W. in New York 


Since you will be buying extra gifts, you may want to consider getting some things that can be given as a group by pooling money together. Talk to your other family members and see what they say. For example, for the teens, Fitbits are still cool but the better ones can be $60 or more. Find out what styles and levels of fitness tracking they may be interested in and if they want it to be compatible with their phones, among other things, and base the group decision on which is best.

There are also the new Wi-Fi beanies for both girls and boys that seem to be on the hot item list. And girls are going wild for the Mermaid Blankets that keep them warm and actually have a tail to stick their legs into. Hughappy has different ones to choose from and I have to say, they are amazingly soft. There’s Rival 5 Game that helps to build math skills. It’s a lot of fun for everyone in the family and very educational. Another gift idea is the My Charge Adventure Jump Start, for anyone traveling for the holidays, hiking or wherever a lightweight, portable charger might be needed. It’s powerful enough to charge almost any car, truck or motorcycle and also features a built-in LED flashlight, USB-A port for charging phones and a micro-USB recharging cable. Check it out at Best Buy.


My oldest son will be getting married in the spring. His bride-to-be doesn’t know how to cook. Food has always been an important part of our family. Should I offer to teach her how to cook some of my son’s favorite foods or do you think I should just keep quiet?

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