/ Parenting, Shopping

How old is too old for Christmas pressies?

Angry man with Christmas hat

There’s nothing like buying Christmas presents to cause family fallouts. My latest is about the age you stop giving gifts to the youngens. Do you stop at 18-years-old? Or do you just keep on giving indefinitely?

With a budget that’s getting ever tighter now that I have a young family, I recently asked my sister a delicate question – do I still need to buy her 18-year-old son a Christmas present? This has traditionally been the cut-off point for gifts in our family – in a way it’s a marker that you’ve become a grown up at last.

My innocent question raised her hackles as an older sibling herself – ‘why should the older child not get a gift when the younger one will continue to get gifts for several more years?’ I did gently mention that the older child had received gifts for the years before the younger one was born, but this was shrugged off.

So I’m now in the awkward situation of being unsure whether I should continue to buy the older one Christmas gifts or not. This could be one for my poor mum to rule on!

Christmas gifts for all the family

I mentioned this conversation in the Which? office and it provoked an outraged discussion of other ‘unfair’ present giving that colleagues felt had been imposed upon them.

There was a common complaint among the childless ladies and gents. They were expected to buy individual gifts for the whole of their sibling’s family, only to receive one gift in return.

I have a similar example myself. Before I had children I was expected to buy a gift each for my sister, her husband and two children; but as soon as my first child was born, my sister told me we should only buy presents for the children and not the adults!

Do you have similar situations going on in your family? How have you solved them? I often see talk of not buying Christmas gifts at all, but I don’t want to be the humbug in the family!


Honestly, have we become so mean that we resent buying a gift for our own beloved nieces and nephews? It doesn’t have to cost much, just something to show you are thinking of them.

Exactly my thoughts – The me me me Thatcher culture is alive and well on Which? No wonder I’ve stopped my subscription.

Then of course there are nieces/nephews who receive Christmas (and birthday) presents, but do not even phone or visit the person who gives them the present, not even once in any year. And these adult nieces/nephews in full time jobs, do not give a small gift back either. It’s all one sided.

As the only childless sibling I decided to stop giving birthday presents after the nephews and nieces turned 18, I had never received thank yous from them and always felt a bit unappreciated, so I gave them an extra large cheque for 18th birthday, my money,my decision. The reasoning I adopted was that I wanted a cut off point otherwise I would be a pensioner on a fixed income still giving presents to thirtysomethings with much higher income – the nephews and nieces had never bought me presents. Shortly after the whole family agreed to give £5 Christmas presents, this works very well as everyone has something to open and imagination can be exercised or things made, the parents can still buy their (now adult) children something more expensive if they want, this year most of the nephews and nieces were very proud that they spent their own money on gifts and went out to buy them themselves – it is not about the money but the thought.

TL73 says:
31 August 2013

I buy presents because I want to not because of a duty to do so. My nieces and nephew are still young but when they get older I will get them small gifts as I care about them.

Jennifer Roberts-Ben-Hamid says:
4 March 2015

We stop at 18 years old. It’s not because I don’t care its because I don’t agree with being in debt and its not about material stuff. Christmas is about forgiving and kindness and being a family together. Not about presents. I find Christmas turns my stomach now, the intention is all in the wrong place, in retailers pockets. Kids also get the wrong message too. Perhaps a day out to a spa or go karting to actual connect with our nieces and nephews or take them ice skating that’s a real Christmasey family thing to do. Build on relationships.

When they stop believing in Santa if it’s your nieces or nephews.
18 if it’s your own kids. Even that is a stretch.

They won’t care either way. I know I didnt.