For all those tricky family members you’ve never actually met.
As the semester winds down and the holiday music in malls ramps up, Christmas shopping lists (and prices) are starting to be tallied. Besides the normal gifts (socks for grandpa, gift card for Aunt Susan, etc.), your parents have probably started to dictate some additional relatives that have suddenly appeared on your list. Great Aunt Esther, Twice-Removed Cousin Fred and your Grandma’s third ex have all RSVPed for the family Christmas grip and grin, so now you have to buy a gift for them.
The first time this happened to me, I was stumped, but never fear! By this point I’m an old pro at shopping for shirttail relatives’ gifts, and I’ve compiled some of the biggest hits in cheap gifts for those people that were added to your list last minute.
First off, a classic: your second cousin. What is a second cousin? Man, I don’t know either, but it doesn’t matter. Second cousins are the type that really don’t know you and probably don’t plan to. For that reason, a simple $15 gift card to wherever usually does the trick. If you even know their first name, you probably can determine if they’re more Starbucks or Target, but when in doubt, always go Visa.
Next up: great uncle, twice removed. Twice removed from what? No one cares. What he does care about is your gift. With this, there are two options: alcohol or cologne. Why? It’s just the rules. Usually, you can stick to a $20 or less bottle of alcohol (they’ll probably drink it at Christmas anyways), but taste may vary by family. Aren’t sure if they’re a fan of either? Visa gift card is usually a good idea, usually in the $15-$20 price point.
Another awkward one to shop for: grandma’s first ex-husband. Why is he still at family gatherings? (Maybe they’re back together???) It’s kinda sad. Anyway. First ex-husbands have several gift options, but my personal favorite is the bottle of maple syrup and IHOP gift card. Why? It reminds him of earlier times when he had a chance. Not a fan of fabulous pancakes? A Visa gift card is the way to go.
Next up: the new step-aunt. She just got married to your uncle and although you thought you knew her name (Jane? Joanne?), she’s been added to the list. For new family members, you have to play it cool. You can’t show them the true mess they’ve walked into, and for that you have two options: tickets to a baseball game (they have those everywhere, right?) or a bottle of wine. Baseball tickets show you’re really an American, and wine will get her through all of Auntie Peg’s jokes. Or, you know, a Visa gift card.
Finally, we come to the most tricky weird relative: your sister’s godmother. Why do you guys even have a godmother, you aren’t even Catholic??? Doesn’t matter though, she’s on the list. For this, I think some lovely pictures of your sister (so she knows what she signed up for) or a certificate to her goddaughter’s favorite restaurant (for when someone snaps and kills your parents) are applicable. But, if neither of those are your style, you could always go with the safe bet: the Visa gift card.