In our defense, in making the sister-in-law do all the decorating, we do rent the car (always over $400 -- but cheaper than flying two adults and two doggies to Houston) and we drive a combined 1600+ miles to go and come back. That's two full days on the road. We don't have to clean the house to get ready for guests but Hubby usually does most of the cooking while we're there. And lately we've been helping sister-in-law do some holiday entertaining with her friends -- it's always helpful to have some willing hands to plan, create, and cleanup from a party; and frequently Hubby is the actual entertainment at the festivities. So we do our share, I think -- probably not enough, but because we all love each other very much, we wouldn't have much of Christmas if we did it separately, so it comes out in the wash (I hope).
We used to do massive gift exchanges, but supposedly we've cut down on those. Except for the last three years Hubby has felt the need to Christmas shop for during the month of December and so we spend our weekends finding gifts for the Houston crowd (sister-in-law plus a friend or two). Sister-in-law put her foot down and said she wasn't buying gifts anymore, and last year she pretty much stuck to her word but somehow we still had a bountiful gift exchange. Hubby has never, ever agreed to fewer gifts.
So this summer I've been going garage sale gift hunting with him. I'm hoping to curtail some of the last minute December gift hunting. The thing is, he likes to garage sale his way. He drives all over the city finding sales, letting me out of the car in the broiling summer heat, to paw through the junk at the sale and if I find a winner, then asking him to come "see what's here and make a bargain." I can only take about three hours of this on a hot Saturday, but for the last five Saturday's we've collected quite a little treasure trove. We have entertainment gifts, collectibles, housewares, and theme presents (and because sister-in-law will occasionally drop in on this site that's the best I can do in explanation).
The next problem, in our tiny and jammed-packed house, is to figure out where to store the gifts so I won't forget we bought them. Since I no longer have stacks and stacks of shoes, I cleaned off the shoe shelves of the junk that had accumulated there over the years and have piled-up the gifts. While I "computer" in the back room I can keep my eye on the growing stacks.
Last weekend we went to a church "rummage" sale in a neighboring state and though I didn't buy anything for gift-exchanging in Houston, I did buy up all the packs of assorted Christmas cards that had been priced at fifty cents a bag. Because I was there on the last day of the sale everything was half price. I usually buy my cards at the after Christmas sales, but after selecting five boxes of cards last year, Hubby demanded I quit "stocking up" -- though what he didn't realize is that really cool Christmas cards now come in boxes of 10 or 12 and not 25. The bags of cards I bought at the church sale had 30 to 50 cards each, with the accompanying envelopes with them. Even if I only use them for gift tags, it was a great purchase.
We have not just been buying for Christmas during our Saturday forays, but also for Hubby's new adventure and my classroom, so we're acquired a lot of books and tapes and school supplies. But mostly, we shop for that unique, impressive, and "cheap" Christmas present. I think the Houston crowd may be in for some surprises this year!