My Christmas Project #9 Gifts for Out-of-Town Friends and Family

My life was so simple. Then I married Roger.

You see, my whole family lives within  a two hour drive of my home. We get together for holidays and exchange gifts like the Norman Rockwell painting says we are supposed to do.

Then I had to marry a southern boy.

When Roger was looking for his first grown-up job, as a senior at Purdue University, he told God his requirements. “God, I will go anywhere except California.” Yeah. That’s a good idea. Tell God what you won’t do.

So twenty-five years ago Roger got a job in Cupertino with HP and he has been a California boy ever since.

The only problem is that he left a whole family who all live in Georgia, and who all celebrate Christmas.  And somehow, each year I forget that their gifts require an extra step or two.

So today, your project is to get your plan together for any out of town gifts. There are three approaches you can take:

  1. Order all your gifts online and have them shipped from the company.
  2. Buy gifts and ship them out from home.
  3. Make sure you’ve married a local boy or stop talking to out of state relatives and friends.

Let me know what approach you subscribe to, as well as any tips you have for gift giving for out of towners. I would love some fresh thoughts about what to do for my mother-in-law.

Later in the projects, my daughter, Kimberly, will be sharing all of her mailing tips for getting those gifts to Grandmother’s house.


  1. Magazine subscriptions!

  2. My in-laws are only an hour away. My parents are 2. My brother is 3 (OH). My sister is 10 (NYC).

    We alternate holidays to accommodate distances between us as well as distances on the in-law’s sides. (My sister-in-law’s parents live 3 hours from them.) This year we had “Thanksmas”, a cramming-together period of time (this time 5 days) of Thanksgiving AND Christmas. It will be May before my whole family is together again. (We all converge at my brother’s house for Memorial Day weekend.) Next year we’ll gather at Christmas and not see each other during Thanksgiving.

    My brother and I just load up our four-wheel sleighs and haul presents. My sister, who flies in for these trips, has need to ship. If she shops in NYC, she’ll send Mom a package with instructions to not open it. She’ll wrap them when she gets there. If she orders online, same thing: delivered to Ma.

    Most times we draw names and exchange gifts on my side of the family. We didn’t do it this year, and said gifts for kids only. My husband’s side doesn’t do presents except for the grandkids. Makes buying easier.

    My boys’ dad lives in Ohio. His parents live in Arkansas. This is his year to have Christmas with the boys, which means “Santa” comes a week early to our house. So, other than presents for the boys and our annual Christmas open house, we’re done. It’s different, but the hustle and bustle is all done for this year.

    I’m going to keep putting together and working on the Christmas project though so that I’m in a good place for next year. This is incredibly fun!!

  3. We live 14 hours away from our closest relatives. I do all my shopping online (got some great cyber-Monday deals) and have it shipped to my mom’s house in Georgia. She puts it all in our room at her house and I wrap it all once we arrive. Since we fly, it is very difficult to take anything with us, so this works best.

  4. In June, I wrapped and hand delivered gifts during a visit to my inlaws in Iowa. I’m wrapping and mailing a few last minute or additional items this week and mailing them in flat-rate USPS boxes. I’m even mailing my family’s gifts to Georgia, because we can’t take wrapped presents on the plane. If I can fit everything into the flat rate box, it takes care of everything. We rotate between families at Christmas, but with a growing toddler. I’m wondering how much sense that makes in the future. We may schedule family visits at other times of the year.

  5. I buy and ship but I am now leaning toward ordering online and let them do the shipping, because for whatever reason — I am clueless — I deeply dislike the post office. Weird, I know.

  6. On my husband’s side there are 5 siblings. We often go in together on a gift for their mom. Something big like a patio heater. We draw names for eachother and our kids draw names for eachother too. That way you only each have to buy one gift. My husband and I have 2 kids so our family buys 4 gifts. We all send hints via email to Grandma and she knows who everyone has so she sends those hints to those people. We have a price of $20 for kid gifts and $50 for adult gifts. I’m an only child so I buy something for my parents. An Apple TV was our gift to them last year. I never know what to get my Grandpa who is 92 so most of the time I just tag on to whatever my parents get him and send them money. I do a lot of online ordering! My preferred mode of shopping! I decided I want to be home for Christmas morning. First time ever! So this year we are visiting my parents the day after Christmas instead. I think it will be nice. We rotate Thanksgiving and Christmas. We went to my husband’s mom’s house for Thanksgiving this year. Then next year we’ll visit my parents at Thanksgiving and see her at Christmas time-day after again. Normally the kids would arrive home after visits during Christmas time to see that Santa had been to our house while we were away. Not easy for him to do I might add! We also have The Elf on the Shelf, ours is named Fizzy. He works very hard every day to get a new spot to watch the kids and they have fun finding him. Their cousins have an elf too named Magic. I hear he is mischeivious and does tricks but ours is good. If he stays in the same spot for 2 days we know that he had a very good spot in which to see the kids behaviour. :-)

  7. I love the internet for shopping for out of town/state relatives. Some brick and mortar retailers will ship for you, too. If I see something in a store I want to send, I check to see if the store will ship it or if they have the item available online. I have my relatives’ addresses in my smart phone.

    When my in-laws were still with us we would give them “food of the month” gifts. Harry & David, Pepperidge Farms, etc. have monthly gifts. You pay once and they send a box every month, every other month or every 3 months. We picked the frequency that fit our budget. A variety pack of canned soups was the favorite.

  8. We are on a LIMITED budget, so for our long distance relatives, we buy on Amazon and ship (FREE!) because we are Amazon prime members. I can’t afford to buy gifts and pay an additional $10+ to ship each box. Amazon prime (I sound like a commercial!) is awesome for us. We can buy kitchen gadgets, magazine subscriptions, baby toys, video games, etc for each particular family member, and ship it directly to them. I do not pay for gift wrapping (am I cheap? I prefer “wise”! :) so we tell them that when the box arrives, put it under the tree to open at their leisure—there’s no gift wrapping inside. (Saves an additional $4-$5 per gift. I’d rather that go to the gift than to disposable packaging.)

  9. I do all of those things with the added benefit of a written down deadline.

    Especially if I am making handcrafted goodness…I have got to have an end time…I even go so far as to schedule the due dates and mail by dates on my calendar so i can see them every single day.

    for far away family…gift cards. OR if you know what you want to get and you are friendly with one of their close friends, you can have them get it and wrap it locally and have them spend the savings for a little treat for themselves.

  10. Since we’re in the Marines and live in a different state every couple years, I like to send local stuff from wherever we are at the time.

  11. It’s taken a few years of training, but now my family in the UK don’t expect anything other than a phone call from us at Christmas time. We’re on a tight budget and can only get to visit them every few years. So we save our money for the trip. My family do the same so we have the funds to do things and share wonderful times together instead of exchanging ‘stuff’.

  12. I only have one out-of-town brother who gets a Christmas gift from us. I’ve gone to sending a gift card. Saves on postage and wrapping (which means I can send a larger gift amount) and he can pick out what he really wants or needs.

  13. A good gift for your mother in law would be a phone with larger keys and letters on the screen so that your mother in law won’t have to get her reading glasses out of her bag. You can order it on line from ‘senior value cell phone .com’ and ask them to deliver the phone to your mother in law’s address. The phone only costs $15 and you don’t have to go to the shops to buy a present for her.

  14. You mentioned you were asking for ideas of what to give your mother-in-law….is she one that expects or desires a physical present? Perhaps a different type of gift would better suit her. Maybe writing her a letter telling her what you appreciate about her, including special memories you have had together. It could include a praise of giving you a great husband through her labors of love in rearing a fine man! What about hiring someone to do a needed act of service for her around her house or yard; even donating a certain amount of money to a charity she holds dear may warm her heart. Sometimes gifts are way overrated, yet simple acts of love to family can be refreshing, appreciated and remembered to make Christmas extra special. May the Lord lead and guide you, Kathi!


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