Our Cheap (and Weird) Christmas Tradition

Johnny's $1 Christmas gifts

What makes giving Christmas gifts so much fun? Is it seeing the recipients’ excited reactions when they see what you’ve gotten them? Well, when Johnny’s family members open their gifts from him, their faces definitely react. But what that reaction will be is always completely unpredictable. And that’s thanks to Johnny’s tradition of giving really (really) weird gifts.

Each year Johnny and I head to the dollar store to find a bizarre-o gift for each person in his family. The goal is to get gifts that will produce the best reaction from each person. And that means a significant amount of thought goes into each gift.

“Oooh, my older sister will think this is so creepy.”
“What is this thing?! Let’s give it to my mom.”

It’s become a fun, cheap, and, yes, odd tradition that everyone looks forward to. We also do a more legit Secret Santa gift exchange, but this way Johnny gets everyone a little something that — although only worth $1 — provides a surplus of laughter, suspense, and funny comments.

A sample of dollar store gifts

A. Glow Axe
Who: Johnny’s five-year-old niece
Why: Because what mom wouldn’t want her daughter running around with one of these?

B. Stuffed Black Bird Thing
Who: Johnny’s prim and proper older sister
Why: Because it’s pretty much everything she hates.

C. At Home Marijuana Test Kit
Who: Johnny’s brother-in-law
Why: So he can keep track of his three daughters (ages 1, 3, and 5).

Those are just a select few of the dozen gifts we’ll be giving out this year. His family’s in for a real treat! What fun traditions do you have that don’t break the Christmas piggy bank? Did we just cross too far over into weirdville for you to think of us as normal human beings?

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  • Reply Shawn L December 18, 2012 at 8:56 am

    No Christmas tradition is creepier and weirder than that Elf on the Shelf thing. If I was a kid I would have some vicious nightmares about that thing haha.

    You guys have a great tradition, I bet your family is going to have the WEIRDEST garage sale in 10 years.

    • Reply Johnny December 18, 2012 at 10:46 am

      That Elf on the Shelf craze never really passed through our area, but based on the limited info I’ve heard, I’d give it a 8/10 on the creepy scale.

      Haha. Good call on the garage sale. Whenever I get the chance to visit my siblings, I make sure to ask how they’ve enjoyed my “thoughtful” gift so that I can pretend like it offends me when they don’t have a good answer.

  • Reply Grayson @ Debt Roundup December 18, 2012 at 9:45 am

    That is awesome. I love those gifts, especially the at home drug testing kit in order to keep track of kids. Great and a cheap way to get some strange looks!

    • Reply Johnny December 18, 2012 at 10:49 am

      Can’t trust kids these days. And you definitely can’t beat a $1 gift.

  • Reply Christopher @ This that and the MBA December 18, 2012 at 9:51 am

    Hahah that is hilarious…we did this in college with our roomies…but that stopped after…hmmm maybe something to bring back out and do again…thanks…

    • Reply Johnny December 18, 2012 at 10:54 am

      This tradition actually started when I was in college when money was scarce. But instead of the dollar store, I’d go to a local thrift shop and I’d buy everyone a coffee mug. Most of them had ironic sayings on them that didn’t really apply to the recipient to ensure I stayed true to “the weirder the better” mantra.

  • Reply Pauline December 18, 2012 at 10:28 am

    Cool idea! my grandpa declared ”Saint Ice Cream Day” a few days before Christmas. He used to take all the kids out on one of the coldest and rainiest days of the year to eat ice cream to our hearts content. It was fun to hang out with all the cousins and get a sugar rush, you could be sure our parents didn’t appreciate to get their frozen accelerated kids back at the end of the day as much as we did.

    • Reply Johnny December 18, 2012 at 10:57 am

      Coolest grandpa ever! That’s such a great idea. I’m sure you’ll remember those moments forever. Those experiences are probably worth a lot more than 95% of the gifts kids get that they’ll never remember years later.

  • Reply DC @ Young Adult Money December 18, 2012 at 11:15 am

    That’s hilarious! We don’t have any weird traditions, but going to church on Christmas Eve is a “cheap” tradition because it costs us nothing.

    • Reply Johnny December 18, 2012 at 11:36 am

      Christmas Eve service is always fantastic. Free, fun, and the ultimate “reason for the season” reminder.

  • Reply Veronica @ Pelican on Money December 18, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    We don’t have such traditions, but reading your post makes me want to start one! It looks really fun, cheap, and … weird 🙂 I like it!

    • Reply Johnny December 18, 2012 at 1:16 pm

      Never a bad time to start one. The $12 or so spent is worth every single weird/funny reaction.

  • Reply Canadian Budget Binder December 18, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    Cool ideas! We have to participate in a gag gift exchange so we have to head out this week on the hunt for a couple of gifts that will cause a bit of a stir Christmas Morning! Wish us luck… Mr.CBB

    • Reply Johnny December 18, 2012 at 1:17 pm

      Channel your weirdest self and let the gifts find you. Best of luck.

  • Reply Holly@ClubThrifty December 18, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    I think this is great. It’s kind’ve like a white elephant exchange with a twist!

    • Reply Johnny December 18, 2012 at 1:36 pm

      Pretty much. Minus the trading since everything is pretty much the same level of weird. But I would be interested to see which of my siblings/parents would trade for the Marijuana testing kit.

  • Reply John S @ Frugal Rules December 18, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    This is awesome! Sadly my family really doesn’t do anything like this. I think some of my family members would take offense at getting a gag gift. I love white elephant exchanges and have done something like this but usually only in work settings.

    • Reply Johnny December 18, 2012 at 3:04 pm

      It might take a year or two for your family to get used to it. But if, and when, it becomes a routine, your family members will come after you with pitchforks if you stop doing it. Trust me.

  • Reply Johnny December 18, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    I like that your tradition drags the festivities out through the rest of the day. We always get burned out by 11am and change back into pajamas. Which is depressing.

    I really miss board games. Probably the biggest downside to moving away from fam. Where else can I get my “three-houses-on-Marvin-Gardens-comes-to-$1500…PAY-UP!!!!” fix.

  • Reply Budget and the Beach December 18, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Cute idea. It’s amazing what stuff is manufactured too. Like people sat around at a board meeting and said, “you know what gift/toy would be a GREAT idea?!?” Then it ends up at the dollar store. ha ha! It’s like the land of misfit toys. 🙂

    • Reply Joanna December 18, 2012 at 9:41 pm

      Haha, so true…all of those “misfit toys” in the dollar store were someone’s “great” idea! Well, hopefully their creators would be happy knowing we’ve still found a way to put them to use 😉

    • Reply eemusings December 22, 2012 at 12:30 am

      The land of misfit toys pretty much sums it up!

      This is an awesome tradition. We don’t have any of our own sadly…

      • Reply Joanna December 22, 2012 at 1:43 am

        Now’s never a bad time to start! 🙂

  • Reply Catherine December 19, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    haha we do something similar at our annual Christmas party with friends, they too love it.

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