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Who Do You Need to Give Holiday Gifts To?

I Have a Lot of Helpers — Where Do We Draw the Gift-Giving Line?

I'm about as far from a Scrooge as you can get during the holiday season. I'm the one humming Christmas carols while I'm preparing Thanksgiving dinner, and I can never quite wait until December to put up my decorations. There's just something about the holiday season — the brightness, the joy, the festivity, the crackle of excitement in the air — that makes me look forward to it all year long.

But each year, without fail, I struggle with one aspect of the holidays (well, besides the temptation to eat baked goods until I gain 12 pant sizes). Giving gifts to my family is a no-brainer . . . but beyond that, where do I stop? There are so many deserving people in my life and it's only appropriate to show them — during the season of giving especially — how appreciative I am. If I had my druthers, I'd be like Santa meets Oprah: "Yoooou get a present and yoooou get a present and yoooou get a present . . . everybody gets presents!"

However, according to my bank statement (and a slightly late cable TV bill), I am neither Santa nor Oprah — not by a long shot. I wash and reuse plastic baggies, for crying out loud. And when I even think about giving gifts to everyone who deserves it, my checking account is like, "Stahhhhhp it."

Some people give either holiday gifts or tips to the people that help them on a regular basis. My kids' teachers, for example, have always been high on the gifting priority list because I know how it can be to put up with my kids all day, let alone everyone else's (teachers, you are saints). This was easier when they were all in elementary school and had just one teacher apiece. Now, though, three out of four of them are old enough to switch classes and have multiple teachers. So do I give a gift to each teacher? And what about the art teacher? The gym teacher? The music teacher? The school secretaries? They are all extremely deserving of some holiday appreciation. I usually give a gift card for either a coffee shop or an office supply store, but anything less than $10 is basically useless. So even if I just gave each teacher something worth $10, that's still a $40 minimum — and that's if only the homeroom teachers get gifts. If I spend $10 on every single teacher my kids have during the day, we'd be reaching into the $150 range. And $150, during a season when budgets are stretched to the max already, is nothing to sneeze at.

Teachers are just the tip of the gift-giving iceberg, though. If you think about it, we all have tons of people who help us out on a regular basis.

Teachers are just the tip of the gift-giving iceberg, though. If you think about it, we all have tons of people who help us out on a regular basis. Mail carriers! Garbage men! Babysitters! Daycare providers! Hairstylists! Neighbors! And as much as I'd love to knock the socks off each and every one of my helpers with a phenomenal holiday handout, it just isn't feasible. If I tipped 'em all like I wanted to, I wouldn't be able to afford their services anymore.

I know that none of these people expect anything special from men — they're just doing their jobs, like the wonderful professionals they are. But I sure do wish I could give everybody something extra, because they truly are appreciated and this is the time of year to show it. I suppose the sentiment counts the most, so maybe I'll just give each of them a heartfelt, handwritten thank-you card and a plastic baggie full of cookies.

But don't worry — I'll use a fresh bag.

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