DEAR AMY: I have been dating my boyfriend for more than a year. We feel like we are very serious about each other. His older siblings and their spouses do a long-distance gift exchange each year. It originally started out at $50, but last year it increased to $100. Each person sends his/her gift requests to everyone in the group and names are pulled at random and secretly assigned by one sibling's secretary. These gifts are then purchased and sent to the respective recipient and then we Skype one another on a certain date/time and open the gifts "together." It seems foolish and materialistic to me. My boyfriend included me in his family's gift exchange plans without consulting me first. I reluctantly agreed to it. I tried asking my boyfriend to negotiate a better price point, but he said if I didn't want to participate I could back out. I have only met these family members once. Part of me wants to suggest nonprofit organizations they could donate to on my behalf, but I don't want to make any enemies. How do I walk this line?
-- Tightrope Walker
DEAR WALKER: Nothing screams "the most wonderful time of the year" quite like a "secret Santa" contest that is staffed out to an administrative assistant and followed up by a Christmasy conference call.
You and your guy could approach this as a team, so you share both the gift and the burden of gifting. List your favorite charity on your "wish list." However, please remember that $100 is not a minimum or a requirement -- it's most likely a limit on the amount spent. This is an important distinction.
I suggest you attack this by getting crafty. A tin of homemade gingerbread men decorated to look like the recipient would be a fun, thoughtful reaction to this competitive-sounding gift exchange.