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Woman calls out SIL for cheap Secret Santa gift, family laughs, SIL is livid. AITA?

Woman calls out SIL for cheap Secret Santa gift, family laughs, SIL is livid. AITA?




I (24F) organize a secret Santa every year for my husband’s (25M) family. We set the budget at $50 with the expectation that your gift(s) should be as close to the $50 mark as possible. My grandmother (70F) lives with my husband and I and is included in holidays and special events with my in laws.

Last year, my sister-in-law (35F) drew my grandmother for the secret Santa. When we were going around handing out our gifts, my SIL handed my grandmother a small box. My grandmother opened it and inside was a gift card to one of her favorite stores.

My SIL made a joke that the card had $45 on it because the box she put it in cost her $5. She has a sarcastic/gotcha sense of humor so everyone laughed, including her. We continued opening gifts and then played games the rest of the night.

When my grandmother used the card the cashier told her she had a remaining balance of $5. The item she was buying was exactly $50. She repeatedly told the cashier there must be a mistake, that the card had $50. Then we remembered my SILs “joke”.

She had been serious. My grandmother and I kinda just rolled our eyes in frustration and I paid the $5 as my grandmother is on an extremely tight budget due to medical expenses (at the time she had just finished a round of chemo, she is cancer free now!).

She was only able to buy this item she wanted because she thought the gift card would cover it. Later that day I told my husband what had happened because the purchase put us over our spending budget for the month which we are really strict with in order to help support my grandmother (The $5 didn’t put us over our means, just our budget because it was the end of December).

He voiced he was frustrated too and would have paid the $5 if he was in my shoes so no worries on that. We didn’t mention it to anyone else or discus it after that point. It should be noted that my SIL makes a good salary and was not tight on money, so taking the price of the box off the gift card wasn’t out of necessity.

Here is where I might be the A hole. In planning this years secret Santa, I included at the end of the details “(please do not include wrapping materials into the cost of the gift, I have a big stash of them from the Christmas clearances last year and am happy to share!)”.

I honestly thought nobody would remember, but apparently most people remembered her comment and thought I was calling her out. And messaged her poking fun at her about it. She sent me an angry message saying I was an A hole for calling her cheap to the whole family. So… am I?

Edit: we never told anyone else about the gift card being $45. So unless she told someone, they were all poking fun at her for the comment she made- not the gift card balance.

Edit: everyone else who gave gift cards gave $50 gift cards as that was the spend threshold. That’s been the norm for the last 7 years we’ve been doing it. That paired with the fact that SHE laughed after she said it is why everyone assumed she was joking.

Edit: The gift card had $50 written on it, and the box was plain white cardboard. More reasons we thought she was joking.

Edit: The family votes/agrees on the budget- it was not solely my decision. This is the only gift we give for the adult family members, it isn’t on top of other gifts. My husband and I gave my grandmother the $50 so that she could participate in the exchange. And the family together sets the rules etc.

My role as the organizer is to set up the name drawing in the app, make sure everyone gets their links, and remind people to draw names & make wish lists by Thanksgiving (that’s the day the FAMILY chose, not just me). I also work out any glitches in the app or issues other people are having.

Edit: When I say budget, I mean the amount of money we PLAN to spend in a month. We included the cost of gifts into our budget. Once we hit our budget we don’t buy anything unless it is absolutely necessary until the next month.

That’s how we stay on track to reach our financial goals, and that’s why I clarified that it wasn’t above our means to spend an extra $5, just out of budget. I included this to explain why I mentioned it to my husband. I took her to the store on Dec 30th, which why our budget for the month was exhausted. I get it, it’s $5.

But it was everything else that made it a bigger deal than if she had just labeled the gift card $45 and left it at that. If that was the case, I personally wouldn’t have a problem with it and neither would my grandmother. But other family members probably would have made comments, which I assume is why SIL tried to play it off as a joke.

Here were the top rated comments from readers:


NTA. SIL played a stupid game and won a stupid prize. Who on earth includes wrapping material in the total value of the gift?


Not the A hole. Your SIL's thoughtless joke last year had real consequences for your grandmother. Setting clear guidelines this year was a reasonable way to prevent a repeat incident.


NTA. Your sister-in-law's previous gift caused genuine inconvenience, so setting clear guidelines this year was reasonable. You're not calling her cheap; you're ensuring everyone sticks to the agreed-upon budget without unexpected expenses.


SIL deserved to be called out. What a grinchy thing to do to an elderly person. NTA.


The issue is she labeled the card’s value as $50. She embarrassed your grandmother. She’s an AH for that and should apologize for the deception. You didn’t call your SIL cheap- you added an expectation to the festivities.

The fact that everyone remembered her extremely tacky announcement from last year is a consequence of her lack of class. She could have labeled the card as $45 and given the gift and shut her mouth.

Her issue with cost of the gift box is not your grandmother’s problem. She could have tucked it in a plain envelope and tied a bow on it. She didn’t have to buy a box and then proclaim it is part of the gift. She is not only cheap, she is embarrassing. NTA.

So, do you think the OP owes her SIL an apology? Did this whole thing get blown way out of proportion?

Sources: Reddit
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