Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

What to Do About a Bad Gift-Giver

DEAR NATALIE: We have a family member who is fairly well off, yet her gifts are so cheap -- I'm talking dollar store items. Is there any way to approach this subject? Even giving gift ideas does not help. Every holiday is always a disappointment because of this. Any suggestions? -- BAD GIFT-GIVER

DEAR BAD GIFT-GIVER: The operative word here is "gift." We live in a world where everything is at people's fingertips and if you really want something badly, save up for it and buy it. There is no way to approach this topic because it would be rude to say to her, "Hey, moneybags, why are you holding out on us with your cheap gifts?" Gift giving is an art of sorts, and some people are naturally better at it than others. (I personally love to give gifts but always put them in gift bags, because wrapping gifts is another art form, but I digress.)

Be grateful that she is thinking of you at all during the holidays. If it really drives you nuts to open up her less-than-stellar gifts, stop exchanging with her and do something together instead. Go to a nice brunch during the holidays, check out the symphony or take a walk through Phipps.

Keep in mind that the spirit of the holidays is about giving, not receiving, so next year you could ask her to make a donation to your favorite charity instead of giving you a gift you clearly don't want.

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)