Every year, Christmas with Sean's family is the same. We draw names, and then we buy each other gift cards. It's always Target or Best Buy or Bass Pro - not even creative gift cards. We were literally just exchanging money. It was silly. What's the point? Honestly, the $40 limit we had for each person didn't get us the expensive things we're all looking to buy, and we really don't need the money either.
This year, my sister in law and I came up with a brilliant plan - we were going to adopt a family with that money. We went through Sts. Joachim & Ann, a parish church that runs a care service that provides a food panty, housing assistance, career centers, and adopt-a-family programs - it's a great great organization. Also, I'm a HUGE fan of the fact that .96 to every dollar goes into the programs - it's a completely volunteer organization and the only operational costs are things like electricity, internet, and website fees. A family has to be at 50% below the state median income (which for Missouri is less than $24,000).
We adopted a 3 person family - a mom, dad, and daughter. We split them up so that each couple had one person (meaning $80 of fabulous gifts they couldn't otherwise afford), and Sean's parents took up the "toiletries" aspect - buying them cleaning supplies, household goods, and a large gift card to a grocery store. Sean and I did our shopping for our girl on Black Friday - meaning she got the most bang for her buck. Her list reminded me so much of myself when I was 13 - hoodies, fuzzy pajamas, fun socks, etc. It was wonderful knowing we were helping a family in need.
Here's a picture of the back of my sister-in-law's car taking everything up there - she literally filled her ENTIRE trunk and backseat. I think we did good. :D