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Hello Ali,
I have a big holiday party every year. People know I have it. But there are some I don’t want to invite this year, and new people I do! My house is small and I can’t include everyone. How do I exclude someone who assumes she’ll be included? What if someone posts a picture on social media?  

I hear you! Your house is only so big, and your heart is obviously huge. You want to include everyone, make sure no one feels excluded, but you just can’t. One option is to have an open house. Instead of a two-or three-hour party where everyone comes all at once, you open the window for people to come and go as they please. Maybe a four-or five-hour window. Instead of providing a meal, serve only snacks or appetizers. It’s easier on you and there are no meal expectations from your guests. It also gives you a chance to actually visit with your guests because fewer are there at one time. Doing it this way allows for you to include everyone on your guest list.

Now, if you want to keep a shorter window and just limit your guests, you are certainly entitled. But there may be some hurt feelings, especially if friends have always been included, and are suddenly not. And while you can kindly ask your invited guests not to post pictures of the party on social media, there is no guarantee they will honor your request.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy holiday season filled with love. —Ali

You can email Ali at or find her on Facebook.

“You want to include everyone, make sure no one feels excluded, but you just can’t.”

Dear Ali,
My kids get a yearly holiday gift from a relative who lives far away. I can’t afford to reciprocate, but I do anyway. It feels like a burden. How do I stop them from sending gifts, so I can stop feeling like I need to send one to them?

That is so sweet that a relative you don’t see often – or at all – still thinks of you and your children. I’m sure the kids look forward to receiving this gift each year, with excitement. I’m sorry it doesn’t do the same for you. I understand that it feels more like a burden, even though you may desire to reciprocate the thoughts and feelings.

I promise you this: your loved ones do not want you to spend money on them that you do not have. Anyone who cares about you would not want you to give out of guilt.

If you cannot afford to give back to this relative, you need to be honest – first with yourself, and then with them. Talk to them and tell them money is tight. Let them know how much your kids appreciate and love getting a gift from them, but that you cannot reciprocate equally financially. See what they say. Maybe you two decide to take a couple years off the gift exchange. Maybe you agree to lower the amount spent on each gift to something comfortable for both of you. Maybe you make a gift. Have your kids paint a picture or write a poem. Won’t cost more than a stamp to send, and won’t cost anything but time and love to create. If you do that, then you won’t need to have that talk.

Respect your current financial situation. Respect yourself.

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