Although I am sorry to hear about your surgery... I wish I could come up with a good excuse to "pass" christmas this year!!!
Well, you DO have the control to "pass" on crazy expensive Xmas, right?
I've certainly had the conversation with family about how finances are tight, and we'd like to focus on time together, rather than a crazy, tiring, expensive shopping spree...And it's ALWAYS been greeted with some relief.
Right now, our recent excuse has been that DH's granny is essentially housebound. So she gets grumpy if everyone goes shopping, because she feels that she's not participating in kind. It allowed us to come up with the $15 gift exchange idea, and it's worked well. We've had some Xmases when we assigned a theme - FUN, MEDIA, HOME GOODS, BAKING, etc. That's worked well.
Honestly... I have NO idea how much I usually spend on Christmas. I've never cared before/ bothered to look. I'm sure it was ridiculous though. I never budgeted before this year.
So, it sounds like maybe you whipped out the credit card instead. Can you go back to last year's statements to see and estimate?
The gift exchange is a good idea, maybe I can talk my family into it this year.
I'll bet you can, if you broach it early. If you wait until Thanksgiving to have that discussion, there will be earlybirds who will object because they've not only started, they've FINISHED.
The other easy way to do it - exclude grownups (only buy for the kids, or your spouse), or draw names amongst the adults, so you just buy one gift (for $40-$50, so it's still affordable).