Dear Amy:

We have a second marriage going on here -- my husband has four children, and I have seven.

What is the best way to handle gift spending? Should we spend half of our allotted Christmas budget on his four and the other half on my seven? Or should we spend an equal amount on each child.

Now that there are sons-in-law and daughters-in-law as well as grandchildren, should the married child's allotted amount go to the spouse as well, or should the spouse be counted as an additional child?

Is it okay to spend a lesser amount on grandchildren, or include them in a gift meant for the whole family to enjoy?

How do you feel about spending more on a child in need, such as a student or a new parent, as opposed to the child who has a good job and a comfortable situation?

None of our children has ever complained, but we still wonder if we are handling this right.

My husband and I each still have a child at home whom we normally spend a little more on.

Stumped Stepmom

Because of your large family, I vote for equality and simplicity. Spend approximately the same amount on all of your children. Consider "family gifts" for those children who have spouses and children of their own (I love the idea of gifting families with family memberships to their local museum or theater). Very young children enjoy getting a gift to unwrap on Christmas morning, and if you choose to give grandchildren additional gifts, keep them simple.

Children should be gifted equally, no matter their circumstances. If you have a needy college student on your hands and want to slip him or her an extra check or department store gift card, you should do so separately and not as a Christmas gift.

Dear Amy:

For the past seven years, I've repeatedly asked my in-laws to stop sending forwarded e-mail of a religious or political nature to my wife and me. However, I've invited all our friends and family to correspond with us on any subject -- provided they invest the time and effort composing a message of their very own instead of clicking the forward button on someone else's material.

Recently, my wife's mother forwarded religious "chain letter" e-mail to us. It included a "biblical" threat if we didn't forward it on to 10 other people. That was the last straw. I replied by explaining what I thought of the forwarded message itself, and reminded them (once again) about taking us off their forwarded e-mail list.

Instead of receiving back a simple apology, I was accused of being disrespectful and my wife was accused of abandoning her religious upbringing.

I was hoping you would publish this letter to remind folks that when someone asks you not to forward them e-mail, please show common courtesy and respect their request.

Virtually Challenged

You could have avoided this flap the way the rest of us do -- by simply sending forwarded mail right back into cyberspace by deleting it.

If you miss a personal message attached to a forwarded e-mail by deleting it, then that's too bad -- the sender may have to resend their message to you in a personal e-mail or pick up the phone.

Dear Amy:

The answer to "Worried Neighbor" about her drunken neighbors at their parties is simple.

Get a video camera to record the next neighborhood party, when the neighbors are obviously drunk. Play the video at the beginning of the next gathering. It will be hilarious. The drunks will soberly see themselves as others see them. Everybody can laugh and ridicule their behavior -- that should "sober" them up.

Been There, Done That

Though I can imagine that this method might scare someone straight, I hate the idea of humiliating someone publicly, and I would never recommend it.

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