Between the two sides of the families, we have 11 nieces and nephews, so at the usual $25 a pop, it adds up.
I'd appreciate anyone with experience, on either side of this situation, to chime in and help me get perspective!
In my DH's family, we only buy for one sibling + family each year. There is a rotating list. On my side we have decided to do a wine bottle decorating contest (and take home a bottle of wine) with the cousins, and my siblings go out to dinner in lieu of gifts. As far as nieces and nephews, we currently still buy for all the kids - that adds up to 8 counting both sides. I haven't given much thought to whether to continue that when they are adults, but right now not buying for most of the current adults (i.e., our sibs and cousins) brings our total down low enough that we can buy for the kids. I like giving presents, so this is OK for me. Perhaps if you want to reduce the $ outlay, you could send a book, a food gift, something like that (maybe $10 each instead of $25).
My family is HUGE, 7 siblings plus 4 fostered kids that still have a lot of contact with us and consider us part of the family so we do secret santa and if someone wants to give a gift to somebody else besides the secret santa dynamic well its on them. I get gifts for my parents, my 18 year old sister, my 25 year old brother books because he loves to read, and I get my twin sister plus her 3 kids gifts.
How old are these "adults"? If they're still in college, not yet working, then gifts are still appreciated. If they're college graduates and working, then it may be time to move to just sending cards.
An alternative would be to send everybody a $10 gift card rather than $25 gift cards. Sort of a transition from "kid- big gift" to "adult- just a card.
The fact that only some of them are "adults and off to college" implies that some of them are still under age 18, right? It also sounds like none of them are out of college yet? It can be awkward to change the gift-giving routines, and will likely cause less rivalry if you're consistent in how you give the gifts. Maybe determine an age after which you stop giving (18? 22? At college graduation?)
Of course, if your financial situation has changed since last year, it's perfectly appropriate to tell everybody "sorry, but since X happened, we can no longer afford to give gifts to all" and just buy (small) things for your kids and cards for the others. The above advice assumed you can still afford the gifts.
You could start doing a lesser amount this year to shake things up a little and start transitioning to whatever you decide. $20, if you can afford it, would save you $55 though you'd still be spending a pretty penny. Or you could send a family token gift, like a box of chocolates. Or something the family could do together like a board game (though I personally hate board games.) My great-aunt used to send special pastries from a place near her which we'd have for breakfast Christmas morning. I loved that.
I give the nieces and nephews that I see at Christmas a modest gift, usually hand made, but I don't mail anything to anyone out of town. I'm doing a family activity sort of gift this year... Their parents are all much better off financially than I am and will get them what they want.
We used to get presents for all the nieces and nephews (13) and then transitioned to drawing from a hat. We gave that up a year ago when it just turned into gift carding....
Needless to say, I was disappointed when we did send actual gifts (rather than gift cards) that the nieces and nephews never sent thank you notes. As someone who worked in stewardship....I make darn sure that my kids thank anyone that gives them a gift...no matter how small it is.
It doesn't sound like this is a financial thing, so do you enjoy doing it? Do you hear back from those you send them to? If you're enjoying it & it's not a hardship or you don't need the money for something else, why not keep doing it? You could send a little note saying something like we know you're getting older but we think of you & figure everyone can use a gift for the holidays, or something like that?
My one aunt only stopped buying for me (I'm 39) about 6-8 years ago. I'd gotten tired of trying to come up w/ something for her (don't know her well) and didn't get her something one year when she'd gotten me something. My mom was quite upset w/ me & fixed me up a container of her homemade cookies to give to my aunt so I didn't have nothing to give her. I don't think my aunt gave me anything after that & I was okay w/ it. I only have one niece that I have contact with. I don't automatically get her gifts for Xmas/birthdays so it's not an issue in my family.
I hope you figure out something you can be happy with!
We make it pretty cut and dry in our extended family - everyone buys for the kids through their senior year of highschool/age 18, then gifts stop. Years ago we used to do an adult exchange where everyone drew a name, but we stopped that when the economy tanked, and really - no one's missed it. We do a big formal dinner at a relatives house, and for the adults it's about watching the kids enjoy the presents, and spending the quality time with each other.
But OP, since your nieces/nephews are older, maybe the cutoff should be when ever they finish college - whether that's graduating, or opting not to finish their degree. At some point, all the kids in the family should expect to "graduate" to the adult gifting model of the family.
As the mother of a 19 year old, it's hard to think of her fully as an "adult." She's not financially independent, not working full time, etc.
I know that all 3 of my kids received gifts from various extended family members at the Hanukkah gathering. It looks like gifts were being distributed to the other college-aged kids (there are 8 cousins in the 17-20 year old range, plus one slightly older and a few younger ones.) I don't know exactly who gave what to whom, or if the one who was out of college and working (he's returning to school in January) got the same gifts as the others, nor if the 24yo grad student got as many gifts. The only ones to get physical gifts (and not just cash) were the little ones; the 12yo and 14yo also got cash.
It's reasonable to give gifts until age 18. Or age 22. Or " as long as you're still in school" however long or short that may be for the individual. Of course, that could get complicated if one flunks out, works for a while, then starts college as a freshman when he's a little older.
I suspect that the "gifts from all extended family members" will continue until the end of college, while gifts from Grandma will continue forever, or until there's a great-grandbaby to give to instead.