Our Christmas's are really lame around here. Very ungrateful sounding of me, isn't it?
You know what it is like paying the bills month to month, there isn't a whole lot left to save for Christmas. Add that to my obsession with keeping a zero balance on our credit cards doesn't leave many options for gift giving. At this point I have come to grips with the fact that Christmas isn't about gifts anyway. Isn't the purpose of Christmas to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ not sending the best cards, making the best treats, or getting the best presents. One day we will have a Christmas that looks perfect. This is just another one of those years when we dream about the things we would like to buy for each other.
This time of year is always so stressful, mostly because of the financial strain we have been in for the last several years, but in addition to that we are separated from our family - it's almost like we are being shunned. We aren't, but a couple thousand miles exist between us. It's more like exile.
I've been making an effort to be more honest and this year and had to tell my sister that my family didn't want to participate in our annual gift exchange and had to defend our position. She was a little surprised. It didn't make me happy to do it, but it was the logical thing to do. Would you like to hear our position?
In the past each child has purchased a gift for one of their cousins. I have 4 kids, 4 gifts at $7-$10 each plus shipping means that we will spend upwards of $50 on gifts that we will not see opened, from cousins who don't know each other, and we will never receive a thank you call or note saying they received it and how they liked it. We will spend another $40 plus shipping on a gift for my sibling and their spouse, that they probably won't even like. We still won't get a thank you call or note. So I can spend $100 on "stuff" that will most likely be thrown away and forgotten or I can save $100 and use it for something that I know will get used: like groceries. By exempting myself from the exchange it also means we will have even less under the tree this year, because I don't want their stuff either. I tried to explain that we are DOWNSIZING. Our family of 6 will probably be in an apartment for a year and we can't bring everything we own, and I certainly have no intention of storing anything (that costs money, too!) Whatever they give us will end up donated to Goodwill. So please just save your money and let me save mine.
I have labeled myself SCROOGE, no one did that for me. In an effort to keep things simple and economical this year we:
1) removed our family from the gift exchange, noted above.
2) will not be sending out Christmas cards. Remember we couldn't' get a decent picture which turns out to be a blessing because now I won't print cards or buy stamps for them - I'll send an e-mail.
3) I am limiting holiday baking. If I receive as much as I give I will gain 10 lbs this year, or have to throw away stuff. We don't throw food away, so I will have to eat it out of principle. What comes into the house goes back out. My husband is a little upset that I "re-gifted" the baked goods given to us. But I know he cares about his weight too, and now I have one less person to bake for. That is, if I decide to bake at all.
4) I re-gift other things too. Like Monday my son's school had a Christmas party. I realized I didn't get a gift for his teacher until 10 minutes before the party. He is in the first grade so we are still new at this. Luckily, we had just received a gift card to Starbucks (we don't drink coffee, I know they have hot chocolate) so his teacher was the new recipient of a $25 gift card - nice gift, huh?
5) I have sold some of my children's other toys. Yes, I am paying for this years Christmas by selling Christmas from the past. That is also part of the down-sizing. We don't have room for all these toys. I made $75 bucks so I am happy.
6) The grandparents all buy a gift for our kids so I know that they will have at least 3 things under the tree and some cash. My DrH has extra parents from divorces and re-marriages, which works out well for us at Christmas time.
I often think that these lean years will help us appreciate having money some day in the future. It will either do that or turn us into those people who are unable to control their desires and buy everything they see just because they can. Please let me be that latter person for just one day, it doesn't even have to be on Christmas!