Sunday, November 21, 2010

Debt the Halls

While watching TV tonight I saw the average family will spend almost $700 on Christmas this year. Personally I can't imagine. Of course, I save prizes from sweepstakes and contests through the year. I also keep an eye open at garage sales for items that would make great gifts. Sometimes you can find things that are brand new, or other times you can find things that are no longer sold that would fit in great in a collection. (My aunt is getting a few garage sale items including hand-forged alumimum, which she collects, as well as a signed, numbered, framed print of a local landmark. She will love all of these.)

When I was growing up my grandmother used to give "Care Packages" to Mom and my aunt. She'd get two boxes and put in her spare bedroom. When there was something buy one get one free, she'd buy it, and one item would go into each box. My mom and my aunt used to roll their eyes at these gifts, but after Grandma went into the nursing home, they each said how much they missed them.

So I've found that "Care Packages" are often welcome Christmas gifts, especially to people who are struggling financially. I've given a number over the years, and because I can get groceries very cheap sometimes, I can give much more value wise than if I were to go and buy something retail for my family. Not everyone appriciates these, so they aren't a gift I would give just anyone. College kids really love these. Teenagers in high school? Not so much -- with the exception of teen girls and a huge basket of make-up.

One year I watched sales, and I was able to get almost $1000 of gifts for about $50 - $100. These were good gifts, too. Things like photo books with family photos, etc.

I try to buy gifts as cheap as possible, but only if it's something that the recipient would like. I don't want to be like the lady I once saw on TV that when she went to a dinner party instead of a bottle of wine, she would take Pine-Sol becase she got it free. Even when working with not a lot of money, gifts need to be something that will be appriciated!

But I don't understand why people go into debt at the holidays. I was reading entries at a contest recently and a number said they couldn't afford for their children to "have a Christmas". Since when is money a requirement of "having Christmas"? Yes, I realize people want to give stuff to their children and people they love, but I do hate the phrases as "We can't give them Christmas" or "They won't have a Christmas." Christmas is a date on the calendar, and it's going to happen to everyone gifts or not. It's like that old joke, "Do other countries have a 4th of July?" and you expect the other person to say, "Of course not, silly, that's an American holiday," and then you reply, "Oh, so does their calendar go from July 3rd to July 5th?"

It seems that Christmas has lost not only its original focus but also it's secondary focus of family and friends and love and has become an all out buying session seeing who can get the most gifts. Some of my favorite memories include friends and gag gift exchanges at the holidays. Or how my best friend and I used to make mix tapes in the 1980s as our Christmas gifts. Very little money invested. Or the time that my best friend and I decided to make Christmas cookies. We decided to get creative and still laugh about the batch we made with Cocoa Wheats. (Don't try it!) or how we loved our peanutbutter and jelly cookies. Memories with family and friends. That's the most valuable part of Christmas.

I don't remember a thing I got one Christmas when I was little, but I remember staying up late when I was about eight years old putting together a puzzle with my dad that he got for Christmas. We were watching "Miracle on 34th Street", and what I would give to have another few minutes with my Dad. That is actually one of my favorite memories of Dad, and certainly not something that could be bought. Sure the puzzle was a Christmas gift, but it was the putting it together with him that made it special.

Personally, this year, I'm hoping for little STUFF. I'm decluttering and I can't tell you how many 30 gallon trash bags of stuff I've gotten out of the house. Not to mention the stuff we've given away or have set back for a garage sale. We don't have the room for stuff. I want junk out of the house. We don't have room for knick-knacks, etc.

My mother asked me today what I want for Christmas.

Sure I'd like a laptop and and iPod. (My current mp3 player is about 6 years old and I can no longer add anything to it because the software is no longer supported.) Other than that, I can't think of anything "stuff" wise I'd like.   Of course, those aren't in the budget, if I ever get new ones, I'll have to win them.  Well, I do need a new pair of shoes, but because of my big feet, I have to buy those myself. The pair I'm currently wearing I won in 2006 and since I don't have winter boots (not a good thing when we got about 10 feet of snow in February!), they are what I wear year-round.

I read once that people who desire experiences over things are happier people. Most of what I want is experiences. I want to return to Israel. I want to see a weekend show of a friend who's a professional magician. I want to go to Ohio and visit some friends whom I haven't seen in years. We became friends at church camp when we were in high school. I want to go on a weekend retreat with my church.

Of course, these things can't be gift wrapped and placed under the tree. Instead, I'm hoping for things that will help out with regular household expenses and allow me to put a little money back (if possible) to these things.

Obviously, with the problem with the bathroom, there's little extra money, so whatever I might receive will likely go towards paying off what we had to put on credit cards because of the bathroom.

I am still in the voting contest at and I'm asking for everyone to vote. If I win that, that will help a lot with paying off expenses. It will allow me to get my mother a recliner for Christmas (and she needs one for medical reasons). If I win, it would be a huge blessing. So if you could vote daily through Tuesday, it would be much appriciated. (My photo is the one of the guinea pigs with the fire truck.) Thank you.
Please don't go into debt for Christmas. You don't know what is around the corner. We had no idea that we'd have $1400 of bathroom expenses a couple weeks ago. What if you were to put $800 of Christmas gifts on your credit cards and find out you needed $1400 of work on your bathroom the next day? Please spend wisely, as generously as possible, but not going into debt.


  1. You said it, Jenn. Susan C., Skokie, IL

    p.s. Please take some $ for yourself and buy yourself some boots, even if they are from Payless or a thrift!

  2. Susan, believe it or not, I HATE winter clothing. I rarely wear a coat, even. Last year was the first year I wished I had a pair of boots, amazingly! :)