Once upon a time (less than one year ago, actually), in a land far away (down the street, really … but it feels like thousands of miles), Christmas descended upon our house with reckless abandon. Our kids received more packages than we could count. And that was before the extended family (that’s two sets of grandparents, 6 uncles, 8 aunts, and so far only 7 cousins, to be exact) showed up to shower them with more gifts. And, don’t forget that Santa left electric Jeeps outside … which he tells me he found on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. At Toys R Us. The only ones to be found in a 30 mile radius. On Christmas Eve. Did I mention that already? Quite the popular Christmas gifts, as it turns out. Then his elves stayed up all night assembling the “some” assembly required Jeeps in our garage. By the time Christmas morning arrived, we were exhausted, stressed, and well … over extended.
It’s not that we used credit cards to dig ourselves into debt. Although, I do know that is the reality of a large percentage of Americans year after year. (Welcome to today’s economy.) It’s just that we spent every spare penny on “stuff” of all shapes and sizes. And here’s the real kicker. I don’t even remember what we bought our kids for Christmas. Last year. In fact, my kids were just asking me the other day what they got for Christmas last year. Outside of the Jeeps, my mind is a blank slate. Clearly not worth the money we spent if the gifts had no lasting or memorable impact.
This year, we’re approaching Christmas a bit differently. We’ve made a conscious decision to minimize the plastic “stuff” under the tree this year. We’re also focusing on experiences and adventures, such as dance classes and piano lessons. Oh, and we found a beautiful piano on Craigslist for $50! Well, it was originally $250, but you do know that my husband is the world’s best negotiator, right? Giving my kids the gift of music. I didn’t think that was a phrase I’d ever utter aloud–since I have zero musical inclinations and even less rhythm.
Then, we discovered a set of brand-new golf clubs for our son, who has outgrown his. So, we’re taking his, which have *hardly* been used, and putting pink grips on them for our daughter. She will freak out. And then the whole family will have golf clubs. (Oh, happy day.) Family Golf. If that is not the makings of a (National Lampoon’s-style) family activity, I don’t know what is!
Meanwhile, our daughter is four this year, and she’s enchanted by tea parties. So, I had this bright idea to buy her a nice Bone China tea set from England. But then, she’s only four. So the chances of it getting broken are probably greater than not. I dismissed the idea rather quickly … until I was at a friend’s house for Thanksgiving. She’s packing up her family to move out-of-state, and was having a huge garage sale. I got to sneak through the garage the night before the sale and discovered all of these mismatched tea cups and saucers. Perfect, I thought! They were $1 a piece. And, if they get broken, we can easily replace them, because they don’t match each other anyhow! And yet, even though I know these are used goods … my daughter is going to think they are so fancy and special. She will feel like such a big girl to have such beautiful fare. And that, my friends, is the magic of Christmas.
That’s not to say we’re not buying our children anything new for Christmas. We are. It’s just that our bookkeeper (who may be one of the wisest women I know) just gave us our Christmas budget, which amounts to a fraction of what we’ve spent in years past. (And by a fraction, I literally mean somewhere around 1/10th.) Whereas my initial reaction was to laugh, my more mature, and thoughtfully considered reaction is to rise to that challenge. I already don’t want more “stuff,” so this should be easy, right? One-tenth of the budget is going to equal ten-times the Christmas this year. You just wait and see.