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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Holiday Cheap-Sheet

I was driving after work this week, trying to warm my hands in the Land of Polar Vortex (and yes, I wear gloves). Halfway home, I fell into a traffic jam that I'm pretty sure had nothing to do with rush hour--and realized it was here. 

Christmas shopping season with all it's traffic, crowds and thousands of money-spending temptations, has descended, and there's precious little we can do about it. What I most want to know is, how do people navigate this with their kids?

I have a friend who teases me because he says Hanukkah hasn't been taken over nearly as much by merchants as Christmas has, and I know he's right. Not that I have anything against merchants - my dad was one - but overspending for two weeks a year can be a pretty scary enterprise, and I think it's reasonable to do a little less of it when we can.

My eight-day gift giving days for Hanukkah are over, but my husband and I had pretty much agreed THOSE presents would be small - puzzles, books, music - little things that didn't cost too much. Getting his parents to tone things down for Christmas was easier than I thought it would be too.

But I also remember my first year of marriage when I went crazy and bought and bought not only for my husband, but all his siblings. (Not having celebrated Christmas before, it took me a while to discover half-price books and blank CDs so I could copy music onto them).

Years ago I started a tradition of writing poems about and for friends at holiday time, but haven't done anything like that for a while. My husband told me he made about 99% of his Christmas presents (including copying music onto CDs and making compilation CDs) and I absolutely love that idea for children. Except now we all use MP3 players and need to send each other music via mobile or computer.

Other (cheap) gift ideas I like include Kindle books (though of course the recipient needs a Kindle), $10 gift cards to your favorite coffee bar and a gift of chores or foot massage for certain family members (who will remain nameless here). If you like baking cookies, I don't think anyone would mind, either. If you pair them with a card and/or a letter, your gift can look just as festive as a $400 whatever. And your kid, friend, spouse and brother in law STILL knows you're thinking of them.

I know people who take a $100 pledge with family members so they don't spend more than $100 and I like that too. I guess for me it comes down to realizing that when I budget for my bills, I don't generally want to budget $300 for Christmas shopping, because I don't have $300 to do that. And I don't want to feel bad in January when the bills come and I start to get overwhelmed.

Having made this mistake more than once, I'm determined not to go there again. But I'd love to hear your ideas on how you cut spending - or if you don't, how that works for you? (I guess if you save $30 a month just for Christmas, you can make that $300 expense account). But who does that?

If you do, let me know. Some ideas about how to keep the holidays from overwhelming you (and your kids) can be found here:

Teen opening present: Mark Taylor Cunningham