Monday, November 17, 2008

Christmas Does Not Have To Mean Overspending

The Holidays are upon us once again; the advertisements on TV went from political to Christmas shopping in a heartbeat. Thanksgiving is next week and just a scant few weeks after will be the Big Day itself.
To many, the Christmas Season is not the joyous time that we would like it to be. I'm not talking about the seasonal depression that many get (although that could be included here, I guess). I mean that folks tend to concentrate too much on the gift-giving aspect of the holiday rather than enjoying the season for what it is.
Yes, we all know that, although Jesus was not born on Christmas (more than likely He was born in the springtime), it is the day that most Christians celebrate His birth only because that's the way it's been for close to 1700 years, since the mid-300's. And the way we celebrate it today is a somewhat successful blending of religious and secular festivities.
Yes, this blending angers folks on both sides of the issue. The secularists and Pagans want Christ totally out of the picture, while the Christian purists look to blot out all aspects of non-Christianity in the celebration.
Where I stand, as a Christian, is, well, kind of on both sides of the issue. It is true that the Christians took over the solstice celebrations of long ago, with its greenery, singing, and merriment-making, and turned it into a Christian celebration which, at one point in many areas was a very solemn occasion. Of course, the merriment would continue to sneak in until the puritans had all but wiped out the celebration that we all know. It was the 1822 poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas" by Clement C. Moore, and especially the early Victorians, such as Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" that brought Christmas back in full force. And it was at this time that the Christmas Carols of old ("The First Nowell," "Deck The Halls," and "Here We Come A-Wassailing" for example) became popular once again.
And, as the 1800's turned into the 1900's, the holiday and celebrations grew.
Of course, now it's as big as ever, and the stores and society in general have come to depend on people spending their paychecks and racking up credit card bills in gift purchases: $300, $400, and even $500 or more per child or per family member is not unheard of.
But, I have to say, in my family it's not like that. First off, we spend just over a hundred bucks per child (maybe $125), as well as that amount on each other. So, for my wife and our four children we spend no more than $800 total. Throw in the the name exchange (about $20 to no more than $25 per person), plus the Christmas Tree and we're still under a thousand bucks.
You may say to me, "I could never buy what my kids want for Christmas for $125!"
One Christmas, about 13 years ago, I changed jobs in the fall and took a pay cut to do so. Because of this, money was at an all-time low, and my wife and I, who previously would spend the large amount of cash on our kids, could not do it that year. So, we bought our children the two or three things each that we knew they would be happy with. Come Christmas morning, they were every bit as excited as if they received five times as many gifts! Honest to God! But, how we opened the presents helped here as well: one present at a time. Child "A" opens his and we all watch and enjoy what he received. Then it's child "B's" turn to do the same, and so on and so on. This way, everyone was able to see what everyone else got and get excited with them. This also made the gift opening ceremony last longer and increased the anticipation.
Let me tell you - it WORKS!!! And we continue in this manner to this day.
And, just so you know, we have not used credit cards to purchase Christmas gifts since the 1990's. Yep - everything is paid by cash or debit (no credit cards at all!). We put the amount we plan to spend aside when we receive our income tax refund in the spring and do not touch it til late October, when we're ready to begin the shopping.
And, if you really want to get more bang for your buck, shop on line. We do most of ours' that way and have been able to buy more for less. Check out - they're my favorite place to shop.
No malls or Kmarts...ahhhh....
Give this a try, if only once, and see if I am right.

Now, there is much more to the Christmas celebration than opening of gifts. In an upcoming blog, I will update one I wrote last year on how to get the most out of your Christmas celebrations at minimal costs.

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