I am almost weepy this morning thinking about Christmas gifting. I read that the average per person spending anticipated this year for Christmas in the U.S. is $1227. Average amount parents spend per child is $271. AVERAGE? YIKES! I heard in one report, though I can’t find the numbers right now, the large percentage of people who spend more than they’d budgeted and who use credit cards, thus going into further dept, and (this amazed me) dip into their retirement savings.
WHAT THE HELL! People are being duped into thinking that this is love. This is the spirit of Christmas. This is duty. This is fun. But is it fun to face the truth when Christmas passes? The regret sounds to me like the morning after a drunk. “What the hell did I do last night? Where is my car? How did I get home? Who is this guy laying next to me?”
When our children were coming into the world, Bernie and I could barely pay the bills. We did, but only because of the lifestyle we lived. I had a budget for the kids for Christmas. The amount I don’t recall but I do know it was not enough to buy the popular toys of the time or larger things like new bikes. It was enough to buy what I considered one large gift (I am guessing $10) and some to put things in a stocking like fruit, stickers, pencils and an ornament. There was always a book and often home-made gifts.
Today our budget continues to be small. I am embarrassed to tell my friends how much I actually spend on our children and grandchildren. They would think me cheap. This is true. They might think that I don’t love my children and grandchildren or that I have no Christmas spirit or that I am failing to do my duties or that I don’t know how to have fun. None of this is true.
There is a light in all of this. Gifting is falling away. It is part of this aging thing that comes with living on a fixed income but also from having the wisdom to see what having too much as a child does to the adult they become. It is what happens when you live long enough to hear your children relate lovingly that Grandma Zapf used to send them $10 when they were in college with a note that said, “Use this to take your friends out for pizza.” I am discovering that love isn’t something you can hold in your hand no matter what the commercials say. As for Christmas spirit, I know that it is ridiculous to think spending money has anything to do with the babe born in a stable. I am old enough, too, to think duty is something we impose on our selves based on what our culture dictates to us. I still know how to have fun, but I have stopped pretending to have fun when I am not. And, God knows, the things that I find fun have changed.
I am okay with cheap. I know that Bernie and I can do things that we could not if we fell for the buy-spend philosophy.
I am going Christmas shopping today. I have ideas for five people on my list. The other 31 (all immediate family members) cause my brain board to go blank. Another aging thing.