Every year on Christmas morning after the presents have been opened, my family and I sit amidst what looks like an explosion of colored paper and curled ribbons—the aftermath of a gift-giving bonanza—and we say the same thing. It’s too much. Despite our pacts to avoid spending frenzies, we always seem to go overboard buying gifts. It’s hard to help because everybody knows it’s nice to give to the people we love. Even after everyone on my list has been checked off, I’ll see something else that my mom would love or another little trinket my sister would love and before I know it I’ve far exceeded my holiday spending budget.
This year might finally be different. Exceed my budget? Ha! It’s more like I will be slashing my budget in half. (Yes, less than ten days to go and still I haven’t started my shopping!) Thankfully I still have a job, but with the economy continuing on its downward track, it doesn’t seem wise to max out the credit cards and toss my head casually at succumbing to the temptation of overpriced luxuries. Instead, this will be the year I will make a little go a long way—a book with a sentimental message, a painted picture, a found object. Maybe for once we will all realize that it’s not about the money spent but the thought that went into it.
Funny that it takes the stock market plummeting and people losing their jobs for everyone to take such a step back. Poverty is all around us. On Christmas day we’ll be sitting in our homes, maybe with less than the usual amount of presents to open, but we’ll still have heat and we’ll still have food on the table. So many of our neighbors have never had more than a simple Christmas. They don’t have gift cards to spend well into the new year or clothing to exchange for something more stylish or better fitting. They’re lucky if they have a warm coat.
So this year I won’t go overboard. I’ll slash my list in half and make sure to put money into savings as usual, but I’ll also think of the less fortunate. I’ll buy a book for a soldier (http://booksforsoldiers.com/) or maybe make a sick child’s wish come true (http://www.wish.org/). I could even help buy a goat for a family. I’m not kidding! (http://www.heifer.org/).
Christmas only comes once a year. Let’s make the most of it, however much we have.