How will your holidays be affected by the economic crisis?
By Alice Bradley
Historically, my family goes a little nuts over Christmas. Actually my mom goes nuts, and the rest of us follow suit. My mother spends weeks purchasing more gifts than one person should ever purchase in her lifetime, and we all try to approximate what she’s done. Mostly we do this out of shame, because now that we’re adults, we don’t feel right, being given more than we’re giving. Unfortunately it is almost impossible to match her prodigious efforts. Anyway, we’ve wanted to cut things back for a long time, but until recently she wouldn’t hear of it, and we struggled with how we could curb the holiday spending. Gift-giving is one of my mom’s favorite pastimes; we didn’t want to begrudge her this thing that she loves. Not to mention, she gives amazing gifts. On the other hand, the ensuing guilt just didn’t seem worth it anymore.
This year, finally, we convinced her to cut back—way back. Instead of lavishing her generosity on every member of the family, she (and the rest of us) will be assigned one family member on whom she can spend her money. We agreed on a reasonable price limit, and if all goes according to plan (my mother has promised to comply, but you never know with her) we should have a much leaner, much more sensible Christmas.
It’s about time. Even beyond the current financial crisis, which has definitely affected every member of my family, our Christmas gift-giving had hurtled out of control. We all spent way too much money, often with very little clue about what people actually wanted. We spent the week before Christmas running out at the last minute to purchase just one more gift for some member of the family might feel shortchanged. It was stressful and expensive, and not the message we wanted to send Henry about the purpose of the season.
Clearly, we’re not going to be the only people cutting back this Christmas. With jobless claims at a 16-year high and and consumer confidence at an all-time low, this Christmas will be one of the leanest for most Americans. My family’s lucky: no one’s lost his or her job (yet); we all still have our homes. We’re all on financially shaky ground, but who isn’t?
I’m not happy about the economy, needless to say, but I’m really looking forward to this year’s Christmas. I think we’re going to benefit from restricting ourselves. Fewer presents means more time to hang out, argue about politics, drink frighteningly strong cocktails. We won’t be exhausted from the weeks of shopping and wrapping and planning and fighting holiday crowds. We won’t be buried under mountains of presents, but we’ll be together, and that’s pretty great.
What do you think your holidays are going to be like? Have you made any changes to your plans because of the economy?
Published November 21, 2008.
Last updated August 21, 2013.