An Old Idea is New Again

Once upon a time, in a time and place long ago, Santa never bought presents for all of the good boys and girls with plastic money.  He only used green pieces of paper with pictures and numbers on them.  When he didn’t have enough green papers, Santa would tell the store what he wanted to buy and ask the store to hold it for him.  Each week, when he got paid, Santa would go to the store and give the manager some money as a partial payment on the toy that the store was holding.  When the toy was completely paid for, Santa would take it to the North Pole and have the elves wrap the present and put the name of the child for whom it was intended on the package.  The North Pole was a very happy place.

One day, an ogre gave Santa a piece of plastic and told him that he no longer had to take green paper to the store.  He could fill his sleigh with all the toys it could carry and not worry about the green papers.  In fact, he wouldn’t need green papers for a long time.  Over time, the North Pole became a very sad place.  There was never enough green paper and Santa received calls at all hours of the day and night from angry people demanding that he give them green papers immediately; lots of green papers that he didn’t have.

Finally, the head elf approached Santa with an idea … stop using the plastic … give the angry people green papers until all of the plastic bills were paid in full.  Then, ask the stores to hold the toys and allow him to bring a few pieces of green paper to the manager every week.  When the manager had received enough of the green papers, Santa could bring the toy back to the North Pole and have the elves wrap it in bright paper with shiny ribbons and bows.

On the day after Christmas, with no plastic swords hanging over his head threatening to make the coming year unpleasant, Santa could begin planning for the next year and getting presents ready for the good boys and girls.  The North Pole was once again a happy place and Santa could enjoy each day of the year as he looked forward to the next Christmas Eve.

“… Making A List and Checking It Twice …”

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, or another holiday, the holidays are a time of gift giving.  For some, the temptation is there to spend more than the budget really permits.  Here are some tips for managing gift giving expenses.

  • Make a list of those for whom you intend to buy gifts and set a dollar limit for each one.  The price of the gift is never indicative of your love or respect for the recipient.
  • Shop early … don’t wait until the last minute to go shopping.  Shopping early and often gives you the opportunity to comparison shop and make certain that you are obtaining the best price on the product you’re purchasing.  It also affords you the luxury of not being pressured into buying “what you can get” rather than “what you want to get”.
  • Large, extended, families may decide, as a group, to draw names and only buy a gift for a limited number of people (perhaps only one person) rather than for every family member.  My friend Brenda tells me that her family elected to do this; and, that it allows each family member to give a special gift to each person on their exchange list rather than having to give small inexpensive gifts in order to stay within budget.

As we move into the month of November, Santa is not the only one who should be making a list and checking it twice.  A little bit of planning now will empower you to enjoy the spirit of holiday giving without fearing the costs.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas (Already?)

Anyone who knows me knows how much I, and my family, love the Christmas Season; and, how much we enjoy decorating and entertaining.  Typically, we can’t wait to get started.  But, I must confess that I was truly shocked this past weekend when I went into my favorite warehouse store and found an entire section of the store offering a HUGE array of holiday decorations for sale.  I mean, come on!  The ghosts and goblins of Halloween haven’t even begun to fly about the neighborhoods yet!!  Obviously, neighborhood merchants and national retailers are already implementing plans to help us overspend for the holidays … which got me to thinking.  How can we save money and still enjoy the holidays and make them memorable for our loved ones?

Ironically, the first thing that I thought of was the year my wife and I became engaged and decided that, since we would be paying for our own wedding, we needed to find ways to save money that could otherwise be spent.  With Christmas fast approaching, we decided that this was as good a time as any to put our savings plan into action.  We decided that, rather than spend large amounts of money on gifts for friends, we’d make gifts instead.

One of the gifts was a wreath made with a metal wreath ring and macramé yarn.  The yarn was cut into pieces of approximately 3”.  Each piece was then formed into a “U”, placed under one of the ring wires, and the two ends were fed through the closed end of the “u”.  When each ring of wire on the wreath was full of yarn, a wire brush was used to brush out the yarn creating a fluffy, cloth wreath that could then be decorated with inexpensive artificial poinsettia blooms, pine cones, bells, and red ribbons.

When these gifts were given, our friends received a very special and unique gift.  While these wreaths did not cost a lot of money, each was special.  Each was made with its intended recipient in mind and decorated in a way that we felt was most appropriate and would be most appreciated by the recipient.

At the mid-point of October, some will say that it’s far too early to think about Christmas gifts.  But, I would suggest that now is the time to begin planning the gift giving and deciding how we can make these holidays special for those we love without breaking the family budget.

In the coming days and weeks, I’ll share some ideas and would welcome suggestions that each of you can provide.  Together, we can enjoy the season without having to fear the bills that come in January.