As I sat in front of the numerous Sunday paper ads yesterday I began to feel almost suffocated with the toys, games, jewelry and other items on sale.
We hear, “The holidays are about giving,” and then we see all of this stuff that we are supposed to buy.
My first thought: Do we really need all of this stuff?
My second thought: Will my children think that they have not been good if they don’t get as much as their friends?
With over $10 million in sales on Black Friday alone, which was up 3% from last year, and 10 million people unemployed in our country, it makes you wonder if this idea of spend, spend, spend for the holidays is somehow engrained in our brains-even when our wallets are bare. (Or perhaps the commercials get to us; after all, it seems they are all telling us it is time to get out there and buy something!)
Do we feel that we have to spend over the holidays?
Does spending money on others innately make us feel good, even if we can’t afford to pay the credit card bill at the end of the month?
The fledgling economy makes me wonder how holiday spending will be this year. I’ll go on and admit that in our home the spending will be slim. We’ve already warned family members. Between a move across country and a home purchase, we will be taking it easy on gifts.
Yet we were never shop-crazy on the holidays, so I’m not sure that the economy has made us this way.
Perhaps it is the way we grew up. My mom was a struggling single mother. I received a few gifts for the holidays, generally one large one from the big red man and a few from her, necessities like socks and the standard package of underwear.
One year I found the big gift from the red man prior to Christmas morning, and so it had to come from her. When all I received for Christmas were a few little toys to accompany this large gift, I said to my mom, “I must not have been very good this year; Santa didn’t get me much.”
Ah, the pressures of a parent, right? To give, give, and give more over the holiday. Is this why some people spend half of their year’s earnings on holiday presents? So as not to disappoint the people that they love?
Growing up I had a friend who was quite spoiled. Each year she would call me right after opening her gifts and rattle off all she had gotten. I still recall this. It was frustrating and even though I always loved my gifts, it stung all the same. I’m sure the pressure on my mom to keep up was painful.
As parents, how do we teach that it isn’t all about the giving when all kids understand is the getting?
This year we have chosen a child who will not have a Christmas and we are purchasing items for him. I want my daughters to understand from an early age that we are the lucky ones-we have food and a house, and we have some toys, and we have each other and a lot of love. Some people don’t have that.
We will be doing some volunteer work with my oldest daughter now that she is at an age where she can help and understand. This will start after the new year.
We have tried to get her a few things that she really wants. Luckily these are not over the top, expensive items-yet. I hope that before she is old enough to want a $200 pair of shoes she understands the ridiculousness of a purchase this size.
The big red man will be doing in our family what he did in mine-getting one larger gift and a few smaller gifts. We won’t be going crazy, and even though I know that my daughter already can tell we sometimes get less than other families (a few comments were made last year when she compared her loot to the kids’ next door) I can only hope that in the future she will understand.
Has the recession hit our family in the holiday budget? Yes and no. I think we would probably keep it small even if the economy wasn’t in such a bad spot.
What about you? Will you be lightening the holiday load this year, or will you spend the same that you always spend?
And how do you teach your children that it isn’t all about what you get, when entire marketing campaigns revolve around spending, spending, and more spending?