When I was a kid, I loved it, of course. Who doesn’t love getting new toys? These days, though, Christmas means bills and shopping.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to see your children opening a present and their eyes lighting up. It’s the stuff before that and the difficult month after that grind me down.
Since becoming a parent, I don’t think there’s ever been a January where I wasn’t flat broke. The bank account has never looked so sparse as in the first month of the year. It means that every purchase becomes a calculation: “Can I buy that loaf of bread, or do I have to buy the cheapest kind?”
They say that being rich doesn’t make you happy, but I think it would make you less stressed. For me, there’s nothing worse than being short of money. It’s like a weight on my shoulders the whole month.
It causes family stresses, too. My wife will ask, “Can I buy this?” and I have to say no. She’ll tell me that it’s something we really need, but there just isn’t money to pay for it.
Amazingly, this is actually an improvement on how things used to be. For the last year, we’ve been using You Need a Budget. Which is a great program for home budgeting. It’s helped us to budget for annual expenses, so that the big things don’t creep up on us.
It can’t fix Christmas, though. What I’d like is that for everyone over the age of eighteen, Christmas doesn’t exist. You’re an adult, you shouldn’t need a present. I’m not going to buy you something worthwhile anyway. All I’m going to buy you is clutter.
Similarly, if you’re not a child in my immediate family, then no present should be expected. So, nieces and nephews are fine, but second-cousins twice-removed are not. Especially someone’s friend’s kids shouldn’t be.
Am I being stingy? Probably. However, I don’t think it’s even doing the children any favours to get so many presents. Opening them becomes a chore for all of the children on Christmas now. When I was a kid, we got a few presents. Opening them would take a half-an-hour or so and then you were allowed to go and play. Now it takes over two hours to open all the presents. No matter what’s inside, the children are bored senseless by the end.
So my new rules for Christmas, if I ran the world, would be:
– No presents allowed for adults other than spouses/boy/girlfriends/fiancees;
– Only presents for children in your immediate family;
– One present from each person to each child.
If you have a bigger family than mine, then my thoughts are with you.
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