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Christmas is cancelled

DING! DING! DING! Christmas bells are ringing!
What a wonderful time of year. Christmas lights illuminate the night sky. Trees have been bought and are decorated with care. The smell of the tree fills your nostrils with the scent of holiday cheer. The gifts under the tree just add to the festive spirit. The mistletoe has been hung, meaning the more adventurous of us can attempt to sneak a kiss…
You know what? I can’t do this anymore. I really don’t care for Christmas. The music? Terrible. The decorations? Just an excuse to extract cash from your wallet. The gifts? The most pointless of all. We’ll look at them in more detail in a bit. The food? Okay, the food is usually pretty tasty. Some of the chocolate is a little strange, but other than that, that’s good eating.

Christmas has turned from a religious celebration to a consumer one. Consumption is encouraged at every turn, from the retailers all the way to your doting Grandmother. Christmas brings out the worst in consumers who have worked hard all year to keep their spending in check. Sure, it’s nice to watch little Johnny open up his mountains of gifts on Christmas morning, but at what point have we gone too far?
I’m going to stop the madness right now. I vote we cancel Christmas altogether, with one little caveat thrown in.

Stop exchanging gifts with other adults

How many times have you witnessed the following exchange?
Person A and B are getting each other gifts. Since both are self-supporting adults, neither party has any other idea what to get the other. So, like so many other people before them, they both buy gift cards. This gift card exchange can either be for the same amount of money (thereby rendering it pointless) or it can be for different amounts of money, meaning that makes at least one person a little uncomfortable.
Many gift-givers have figured this out, so they buy stuff instead. How many of you can honestly say you need more stuff? So you end up with something nice that you either have no use for, or you already have one. Since you don’t want to appear ungrateful, you don’t bother to ask for the receipt so you can return it. So you end up with an item that will just gather dust. What do you do? Why re-gift it of course. (But not to the same person. That would be quite awkward.)
The one exception I mentioned above is kids. Even though the entire personal finance blog community is on a mission to educate kids about money before they’re even out of diapers, the fact is kids have a vague understanding of money at best. Half the fun of Christmas is watching kids open up their presents. I completely support gift-giving to kids.
How much money could we all collectively save if we limited our gift buying to those who don’t have the ability to buy for themselves?

Make Christmas about people, not stuff

Everybody says Christmas is really about family, and spending time together, and not about the gifts. And then the same people go and spend a mortgage payment on gifts. If it was really about family, nobody would spend any money on gifts. Of course, we already have that holiday, it’s called Thanksgiving.
The real reason people overspend at Christmastime is that they don’t want to appear cheap. They want their relatives to get nice things because it shows the world you can afford to buy nice things. It’s the same reason people buy brand new cars and expensive suits. Like it or not, there is still a large percentage of the population who think they need to spend money to be perceived as successful.
Many families do some sort of secret Santa exchange, which I think is a great alternative to my no gift plan. Each family member gets just one relative to buy for, with a limit of say $50. That way each person gets a gift to open under the tree, and everyone is saving both time and money because they only have to buy one gift, and not 12,483. (author’s estimate)
Just think about how great your life would be if you never got another ugly sweater or underwear that’s a size too small, or gift set filled with smelly perfume you wouldn’t spray on your worst enemy. I once got a day planner, just mere moments after explaining to everyone in the room how I just scheduled everything on my iPhone.
These so-called presents are just a waste of everyone’s time. Let’s stop the madness.

Comments

  1. comprar herbalife

    The perfect Christmas would be one in which all children had food, clothing, and housing. Unfortunately, the only Santa Claus gives gifts to the rich, because the Christmas period is marked by consumerism.

    I also hate Christmas songs

    • Paul N

      Maybe people should be more responsible and not have more kids then they can afford themselves without anyone else’s financial support. Maybe then I can keep more of my paycheck every week and not pay for other peoples perceived “entitlements”.
      I might be able to retire earlier with my addition savings.

    • Paul N

      Maybe people should be more responsible and not have more kids then they can afford themselves without anyone else’s financial support. Maybe then I can keep more of my paycheck every week and not pay for other peoples perceived “entitlements”.
      I might be able to retire earlier with my additional savings.

  2. Jessica

    Woah woah woah! Not all presents are “stuff”. I spend more time on the presents I give than money – even if I end up buying a gift. I would never give someone something just to give them something – many of my friends and family have been told on more than one occasion that they’ll just have to wait because I haven’t come up with a perfect gift for them yet.

    There are lots of things you can give other adults that don’t cost much (or anything) at all. Most people love homemade cookies/baked goods, especially if you have a really delicious and/or unique recipe. My great-grandmother knit or crocheted almost all the gifts that she gave, and while that sounds really lame, almost everyone was more excited for her awesome dishcloths (still the best ones I have) than for anything else they got. My parents’ appliances have a tendency to go right at Christmas (we’ve had floods from dishwashers, fridges, and washing machines in three separate Decembers) so they “give” each other new appliances. While it’s something they needed anyways, they make a big deal about it and suddenly it’s fun.

    I don’t think the problem is giving presents at Christmas, but, as you said, giving CRAP at Christmas. If you can’t come up with a gift that the recipient will be really excited about, just write a heartfelt card and offer to cook them dinner one night. EVERYONE wants a night off from cooking for themselves!

  3. youngandthrifty

    LOL love your “author’s estimate”

    Hey do homemade stuff- that’s what I did and it worked marvelously.

    Oh and I dont’ care that I’m probably being labelled cheap for suggesting to make homemade stuff for Christmas.

  4. Nelson, I couldn’t agree more. We need to go back to the true meaning of Christmas, and could stores please stop putting out Christmas decorations in August? Maybe for adults in a family, rather than giving presents, they could do something together like have a little getaway.

  5. My Own Advisor

    Nice post Nelson.

    Make it about the families and friends, not the “stuff” 🙂

    The Santa exchange is something we used to do in our family. Now, it’s a wine-bottle exchange. That way, nobody goes thirsty.

  6. stan osoriasoria

    The fuss about chrismass have take the joy and good tiding out of chrismass. I keep asking myself what the fuss? It should like you said about people not stuff. Please Nelson what the fuss?

  7. Nadia

    What is the matter with people? Christmas isn’t about Santa, reindeer’s or presents.

    It’s the most important date on the calendar, the birth of our lord Jesus Christ and to spend some quality time with family and friends.

    People can still have a great Christmas if you get organized before Christmas,meaning getting food prepared,finding a place where to have it,even if it’s in your own back yard.

    I organize Christmas four weeks before hand so on the day I’m not stressed out and everyone has a good time.

    We don’t worry about spending money on presents,because just being together is a present in it’s self.

  8. Steve

    I stopped liking Christmas when I became a teenager and understood any gifts my parents bought were just making their debt problems worse. Why would I want something bought on unaffordable debt? I can’t enjoy that, I’d rather have nothing!

    My favourite holiday? Thanksgiving. If we put religion aside for a moment, Thanksgiving is Christmas without presents. Thanksgiving doesn’t financially ruin families and suicides don’t seem to spike during Thanksgiving either.

  9. John Meaney

    Christmas used to drive me into to debt and I would always dread the January VISA followed by months of struggling to pay it down. That was before years ago, sometimes I would spend up to $3000.00 on gifts.

    Now my wife and I opt for dinner out with friends on Christmas eve. No malls, no crowds, No stress, No debt. Good Times.

    My net worth actually increases over December. 🙂

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