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 because 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.