The Spirit of Spending

Christmas is a strange time of year. You either love it or you hate it. Either way, you still have to participate. Okay, that may not be true for everyone, but in my family, there is no option. Christmas just is. 

I was feeling very un-Christmasy a couple of weeks ago, until I bought a few gifts, which strangely got me into the spirit. I even put up my little tree, and admire all ten little flashing bulbs every evening.

Since we are getting rid of all our stuff, and trying to save our money for an indefinite travel adventure next year, I have been dreading Christmas. The expectation not only to give gifts, but also receive them, left me feeling the pain of commercialism and consumerism like never before.

In my mind, I decided I would receive no gifts, and therefore not have to ‘waste’ my money on gifts for others. It was a perfect plan…

Until reality (in the form of my elder sister) set in.

“I know you don’t want anything material, but I’m still getting you a present,” she told me adamantly one day.

Now if there’s one thing my sister can do (along with raise two young children, run a household, project manage renovations, and have a successful career), it’s shop.

I don’t know what I was thinking, asking her not to do the one thing she does best this year. So, it was business as usual. But I had a fail-safe plan that would ensure my budget remained intact, unlike previous years.

Wait till the last-minute!!!

Last year, I was prepared. I shopped early, squirreling away presents and filling myself with smug satisfaction at how organised I had finally become.

It sucked.

I kept seeing things for people I should have got them instead. So I bought those too. By the time Christmas rolled around, I had over bought and over-spent. Never again.

I have done pretty well this year, and the last-minute thing has worked pretty well. Thanks to the poor economy (cheers, GFC) and a slump in retail sales, there are mark-downs everywhere, and prices are pretty good.

But the trouble with last-minute gift buying is that something I had been relying on (the piste de resistance of my carefully thought out, budget-conscious gift giving plan) has fallen through. Believe it or not, it’s left me a little shaken. It was my ticket to gift giving bliss.

A-ha! I tricked you with my ‘must save money’ rhetoric into thinking that you will be receiving toothpaste for Christmas, but I have surpassed all your expectations and delivered the finest, carefully thought out gift in all the lands, embarrassing you with the mere token you have presented me. There, there, there’s always next year… No wait! We won’t be here, which makes me King of the Gifts!

I should explain. As much as I am horrified with the expectation of consumerism at Christmas time, I really do like giving gifts. I love saying “See! I really know you and love you”, with a gift.

It’s really all about me.

I have always day-dreamed of making chutneys and jams and christmas puddings, presented to family and friends wrapped in designer fabric.

Never gonna happen.

Not this decade anyway.

This month has been so busy with work, and a trip to Melbourne for my friend’s wedding, that I have barely had time to make dinner, let-alone baked goods. Domestic goddess I simply am not.

So my ultimate wow-factor present that was going to be my ticket to gift-giving bliss, is not going to happen. I can’t go in to the details of who the gift was for or what it is (or isn’t, as the case may be), and it doesn’t matter now anyhow.

I won’t be the gift-giving King of all the lands.

And that’s okay. Maybe that’s the growth in all of this. Not that I am somehow exempt from gift buying since I am saving for an indefinite travel adventure, enforcing spending sanctions on my family due to my new-found anti-materialist attitude, but that I am content to just give simple gifts.

There will be no “Oh my God, how did she pull that off?” reactions.

Nor any  “No, no it was nothing” mock-humble responses from me.

Because it really was nothing. I bought some gifts for the ones I love.

Simple, thoughtful, and reasonably priced. One of those gifts is a donation to charity.

I hope they like them, but if they don’t, it’s no big deal.

Whilst part of me resents the forced spending frenzy at Christmas, the other enjoys the corny music and the movies I’ve seen thirty times already.

And I love, love, love the food. The pudding, the fruit cake, the custard, the ham, and for us here in Australia, the seafood (and yes, we really do throw shrimp on the barbie).

So I guess I haven’t done too badly. I didn’t achieve my gift-free christmas, but I have toned it down from previous years, and for that, I can give myself a pat on the back.

I may not be crowned the King of Christmas this year (Queen doesn’t have the same ring), but I’m certainly no Grinch either.

I hope you all have a safe and happy Christmas!

Note: There is no crowning of a King or Queen at Christmas time in Australia, the entire scenario is a figment of the author’s delusional imagination.

Extra note: Whilst no reference has been made to the religious significance of Christmas, the author is aware that some people out there may be less obsessed with gift giving, and more interested in celebrating the birth of Jesus. She may not be one of them, but does think he sounds like an awesome guy.






The Spirit of Spending — 4 Comments

  1. That was a great post. As a Buddhist since 2008, I see right through what Christmas is all about. The consumerism of which props up the economy but at the same time contributes to the suffering of the people in the form of credit card debt, expanding waistlines and the perpetual expectation of gifts being received for gifts given.

    The sad thing is that if we look at the religious significance of Christmas it is about the birth of a man Jesus Christ who in his life embodied a whole bunch of values, one of which was to practice generosity all the time and to forgive those who hurt us; family members included.

    I think that we as an Australian society and as a world have totally lost what the point of Christmas ought to be and that is the embodiment of a man whose values we ought to be practicing constantly.

    That all said I wish you and your readers a happy and safe Christmas wherever in the world they may be. May 2012 be a year of happiness, progress and realization of goals and dreams for you all.

    • Thanks for your great response Matthew! As much as I feel similarly about the commercial nature of Christmas, I still participate in it! I guess the question of how much I buy into it is important, and I am definitely more relaxed about gift giving and receiving this year.

      I absolutely agree with you about debt, and believe we here in Australia live well outside our means yet still complain that we don’t have enough. I was one of those people until I was lucky enough to awaken to the fact that it’s not stuff or money that I need so much as following a path that reflects joy, happiness and service to others.
      I wish you a peaceful, happy Christmas and a wonderful start to 2012.

    • Thanks Kim, You too! Tyrhone gave me a gift card for a travel and adventure shop so I will be all kitted out!!!!!! Can’t wait to hear all about your 2012 adventures xxx