Monday, November 16, 2009

It's about giving

There are a lot of things I want right now -- A brand new TV and Macbook so we can ditch cable and get content off the internet (I guess we can’t now since our tvs don’t have HDMI connections). A new digital camera and a Flip video thiny to capture life in our household. A newer car – our 12 year old Honda civic is old and not so pretty and sometimes I get embarrassed when I drive it. (In reality, it runs pretty darn good and it’s a Honda – it will run forever. I should be lucky, right?) When it comes down to it, we could get these things but in reality we don’t need them, therefore we shouldn’t buy them. Though Brian is unemployed, he is starting to finally get freelance work. I’m less worried about money but I still shouldn’t blow our savings on frivolous luxury items.

My mother didn’t teach me to want things. She taught us growing up the importance of buying only the things we need – food, clothing – the necessities of life. She taught us to never live outside of our means (which is mainly why the only debt we have is our mortgage and student loans). She learned this lesson when she divorced my dad and didn’t have a job and three mouths to feed. She got the aid to go to school and learn all about computers. So when we wanted an Atari, the answer was no. There were starving kids in China and we need to get outside and play. When I wanted Guess Jeans in junior high, she told me to save my babysitting money – there wasn’t the money to buy designer  jeans.

Christmas is coming up. We have nine nieces and nephews to buy for along with four sets of parents.  I honestly don’t know how we will do it. Two years ago, shipping alone was over $100. Last year, I just bought everyone the same gift card from Target to cut down on the cost of shipping. The kids loved it as they got to pick out their own gift or pooled it to get a Wii game. I’m having a quandary this year. I know things are tight for us but many can’t even pay their rent. Maybe I donate all that money to a non-profit so someone else can have a nice Christmas? My husband wanted some cash to buy me something. You see, he got his Christmas gift in June – a nice Breedlove guitar which satisfied his birthday, father’s day and Christmas. For our wedding anniversary, he bought me diamond earrings. I have everything I need – my family, health, food and a nice warm roof over my head. I don’t need or want anything for Christmas from him. He doesn’t quite get that.

The first Christmas my parents were divorced my mom couldn’t buy us anything but didn’t tell us that.  She said Christmas would be lean but she was worrying about keeping us feed and in private school. In this worrying, someone sent her some cash in the mail to buy us gifts. She didn’t tell us this story until years later but she never found who put that cash in the mail. I always try to remember that story when getting caught up on buying or receiving gifts at the holidays.


Liana said...

I know every family is different, but it might be time for some new traditions. In our family, the last thing that would occur to me would be to buy gifts for our parents. At this point in their lives, they have everything they need and just talking to or seeing me and my family is plenty gift enough for them. Nieces and nephews don't even register on the gift-giving list (we have 8). If you *have* to do gifts, maybe start a family gift exchange so you just get one nice thing for someone whose name you pick.

My husband and I exchange Xmas gifts (under $100). Our daughter gets an assortment of garage-sale finds I start accumulating in August, and maybe one nice new thing she really wants (under $40). We don't do gifts for anniversary or mothers/fathers day.

And ditch the cable before the high-tech gadgets. You will be surprised at all the good stuff that's on the converter box alone!

Shannon said...

You always have good points, Liana. This is why we are friends :)