For quite some time I had a sticker on my debit card that read, “Is this a Want or a Need?”. Why you ask? I can be a bit of an impulse shopper. Not fridges and cars or mink coats (which I never would any way) but things like lattes and magazines and sweaters. Or things for my kids. Or things for my mom. Or a cute something for my husband. Not often and not huge but enough that I felt In needed to reign it in a bit. This is what Christmas has become for my husband. Is it a want or a need? I’m starting to agree.
Now this Christmas was a little different in that my husband took my kids away to Vermont to snowboard for three days at the beginning of November. A great idea for bonding, fun times and to fill that Christmas list. We decided that this trip would be the bulk of their Christmas gift. Except my daughter got new board, bindings, boots and goggles shortly before they left. So THAT was supposed to be her Christmas. And then she got the trip on top of that so now things were a tad unequal in the kid department.She can’t get new equipment PLUS the trip so what do I do for my son? And we can’t have NOTHING Christmas morning, that just wouldn’t be right. Well I fixed that with a few wants and some needs.
My husband always thinks I buy too much for Christmas. The key word there is thinks. I have a trick. A Christmas trick if you will. A few years ago I started collecting Christmas boxes from the dollar store or when someone gave them to us I put it aside. I have a whole cupboard dedicated to boxes, ribbons and cards that I get when they go for 50%. I haven’t paid full price to communicate Happy Holidays in years. Why should I? I want to send Christmas cards but I don’t need to pay full price do I? Nope. After years of wasting paper and having small, jokey gifts take up time, energy and not enough space, I got smart. Now 95% of what I get goes in a box. Could be a roll of Lifesavers, could be a wack of underwear, could be the small stuffed unicorn my daughter went gaga for or the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book my son hasn’t stopped reading – I’ve got a box for that.
But still he moans – he moans about the commercialization and the true meaning of Christmas. He who doesn’t go to church versus me who has schooled the kids in St.Nicholas (an example of the true spirit of giving) versus Santa (the true spirit of credit card debt), giving things to help others and the value of home made gifts or putting true thought in to the gift versus mindless purchasing. He moans it’s all too much. Oh great gobs of tinsel he moans. For someone who does sweet nothing to get ready for Christmas other than work (as do I) he gets quite Grinchy.
Now this year I made a special effort to make sure what I bought had a practical edge. I also usually set a budget which I didn’t this year because I knew I’d be underspending. I know, I know – cardinal rule of want versus need is to determine if it fits in to your budget but I promise I was good. My daughter has a nail polish habit, an addiction if you will. She changes nail color more than most people change their gitch. On top of that, I knew my mom was getting her a nail centre and that my organic cotton pads for skin care were getting wasted at an alarming rate. So one box contained 5 rolls of bargain cotton pads and another contained 2 bottles of nail polish remover. My son had a box of underwear, a box of socks, a box of pj bottoms and a box of Sculpey. My mom’s British treats got boxed and my husband’s socks and pj bottoms got boxed. See where I’m going? Lots of boxes, impressive spread under the tree but not a lot of useless junk.
But despite my best trickery, my husband still got a bit Grinchy. However, despite his Grinchiness he did make an interesting suggestion for Christmas next year. One that has me evaluating my wants and needs around Christmas. I need to be with my family. I need to make people happy. I need to have time to relax. I don’t want to spend hour upon hour in stores. I don’t want to worry if I’ve missed anyone on my list. I don’t want to muck around getting a tree up. Hmmmmm … perhaps I’m catching a bit of his Grinchiness. But with open ears and a hesitant heart, I listened to what the Grinch had to say.
The Grinch suggested we go away for Christmas next year. Now we did this once before, many years before we had kids, and it kind of put me off. I felt weird sitting on a beach with Christmas music wafting over head and a coconut Santa peering down at me. Perhaps it was the lack of family. Perhaps it was the stress around this trip because of the family we were supposed to be seeing down south. Perhaps it was the change in tradition of which I am very fond. The lack of stores was nice. The lack of lists was nice. And the swapping of spruce for palm was actually quite nice. But I missed my mom. I missed my Toronto family. I missed my friends. I didn’t have with me the things that truly make me happy at Christmas.
The solution? We are taking family with us on this Christmas adventure. The logistics haven’t been completely ironed out but we will be together. We will make memories. We will have Christmas together and possibly with a huge mouse named Mickey or a lovely princess or two. My kids are teenagers and beyond thrilled at the idea of a Disney Cruise. I’m hoping this holds true in a year but considering they still want to go to the theatre to see Disney movies, I’m going to lay bets we’ll be fine. What we need is to be together while they still want to spend time with us. There isn’t a box big enough to fit how much that means to me.
In the end, my needs will be met. My wants will be few. Grinch will be happy. Kids will be too. And I might even be able to sneak in a box or two. We’ll be together with laughter and fun and lots of sunscreen for the lovely sun. No ribbons or bows. No having to roast a beast. No lists, no stores. Just a fine buffet feast. We won’t be at home. That much is true. But Christmas is where family gathers so Merry Christmas to you!