Warning - Some posts may cause choking, spitting of beverage and /or a severe giggle fit. This advice brought to you by regular reader Louisa.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Christmas Conundrum.

As we near the end of October, we're probably all thinking about the upcoming Christmas festivities. In fact, let's not kid ourselves here, if you are a parent, you've probably been thinking about Christmas since July.

I love Christmas. There's nothing that I love more than watching my kids dive into the mound of presents under the Christmas tree. I'm not religious as a rule, but Christmas is a big occasion for almost everyone, regardless of their beliefs. I enjoy all aspects of Christmas; the presents, the excitement, the opportunity to spend quality time with the family, well the whole caboodle really.

What I don't like is the inevitable stress that leads up to it. First there is the financial side of things. It doesn't matter how much you prepare for it, unless you are a millionaire you are going to struggle to find the cash required. I normally just about make it, but not without two months of juggling the bills and fretting almost constantly.

The biggest worry for me though, is working out what to get for people. My daughter is pretty easy; she's at the age where she has interests that are catered for by the toy industry. I normally give her the Argos book and tell her to circle her wish list. Inevitably, she will pick things that are completely unsuitable (honestly, does she really think that she's going to get a virtual dog that is £175? *snort*), but mostly she picks reasonable items that I am either able to purchase myself, or that family members can purchase instead. And of course, there is that all-important Special Present from Santa.

My son is a different story. In these days of the 'Must-Have Culture', my 13-year-old has pretty much everything. TV? Check. DVD/Video player? Check. PS2/Wii/ Nintendo DS? Check. PC? Check. Don't think that he's a spoilt child, because he's not. These items have been accumulated over the last four or five years. The question is, what the heck do you buy?

The silly thing is, however much I might chastise myself about worrying about this (because honestly, Christmas isn't supposed to be about the presents, right?), I still can't help but panic.

When I was a child, I used to roll my eyes whenever my dad used to come out with one of his "When I Was Young" speeches. Now that I am an adult, I can TOTALLY see where he was coming from. In my dad's day, Christmas meant a few much-needed pairs of socks, a scarf and some gloves, maybe a book or two, and the rare treat of fresh fruit and nuts in your stocking. He never ceased to tell me and my sisters how lucky we were to have as much as we did.

And you know what? We did have a lot when you compared it to his haul. And we thoroughly enjoyed waking up to our moderately-sized sacks filled with presents from our parents and other family members. There would be around twenty assorted presents consisting of books, puzzles, toiletries (including the good old novelty bubble bath), a board game or two, and that special present that you'd been hinting at since the beginning of December (one year I remember being desperate for a Walkman, and almost fainting from happiness when I received it).

As I remember the presents from my childhood, I wonder what the heck I am worrying about. It's awful when we get caught up in the frenzy of making sure that our kids don't miss out. The stuff I received as (what I called at the time) 'decent' presents, are now consigned to the 'Stocking Fillers' category. It's nuts.

It doesn't matter how often I tell myself to be less extravagant this year though, I will still end up spending money that I can't afford on making sure that my kids have a plentiful bounty to look forward to. It's bad, it's not leading them a very good example, but there we are. I just love seeing my kids' faces light up.

Still don't know what to get for my son though.*sighs*


  1. Urgh! We have the poverty designated limitations... kids at our house get one gift from us and one from santa, then stockings. The 'biggie' is usually about $100. I DO supplement the gifts with things they need but don't get at other times (pajamas, slippers, socks, gloves)--but I try to have THAT be stuff they actually need.

    My Christmases growing up were pretty darned limited when I was LITTLE (my dad cost more than he ever made) but when my mom remarried they got fancier.

    It takes a lot of planning to keep it sane, but we definitely try.

  2. Usually both my kids have around £300 each, and by the time I buy for the family, and purchase the treats and the turkey, I spend around £1,000. It's nuts because I rarely have two pennies to rub together, yet I usually manage to find the cash. Admittedly, a lot of it is buy now pay later (my sister has a magical Argos card that gives you nine months interest free credit), but still, it's a minefield. I usually buy stuff from September onwards, and in December and January I am broke.

    You do the same thing as me though, one 'big' present, and smaller stuff to bulk up the haul. £300 each might seem a lot, but when it's wrapped up it doesn't look much, especially the media stuff which is £30 a throw. Compared to most of the other kids in my area, my kids don't get half as much though. I know people who spend at least £500 per CHILD. Lordy, even if I was rolling in cash, I wouldn't go THAT far.

    Hahaha, ramble, ramble...

  3. I can completely empathize. Christmas is so commercial now that we as parents feel obligated to BUY overpriced, poor quality gifts. I spend way too much also but unfortunately, I don't see any way out of this trap.

    By the way, I started Christmas shopping last month. Isn't that terrible?

    Good luck, I know I'll need it beginning next week.