Friday, December 19, 2008

Hard Candy Christmas: Frugal, Wise, Or Am I Just Plain Cheap?

Yesterday at the grocery store I listened to the cashier and the bagger talk about buying Christmas presents. "I've still got to buy presents for my husband's brother and his family. I don't know what I'm going to get them but I'll have to wait until I get my paycheck cashed."

To that the bagger replied, "My mom has put everything on her credit card. She will be fussing about it when the bill comes!" They both laughed and the cashier looked at me and said, "Well, I guess there is no way out, what are you going to do anyway? It's Christmas."

I smiled at her and said (What was I thinking? I should have just poked myself in the eye with a sharp stick!), "My family isn't giving gifts to each other this year that cost over $25. We don't have any little children . We decided that we just don't need anymore stuff. We only buy for our immediate family, not the extended family because they all live out of state and shipping is just too expensive. We would spend more on that than presents. "

She stopped dead in her tracks, mouth slightly open as she stared at me, "No presents over $25? None?" "None. We took a trip to see my daughter at Thanksgiving and we are using the money we would have spent on presents for paying debt and to increase our savings." She narrowed her eyes and grunted, "That doesn't sound like much fun. Don't you think ya'll will miss opening lots of presents on Christmas morning? I would hate that."

I replied that I didn't think that would be a problem as we had other things planned for the day and that just being together would be enough. I took a minute to try to explain how important it was to us to get out of debt and for our children to understand the concept of living a debt free life, not to mention learning to put the idea of having so much "stuff" in it's proper place.

I was met with nothing more than a look of annoyance and a muttered " Well, I guess so, but it sure doesn't sound like Christmas to me." As I walked away I think I heard the word cheap muttered by someone. I left the store feeling a little chastised to say the least. I loaded my groceries and on the drive home questioned our decision to forgo so many presents. Am I wrong? Is a Christmas without lots of presents somehow not Christmas at all? Am I indeed being "cheap"? Should I feel ashamed that I'm not loading the space under my tree with beautifully wrapped, put on the credit card, presents?

By the time I had reached home I had calmed down enough to answer the question with just one word. No.

Why should I be ashamed of living within my means? Who created the idea that spending money you don't have is a virtue? And why did I even have to think twice about it being one? Old habits die hard.

Somewhere along the way we have been made to think that we should identify our self worth with the stuff we possess. I want to change forever the way of thinking that says I need to be ashamed of not being able to afford something. I want to instill in my family the idea that saving for what you want, or just for a rainy day, is a virtue. Now that, that is a gift worth giving.


Christine said...

Hey Carrie,

Great post! I love living on a budget. We budget every single thing out. It's kind of extreme but I feel like it's so worth it to live within our means. Have a Merry Christmas. Debt only binds my opinion.

Meredith@MerchantShips said...

Maybe they will look back with more respect as the credit card bills roll in...

I think you're doing the right thing! We rarely if ever spend more than $25 per person, though through smart shopping skills, the gifts may be worth much more than that.

Laura E. Jordan said...

Well, you can also factor in that we don't really *want* a lot of big things (well, I don't know about Juli). I guess it's partly being older, having my own job... if there's something I want enough, I just get it for myself. If I'm not willing to spend that much money on myself, why should I expect someone else to shell out? Which is why, again, all I really want is some Journey music, preferrably from McKay's. That's all I really need (oh, and maybe a few bottles of that stuff you put in your gas tank to help it stay clean -- I just used my last one).

Rebecca said...

Good for you. Christmas was never supposed to be about throwing caution to the wind and indulging yourself or your family with things you cannot afford. This Christmas I have been reminded of Laura Ingals Wilder and the Christmas days she recounts in her books. Very simple and they were happy and thankful to have whatever they got. I would like to teach this to Alaina, but I'm not sure how to go about doing it when everyone else is getting a huge pile of stuff.

Shopgirl said...

Carrie, I am a Christmas nut...I love the decorating, the food we share and having all my family together.
It is strange how some Christmas times stand out. If you were to ask my grown up children what was your most favorite Christmas...they would say it was when we had a very lean money. We did some really fun things and because it wasn't about the most popular things on the self, it became more about us.
I do not use Credit cards for Christmas, and as we continue to find this country falling into some really hard times, those Credit cards will become a hardship for many.
You have a voice, sometimes the truth is worth a Million.
Your Mary

Sonny said...

I'm not much in the mood for Christmas at all this year. I got what I had heard them say they wanted over the year. At least I tried. They've reached the age where I would just as soon slit my throat as shop for them. We still have some little ones to shop for so it isn't all that bad. They still make it fun in a way. I had to do the shopping for Tim's aunt and grannie for us. I'll give R&M their money next year and let them do it.
I still have Tim's present to go from R&M. I think I'll give them the money nd let them go.
I could almost be Scrooge this year. It could have to do with that I have tried 2 trees in the same spot and well puppies ate one & the top half of the second one went out 10 mins. after I plugged it in.Oh well. I'll try again next year that's the beauty of it.

linda said...

Your blog is so beautifully done! I just had to say that first before agreeing with what you said in this post. I never understood that there was a stigma attached to being poor in our society until recently. Follow that with being frugal by choice and there are still so many people who just won't understand. I believe it is an honor to get out of debt and stay out of debt. It takes discipline, brains and creativity. In the end, if you do have children, it is the ultimate act of love because you have lead them to be free of debt and because you don't burden them with your own worries as they get older. I wish others would get it.
Thanks for the comment on my blog. I have added you to my blogroll.
Take care.