These are the weeks every year that my wallet bleeds.
There are gifts for beloved teachers and school directors; happy and careful bus drivers; encouraging, hard working and dedicated tutors; there are the numerous school holiday party contributions; the holiday bonus/thank you check for the paper deliveryman who never fails to have my Wall Street Journal on my driveway no matter how early the boys wake up; the charitable gifts for a family in need and last but not least, … buying Santa’s loot. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for sympathy. We do it all because we want to and because we appreciate all these people. We believe in a simple principle that giving is better than receiving. But it does all add up, especially after the year we’ve all had on the economic roller-coaster.
If you don’t know us well, I’ll share a secret. Our boys only get three gifts each on Christmas and they all come from Santa. It is a tradition that started when Tucker was a baby. Three gifts for the three gifts Jesus received from the Three Wise Men. We’re not terribly religious, but the symbolism worked and made a solid connection between the meaning behind Christmas and the mystique of Santa Claus. The formula continues to work for our family.
Our boys have never needed material things, but they certainly want lots of things. The three gift formula has kept the wants of their lives in check and has served to teach a good lesson about the differences between wants and needs. While the boys may want all the items on their Santa lists and desperately claim to need them, they need to understand the reality that the family in need we buy for each year truly NEEDS the things on their list.
When you want the mystique of Santa to shine bright in the eyes of children, how exactly do you go about explaining that budgets are tight and that ‘Santa’ may have limitations? Limitations delivered into many of our lives over the past year in light of the market crisis, devalued savings funds, plummeting stock prices and degrading portfolio values. How do you explain that Santa may have to ride out the market like mom and dad?
Talking with a friend this morning, she was lamenting about how much she’s dreading the gift purchasing for her family and that no matter how conservative she will be with her purchases, adding into the fray all the extras listed above, the wallet is sure to bleed and it’s going to be painful.
Not sure if it’s a solution or not, but I suggested that maybe we should tell the kids that Santa, who worked in the off season for the Easter Bunny, got laid off. That Santa’s now having to be more thrifty. While he got severance, is collecting unemployment, has COBRA benefits and downgraded his lease to a late model import sleigh, he’s going to have to stick to a budget until he lands another off-season gig.
More her laughing at me I’m pretty sure, but I have to wonder if a little reality mixed in with the mystique of Santa might not be such a bad thing. What do you think?