For once, we didn’t have to return any Christmas gifts. My son and I toured the South Park Mall in this snowy cold weather mainly to catch the movie, Sherlock Holmes. We had some fun walking through the mall and sort of exercise people watching. S.P. Mall was busy as usual but this time, not too many happy faces. We tagged along some people that dropped in different stores to either exchange gifts or turn the gifts into cash. I shouldn’t have been surprised or appalled by such behavior, after all, I was one of those post Christmas moms who just didn’t like what I received and stood in the line waiting my turn to validate the gifts to things that were more beneficial to me.
And I didn’t have my happy face on then, either.
The honest truth about Christmas gift giving in our house has been a rather educational event this year. You see, now I have more time being at home, I am more conscious about our money’s outflow. The staunch Chinese mom being extreme “frugal” has its merit and I am not ashamed to admit that sometimes I did go a bit overboard on money saving. For example, I will labor over coupon clipping process and price comparing strategy from weekly merchant flyers to make sure I get the best price bargains when I do my shopping; it has saved more than $100/week on an average shopping trip not to mention the dinners are more desirably prepared. This Christmas, armed with limited budget I wanted to spend, and after consulting with my loving husband, he turned me loose on the shopping excursions. <Chances are, it was probably very difficult for him to remember what I said, wanted, and the rules went with the shopping budget, he just said ok.> Each year, I put up a Christmas wish list on the refrigerator to the kids to put their names and items they wish to own – and this year was no exception. The deadline to take the list down was two weeks before December 24th and after that, they would be out of luck trying to squeeze one last minute after-thought “must have” stuff. This year, kids didn’t ask much, in fact, my middle child said she didn’t really want anything <hinting at that IPod might not be a bad idea but knew that she wouldn’t get it>, she mentioned a few girly items she would like to have (that wouldn’t break Santa’s bank account). And as usual, we exchanged and opened gifts on Christmas Eve and the smiles on each child’s face were brighter this year than previous ones. My husband, too, was thrilled with his new TomTom GPS that comes with lifetime unlimited map updates. Of course, Santa came in the middle of the night and that’s why there was another gift opening event before we ate sweets for Christmas breakfast, there were more thrilling shrieks of pleasures from my kids than ever – my oldest daughter got her white wool coat and several gift cards to her favorite stores; my middle child received her favorite perfume and a few gift cards to her frequent visited stores, my son had his games and M&M pack; my husband is a fan to Brown Bag Burgers so there, he was behaving well enough to receive a few gift certificates from Brown Bag, xoxo from Santa.
Looked like there wouldn’t be any gift-returning trips at all.
I must say that this has been one blessing year for all of us – we have learned to scale back on our spending and become more compassionate about others needs. I still remember when we had two incomes; I could barely keep track of what we spent on anything other than the fixed expenses such as mortgage, car payments, and utilities. Most time, the immediate need to satisfy our empty stomachs at the end of the day prevails the conscious choice to cook at home and one thing we all know, it is very costly to dine out in this country. Now image that a family does that twice or three times weekly because both parents are working more than 10 hours a day that home cook dinners no longer a pleasure to undertake. I am not saying that we don’t eat out any more. We do, however, with careful choices and timing and more money conscious about what and where we desire to spend our money. We have become more disciplined in making sure taking care of what’s more important, mainly, having dinner together at home, more often.
As I reflect on how this year has passed, I looked at my son with content smiles, he is no longer a small child and I still have the pleasure of being with him during his Christmas break. What a blessing to both of us!!