‘Tis the season to be broke

Graphic by Phil Waheed.
Graphic by Phil Waheed.

It’s that time of year again. The first snowfall has passed, the jolly tunes have come out, and, most importantly, preparation has begun for the annual visit from the big man from the North Pole. Christmas trees are up, decorations are set, and Starbucks has officially started serving Christmas in a cup.

With this time of year comes something I like to call “the list.” It seems that, year after year, this
“list” gets exceedingly long and expensive. I am indeed talking about the Christmas gift list. The grandparents, the parents, the close friends, the siblings — it seems that there is an endless supply of people that you need to get presents for that have us creating a budget worthy of passing through parliament. The stress of having enough time and money can sometimes be unbearable, but anything is better than having that feeling in the pit of your stomach of not coming through with your list.

This, my fellow jolly friends, doesn’t sound like a very pleasant start to your Christmas, does it? It sounds like the start of a bad Christmas horror movie. Who would want to experience such stress in what is supposed to be the happiest time of the year? Mark my words, this list is what has ruined everyone’s Christmas spirit.

Is this really what Christmas has come to? Spending hundreds of dollars in presents that people may not even want, as a sign of love? The American Research Group recently did a study to determine Americans’ average spending during Christmas this year. A sample 1,100 adults were asked the following question: How much are you going to spend on Christmas gifts this year? The average was $854. Needless to say, a hefty amount.

Call me corny, call me old-fashioned, call me one of those annoying people that always goes against the norm, but no, this isn’t what Christmas is all about. It isn’t about expensive gifts, it isn’t about trends. Well, maybe for the kids it is, but they too need to be taught from a young age that just because they didn’t get the latest Apple product, Christmas can still be the most amazing day of the year.

So let’s go back to the basics. Christmas is about family. Family, the way I see it, represents the closest people in your life. It could be your immediate family, it could be your best friends, it could be your dog, if that’s how you feel. As long as you’re happy surrounded by those you love the most, you’ve succeeded in finding the true meaning of Christmas.

But what can we do to escape the incessant shopping fueled by Christmas? My past observations of different family traditions have given some pretty good ideas, and here’s the one I like the most: organize a secret Santa gift exchange with the people you always spend Christmas with. This means putting all of your names in a hat, picking out only one name, and buying this person a present. Can we all live with one present? I think so. Put a certain spending limit that everyone must follow for the gifts, and make it reasonably priced because you only have one gift to buy. This way, everyone gets one good, quality gift, instead of 82 gifts that, to put it nicely, can be ‘decorative’.

“It’s a great way to save money,” said Amanda Sotos, who will be doing this with her family for a second-straight year. “It’s as exciting as having a bunch of presents all at once.”

But what to do with all this extra money? Well, not only is Christmas a time of family, but also a time of giving. Give some of it to those who are less fortunate than you, and I guarantee you it will be money well spent.

I can only hope for the future of this one-of-a-kind holiday that people will start praising the core values that Christmas portrays: love and family. Presents are great, let’s not kid ourselves, but one good gift, as mentioned above, is much better than a great number of bad ones, and your wallet will also end up thanking you in the new year.


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