After bills, taxes, and not paying the piano teacher, I have slightly north of $400 and two days to get my Christmas act together. Oh... just remembered about the gas and expenses for my trip to Richmond. Recalculating. Okay, more like $300 unless I can squeeze some cash out of Mr. Coffee. Nope, he's pretty broke too and still has to pay the light bill. I should plan for $300.
As a family, on both sides, we've decided to skip the adult exchange all together, a reality at once depressing and liberating. Kids only is the only thing doable for me anyway. I should be pleased, but I miss secret santa.
Variable #1--Christmas Day with the in-laws.
Only three child players in this scenario: A boy and two girls ranging in age from 24 months to six years. Easy as pie-- $5-10 toys for the boy and baby and a book for the girl. This can be accomplished handily at Wall*Mart for under $30. Yes!
Actually, I wasn't supposed to be with my husband's family this year. I spent Thanksgiving with the in-laws so my daughter and I were committed to doing Christmas with my family in Richmond. After a little calculus, I altered my plans with the following rationale: my kid would score more gifts if we showed up. Sure, some of the in-laws would gift her in absentia but others would skip it, as I would. No kid, no present. How could I leave that much material cheer on the table? I should also mention, I happen to like spending time with my husband's family, and heading to Richmond a day later would not make much difference to mine. If we can do both easily and max out, why not? I hate myself for thinking these things. This is why Christmas is sucking this year.
Variable #2--December 26th-30th with my folks.
This is considerably more complicated with six boys ranging in age from 24 months to 13 years. The matriarch on my side, Cousin Pam, will buy generously for my daughter. This is normal. Her kids, all of whom are 10-15 years younger than I, will spend more on my kid than I can afford to spend on theirs, a lot more. This is decidedly not normal. They've already purchased a new bike and various other big ticket items. I have yet to buy gift one.
With only about $60-$100 in my budget to buy gifts for all six of my minor cousins-- a bit more if I'm willing to skimp on my own kid--I'm feeling more than a little holiday stress. I don't want to skimp on anyone, but there is no other choice. I have but one little burden to buy for, while most of my cousins have as many as two apiece. This makes me feel slightly better, until I remember to feel like a jerk for thinking such things. This is exactly why Christmas is sucking this year.
Cousin Pam, being well acquainted with my situation, called on Tuesday with a reprieve of sorts. She is not the family CEO for nothing. The woman always has a solution up her sleeve.
"Don't try to shop for the boys," says she. "You don't have the time or the money. Here's what you can do to help us both..."
Perfect. I will buy each of the boys + my girl movie passes ($8-$10 each). Since all the youngsters are staying with Pam for winter break, the tickets will be helpful; a few hours of entertainment for the kids at no cost to her. $70+ $4/kid toward movie snacks. Brilliant!
With only one kid of my own on the books, I should consider myself lucky. Yes, but still. She must have a reasonable number of presents to unwrap. What's reasonable? Good question, but that's always a concern. Her dad's been buying small items for the last couple of weeks and stashing them in my closet for me to wrap, of course. Good thing that. With only about $200 left to work with, I must play my cash just right. At least I'm not starting from gift scratch.
My Sophie is nine this year, and could use a new winter coat. Not that she has nothing warm enough to wear on chilly days, but her last year coats are starting to look worn and nearly too small. Lucky break, being so mild this fall. I've been able to put off the new coat and consider saving the purchase for a Christmas gift. She needs jeans as well. Just how do they get those holes in the knees? Faded knee jeans, pen marks, and other issues have rendered her back-to-school wardrobe somewhat stressed. Surely there are mothers, perhaps many millions, who would kill for a well- worn winter coat and some faded knee jeans for their kids to wear to and from a comfortable home and a top-notch school. I must keep this in mind, at Christmas and always.
Clothing. Something she needs anyway+ another item to unwrap = Christmas sucking a little less.
I can do a few duds and maybe a video game if I find a good deal. Or I could put the whole wad on orange and adopt that cute little mixed breed kitty we saw online. Let's see...adoption fees+food+litter and box would be a stretch with only $200, but not impossible. A Craig's List cat might be a bit cheaper, possibly eliminating some of those official shelter fees. "Is the cat fixed, vaccinated and sane?" I'll take her. But then, how does one wrap a cat? That's a good one for eHow.
Here's to barely affording Christmas, or not, and making it work anyway.