Nov 29, 2011

Living Within Our Means This Christmas — and Hoodie-in-progress

This newly created "Cyber-Monday" shopping event has me so rankled this week. Maybe it's because our family doesn't have money to burn again this year, so it's just easier for me to take the moral high ground than dwell on all the things I wish we could have. But it's also because it seems Occupy Wall Street and its brethren have taught us nothing this year.

The day after the day on which we are supposed to be thankful for all that we have, we are encouraged to head out, elbows up, and spend our money on new shit, which I guess we will be thankful for next year on the third Thursday in November (if it's not broken by then or we can even remember it). And now on the Monday after that, we're expected to ignore the work that piled up over a four-day weekend and shop online too. Blah, blah, online sales on Cyber Monday are up 33 per cent over 2010. That apparently means .... what? That the recession is over? That it's not over so people are desperate to save money as they strive to provide a Christmas experience commensurate with non-recession years, which means shopping only sales?

If we spend beyond our means and end up paying interest on credit card purchases, the banks have won. If we do our alleged civic duty and "stimulate the economy," rather than save money for our futures (albeit in an economic climate that favours spending over saving: hello, interest rates?), then the banks have won. If you pepper spray other shoppers so you can get your desperate mitts on a discount Wii, then the banks have won.
I can empathize a little with the pepper spray lady. I have recession fatigue too, and could really use a break. I obviously don't know that all the people jostling for cheap electronics are struggling financially, but I bet most people with the cash to pay full price for the latest Nintendo product aren't willing to jeopardize their own safety for the sake of saving a few bucks. Don't hate the players, hate the game.

We've been so good about not buying new things unless we truly needed them over the past three years. But after a while it catches up to you. Everyone needs new boots eventually, and there are some things you just can't make yourself. And I can't help but feel guilty when someone gives me a gift and I can't afford to return the sentiment in a tangible way. Even handmade gifts require you to spend money on supplies. And for us, with both our families so far away, the cost of shipping is a major added expense.

My plan this year is to make candy and chocolates for everyone to whom we would like to send gifts. My daughter will get one toy from us, plus I'm hoping to illustrate a story I wrote and have it printed for her as a book. And, of course, I'm still working on this gray wool hoodie for my husband (sewn from vintage Simplicity 8360):

Front of hoodie-in-progress

I'm kicking myself right now for buying the wrong length separating zipper, which means I will have to hit the Garment District sometime soon.

Anyway, tell me how you're saving money this Christmas? Has recession fatigue turned you into a cheapskate Scrooge, too?


  1. I am definitely a cheapskate, but I don't think that resisting the materialistic bullshit makes you a scrooge (or me either!). For me, it just means I want to enjoy the holidays with the family without any added pressure over stuff that misses the point, and we don't want to go into debt for stuff we can live without. I am glad to know there are other parents who aren't caving to the pressure to buy their kids some junk they don't need at an exorbitant price.
    We are lucky to live in an area that has pretty good thrifting, so between the shops and eBay we get a lot of our stuff secondhand. We also have a commitment not to buy any new Chinese made crap, so that limits our junk buying a lot.
    I am hoping to get something like this put together for the little one for Christmas this year
    We have a Habitat for Humanity Home Store that sells a lot of secondhand building supplies.
    She'll have fun with it for a long time, and we can find her little odds and ends for her kitchen while on our thrifting excursions.

  2. I’m totally with you - well said! Recession fatigue is a real issue, but I’m also concerned with the great amount of waste we generate and the effect it has on the planet. The only two presents I’m buying this year are a small toy for my nephew and a tool my husband needs for work. Everyone else gets handmade stuff. I’m happy to report I haven't bought supplies to make these items – it’s all coming from the stash. In an attempt to reduce waste, I’ve managed to make toiletries bags for my dad and brother using some awesome wool in a hounds tooth pattern that came from barely worn pants my mother-in-law was giving to Goodwill. I quickly snatched them with a view to turning them into something useful, and useful they will be. Let’s not let the bank win this Christmas (or ever)!

  3. For our family, Christmas isn't about gifts, but about celebrating the birth o Jesus Christ. We enjoy family gatherings, making memories, telling and re-telling old stories and cooking food we enjoy.

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts (but if I'm honest I could do without the curse words). I hope you and your family have as stress free a holiday as possible. :)

  4. Suzanne, you're the winner of the Princess and the pea pattern, but I need your email address!

  5. Omg, I completely agree. I choose to save my pennies and boycott Black Friday. If I can't find the perfect, simple, inexpensive gift, then a card with a nice note will suffice.

    I've found that handmade gifts aren't always appreciated, so I've cut waaaay back on those. I'd rather make stuff for myself anyway. Baking is a good idea.

  6. I agree totally, I am trying to starve the banks. Secondly, the christmas presents i remember the most are the fudges that Grandma F made each year. And I miss them the most.

  7. Great post. I completely agree with you, I'd never heard of black friday (i'm english) but i saw some footage on the news and was shocked by this rampant consumerism in action. All those evil multinationals must be laughing their socks off at how ridiculous people are in their lust to get their hands on NEW! Home-made and hand-made is the only way forward and the more people who spread this message the better- bravo!

  8. I’m with you. There is nothing in the stores that I’m willing to line up, camp out or pepper-spray for. I’d rather do without. I don’t have the fabulous house, new kitchen, luxury car or show-off things that others might have, but I also don’t have the debt that they have. It’s true that some people do not appreciate handmade gifts. That’s their loss. I treasure and remember the things that someone made with their own hands. You GO girl.



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