tightening Santa’s belt

Jolly-old-saint-nickThis week, I am celebrating my own personal Christmas tradition: biting my nails over whether Santa will be leaving too much stuff under the tree, or not enough.

Each December 26th, I vow: next year, Santa is dialing it back. But come the following December, I look at my Santa spreadsheet and fear the piles might be too small. (In my defense, my middle child is a total pile-assesser. He is always certain he’s getting the short end of the stick, even from Kris Kringle.) So out I run to the dollar aisle at Target, and I Amazon-Prime one or two more things (just in case), and by Christmas Eve, there is so much to wrap that my tummy hurts.

It reminds me of my grandmother, who used to look at my own childhood Christmas bounty each year and declare “Tweet, tweet!” at the extravagant excess. (She was one of eight kids. They grew up sharing two beds. They probably also grew up sharing two Christmas presents. I regret to say I never asked her when I had the chance.)

This year, six-year-old Maggie is gunning for Kanani, the 2011 American Girl Girl-of-the-Year, which is no longer available in stores. No problem! she explained; Santa can just tell the elves to pound another one out on their workbenches! Cut to me, trawling ebay and considering just for a moment whether I might need to spend $448.99 to buy the discontinued Kanani and, you know, spread the magic of Christmas or something. (I mean, it’s not a total ripoff: her paperback book “Aloha Kanani” is also included.) I didn’t do it, mind you, but I was sort of disgusted with myself for even contemplating it. Tweet, tweet.

My nine and eleven-year-old boys, on the other hand, couldn’t be bothered to make lists at all, which seems cocky in the extreme if you ask me. When you’re little you can drift off to sleep fairly secure in the knowledge that omniscient Santa will come through, list or no list. When you’re old enough to know better, just tell your mother what you want already.

In recent years, I’ve often read the suggestion that kids get three gifts because Jesus got three gifts from the three wise men. I love this idea, but it’s a little late for me to grandfather it in now. (Please wait while I text my sister and tell her to start while her kids are still two and zero.) And so I was quite happy to find, on the Overstuffed blog, this Christmas printable to keep things manageable. Four categories, clear and simple:





…to which my present-counter responded, “Interesting Stuff.” I will read interesting stuff. Got it, thanks.

My adult-gift Christmas list, on the other hand, has dwindled away to almost nothing this year. My husband and I have declared a no-exchange Christmas this year; we just moved, that cost enough, Merry Christmas. And between our two families, we were already part of three adult name-draws, making the buy-and-wrap list for our huge families much more manageable. But this year, all three of those name-draws have disappeared by common assent. When you’re sitting around exchanging fifty-dollar gift cards, it does beg the question: why bother?

But  I am, I admit it, slightly depressed at the thought that I might actually open zero Christmas presents this year. Is that horrible to say? I’d love a candle or something. Well. I’ll hold out hope and see if Santa comes through.

Over at the New York Times’ Materially Speaking page, there are tons of ideas for maintaining Christmas spending. Regardless of overall budget, it seems like a real trend.

Is Santa tightening his belt at your house this year?


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Kizz December 10, 2013 at 5:52 pm

With my mom’s family it was never whether the pile of gifts was big enough but whether it matched the size of everyone else’s gift pile. Coming out even is an obsession that crossed generations with them. As we got older they couldn’t buy the cousins matching tea cozies or whatever was on offer that year so they branched out into contributing for something large we wanted or giving us a check but then there would also be one thing wrapped under the tree because “You have to have something to unwrap on Christmas!”

Today is the anniversary of my grandmother’s death. On the Christmas after she died my mom and I got trapped way up in a small northern Maine former logging town with my great aunt who had been taking care of my grandmother for a few years. We weren’t much in the mood for celebrating but “you have to have something to unwrap!” so out we ventured….to the Ames Department Store in this incredibly depressed little town. I still wear a couple pairs of the crappy little socks I unwrapped that year. I hate them and they slide down and the colors are ridiculously stupid but…..I had something to unwrap that year.

So, yeah, make sure you’ve got something to unwrap. You’re worth it.


Amy Wilson December 10, 2013 at 7:01 pm

You have inspired me Kizz. I could use some new socks (who couldn’t)? and YES it is absolutely about Pile Size just as much as it is Number of Gifts. Sure, an iPod Touch is a lovely gift, but it’s a tenth the size of a Play-Doh Mega Pack.


Holly Rosen Fink December 11, 2013 at 6:21 am

I gave Olivia 8 pairs of underwear for Hanukkah one night and got BUSTED. She was appalled. We thought out of 8 nights of Hanukkah, a few gifts could be useful. Me? I felt guilty and bought her something REALLY GOOD the next night. You can’t win.


Kaylee December 11, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Amy I don’t think it’s EVER too late to Grandfather something in!!! We have a 2 yr, almost 4 yr, and 17yr olds. We changed this year and started a tradition of the 4-Gift rule…the SomeTHING the want, SomeTHING they need, SomeTHING to wear, and SomeTHING to read. Them Samta comes with one or two things, nothing huge, and fills their stockings. This kept y spending down but makes each kid feel like they have several things. We are trying to focus more on giving and doing for others so we also adopted a local fily and bought presents for their kids, that my kids picked out. Anyways, it’s just never ever ever too late to change how you do things and honestly as a parent it shows your kids that you are still learning, and willing to grow also. I think it is a great example for your kids!!


Kaylee December 11, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Should say local family lol ~ Kaylee


Amy Wilson December 12, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Kaylee and Shari, my mind is sort of blown that you think we can retro-declare this three gifts thing. I feel like once the Santa cover is blown, I can declare new rules, but I can’t explain to my six-year-old that Santa is all of a sudden doing things differently. Or: CAN I.


sharisim December 12, 2013 at 4:27 am

I’m ashamed to say I never heard the “three gift” thing and you know I’m a big Baby Jesus fan 🙂 Totally grandfathering this in, so thanks.


Kathy at kissing the frog December 15, 2013 at 8:34 am

We’re giving a few less gifts to our boys this year. I know what you mean about potentially not opening anything. In my Hubby’s family, I am no one’s godmother, so that takes me out of that exchange. My family decided not to give gifts this year. I don’t think I will get one from Hubby because I had a little, ahem, incident with the garage door and my van. $500 to fix the garage door and the estimates haven’t come in for the van yet. So, I may be drinking a few extra glasses of wine on Christmas day because I will need something to do with my hands!


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