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?


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