Are we losing the meaning of Christmas?

I read an interesting article in last Friday’s Age called Spoiling Christmas. “Australian parents intend to spend an average of $584 on Christmas gifts for their children this year according to this week’s “Toy Treasure Trove” report from BankWest.

Does anyone spending this sort of money actually know what Christmas is all about? I vaguely remember it having to do with a baby being born. Or was it about an egg and a bunny? Nope, beats me. I can’t remember. Somehow images of Coke-Cola’s invented Santa, sleighs, snow and clever marketing are trying to make us believe that unless we max-out the credit card we aren’t in the ‘loving, giving, festive’ mood.

Everyone is entitled to do with their money what they wish, however, I do think from reading this article and related comments that some people have lost perspective on what Christmas is all about. One person wrote that they only buy their kids 8 gifts each. Thank goodness. I mean, 9 would have been over-the-top. But 8 is very sensible.

I don’t know many children who need $584 worth of stuff…and I certainly don’t know any children who will be emotionally better off or well-balanced if they do. My children would be lucky if they have $100 spent on them (all three of them in total). They are emotionally depraved of course – judging from these photos.

ConorJasmineAmber

How have I managed to get away with this? I have set expectations low from the beginning and stuck to my guns! For instance – I don’t do big birthday parties. Mostly we have close friends and family over. There are usually 20 people by the time this happens and we celebrate with some nice homemade food. I tell people not to bring anything. Of course some do, but the expectation isn’t that they do.

My 9 year old son Conor was over the moon this year because he got a sticky-date pudding for a birthday cake, had a lolly bowl and he got to make loot bags for the kids.

Christmas is so exciting for children. The anticipation is what makes it so great – having to wait for something. But if you are getting toys all year round, then Santa is really going to have to pull a few punches to compete at Christmas.

So make it easy for yourself – just don’t give them anything during the year for no reason, keep birthdays simple, and then at Christmas, give them one nice toy and they will be rapt. Also saves your precious money for more important things, such as reducing the interest on your mortgage. Not very sexy, but very sensible!

I hope all of the readers enjoy their Christmas, in whatever way they celebrate it. I know I will. Then again, after looking at the faces of these poor deprived kids….maybe I need to go and spend some more money, get them decent clothes and haircuts, perhaps a Wii, …

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Lara Tucker says:

    Hi Geri. I’m really enjoying your blog. I read the Age article you referred to. I have to admit that constantly saying no to kids who are being bombarded by advertising for this toy, or that gadget is completely exhausting and in the past I have entertained the thought of never taking my children shopping with me again. But I reckon I’ve found a way to manage it that works for us… and has the added benefit of stopping whinging, whining, pleading and begging in their tracks.

    Pocket money! It’s not a new concept, but it seems that perhaps the point of it (ie to work for something you want) has been lost somewhere along the way.

    My boys are 6 and 4. They get pocket money each week (if they do their jobs). $5 for the 6 yo and $3 for the 4yo. People have said they think the kids are too young or that it’s a lot of money for little kids. But we’ve found that giving a reasonable amount lets them to save up for something they want within an achievable amount of time. And therefore, they don’t lose interest in the concept of working for it.

    It also means that whenever they see something they want, we can just say, ‘Well you need to save up for it.’ And bam! With that one small phrase, the whinging stops.

    The 6yo has already learnt about different denominations and how they add up. And how to quickly calculate how much he still needs to save. The 4yo, well he’s still learning that just because he has a heap of coins in his money box, doesn’t mean he can afford to buy the $45 Spider-man (that really doesn’t do anything except stand at 40cm).

    This concept doesn’t do much to help curb our spending at Christmas – that’s purely about setting a limit. But between Christmas and birthdays, if they really really want something, they can have it. They just have pay for it themselves!

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    1. Geri says:

      Thanks for your comments Lara!

      While I don’t give my kids pocket money (they have never actually asked for money – no idea why not), I do agree that it is better for them to plan, strategise, wait, count and learn about money. All great skills a young adult needs. Good for you. Glad that it works for you!

      I am sure it doesn’t work when you give in and top up their money for them so they can buy something. So again – it all comes down to sticking to your guns, and saying no and meaning it.

      Hope you have a lovely Christmas, and enjoy staring at the 40cm Spiderman who doesn’t nothing but stand!! Classic!

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  2. Ciavarella says:

    I suggested to my friends we hold a Kris Kringle where you make a gift rather than fit something to a budget.

    Everybody liked their presents and it became about what effort and ideas you could come up with rather than how cleverer a purchaser you were.

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    1. Geri says:

      Hey Ciavarella – thanks for your comment!

      I totally agree with you. I am over receiving some $10 gift that will probably end up at the brotherhood next week.

      Making things can be fun, even funnier if you are really bad at making things. It means you put thought and effort into the gift, and if you are like me, I have lots of fun doing it. I can’t wait till my friend Anna sees what I have made for her. It’s in keeping with this year, and I chuckled the whole time while I was doing it.

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