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#136: in which I ruin Christmas

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Yeah yeah, I suck and have been eating garbage. I'm working on it. Not the point!

I'm here to complain about how people need to calm the heck down. Now-ish.

I am so frustrated by & fed up with the holiday obsession that is happening all around me. Not about food, though. And the stressed people are not the people I am mad at. I'm more just mad in general...

I am currently surrounded by people flipping out over spending for Christmas.

I'm going to get on my soapbox for ten seconds. (heh. you all know me. once I build up a head of steam it's going to be more like ten hours...)

You should spend what you can afford. Don't go broke based on what you feel like you "should" do... Mr. Turtle does this and it drives me BATCRAP INSANE. He saves up for months (which is good, to be fair). He can't sleep through the night starting in about mid-December (say, starting approximately, oh, LAST NIGHT FOR EXAMPLE.). He stresses about how much he is about to spend. He spends. He feels he didn't spend enough on individual people so he spends a little more. Then he proceeds to not sleep through the first half of January feeling awful about how much he spent.

I opt out of the entire bizarre whacked out charade. Because I'm a b**ch. heh. I opted out the year we got engaged and I have never looked back. I buy the presents for my family members and he buys the presents for his family members and I don't get involved.

My only requirements are
1) don't let the spending get so high it affects our household bills
2) don't tell me how much you spent
3) don't tell me how much you spent
4) when you ask me if I think you spent enough, expect me to remind you you need therapy and all that matters is you got a nice present the person will enjoy
5) don't tell me how much you spent.

It's not just Mr. Turtle. I have friends going through this. I hear coworkers grumping about it. Certain members of certain branches of extended family. It seems every year the concept of how much you spent gets a little louder, and the concept of What Would This Person Enjoy a little quieter.

Are more and more people buying presents for people they don't know very well, or.....? How is this a thing? It's not actually that complicated!!!

There is no universal rule that you have to spend $X on a person because they are of "Y" relationship to you. Present = something you found that you thought the person might enjoy. Given in exactly that spirit. Period.


"well if I only spend $# on so and so, they'll think I'm cheap!"

1) If this person is truly a close friend or relative to you, they are probably not really analyzing the present you bought for its exact dollar value, now are they?

2) Then again if they ARE, if they're that much of a misering @$$bag, a) why are you buying them presents in the first place? b) why do you care what they think?

c) even if they are, are they really going to point it out out loud to your face?

(They may grouse about it behind your back. I'm of the opinion that if I'm not there to hear it, I don't give a crap. Sorry! Don't care! I gave you a gift because I wanted to make you happy. If you want to be a miserable b@$tard instead, that's your problem! Next!)

Also, Misering @$$bags don't get presents. THIS should be the true universal rule of Christmas gifting. What was that when we were kids about getting coal? Yep. COAL.

I mean... talk about losing sight of the reason for Christmas. I get that not everyone is religious - there are people who celebrate Christmas as a secular gift giving holiday. I'm not about being preachy about the true meaning of Christmas, because there are a lot of things about Christmas that I enjoy deeply that aren't necessarily about Jesus. I think you can have both. You can have church and a tree. Reflection & thankfulness, but also presents. Do what you do, just don't drive yourself to the poor house about it. Try to at least get back to what the purpose of giving gifts is. Something to make a person happy because you love them. It doesn't have to be about being expensive or being fancy.

I have extended family that has all these unspoken rules about what you're ideally supposed to spend on whom, based on the relationship (parents vs siblings vs cousins vs your godparents...) and I just could not care less. I don't keep track. It's especially annoying when the people in question primarily deal in gift cards. It's like they're obsessed with giving the same dollar amount, and on both sides the people are buying gift cards. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS. If I give my brother $100 and he gives me $100 we're right back where we started and what was the point of that anyway????? I could give him a $100 gift card to Home Depot, and he could give me a $100 gift card to Amazon, but then again we could have each bought ourselves $100 gift cards to the store of our choice and cancelled Christmas. I mean... WHY???? Can anyone explain this to me in a way that is not utterly batcrap crazy?

The same people will try to tamp down the insanity by imposing spending limits, to try to keep the entire family from going broke. Put the two tendencies together and you get this heartwarming exchange I witnessed a couple years ago:

Person 1 opens gift from Person 2. Gift contains nice clothes from a more expensive retailer Person 1 likes. Person 1, being familiar with said brand and their prices, immediately looks angry and starts to protest "We set a limit of $____!!!!!!!" Person 2 has to defend themselves and hastily explain which items were purchased on sale, making the amount spent on the gift within the limit after all.

And I sat there going.... you have to outright tell people you bought stuff on sale so they don't get mad at you for Cheating At Christmas. ??????????????????????????????
???????????? I can't even.... "What a lovely sweater, it's my favorite color and will look excellent on me!" I mean... yes? No? Exacerbated by Person 2 doing the crazy "well it was on sale so it didn't cost enough so I have to get a sweater AND a shirt and maybe a belt"


I'm not saying give your grandmother a Pez dispenser you found in the gutter (unless she collects Pez dispensers, in which case wash it and shine it up a little, and why the heck not), but you can be reasonable. If you can't afford to spend $50 each on your 4 siblings and their 4 spouses then..... don't. It's not that complicated. Spend what you can afford on something you think they would enjoy. Get something the couple can enjoy together. Make them something. It doesn't have to be complicated.

Or start a secret santa and draw names out of a hat so everyone doesn't have to buy 8 presents and everyone doesn't GET 8 presents they can't use because people didn't know what to buy them in the first place. Problem solved.

I enjoy finding something fun and/or nice and wrapping it up all pretty for people I care about. Or getting something they have really really been wanting or needing but haven't gotten around to getting for themselves. If I spend less than I did last year, it's because the present I found this year costs less than the one I found last year. There's no deeper meaning, and if other people want to ascribe meaning to the dollar value of the gift they can go *&^ themselves. Uh. Merry Christmas!!!! hahahahaha. Also, I don't remember how much I spent last year, so... whatever! LOL.

One year my "secret santa" at work ($10 limit) gave me a gift that had been free. It was a beautiful book of cookie recipes. He'd gotten this book free. He knows I bake. It was a perfect gift for me, given because he knew I'd enjoy it. What do I care if he didn't **SPEND $10**? I have an awesome book.

To better illustrate why this makes me so irritable, here is an example of how my gift purchasing logic works:

I have a close person in my life who loves a great many things. Two of the things they enjoy are 1) Doctor Who and 2) games. The other day I saw a Doctor Who Yahtzee set on sale. So I purchased it for this person, and crossed them off my People To Buy Gifts For This Year list.

I did NOT spend a great deal of time agonizing over the fact that the game cost less than $50, and this person is a $50 person in my life (found on the Tier Of People I Need To Spend At Least $50 on. Because we all need to have tiers.). I ALSO did not spend time fretting over whether to buy it because it cost more than $20 and this person is only a $20 person in my life. I just said to myself "Do I have that many dollars?" and I answered myself "yes, I do." So I bought it.

In contrast, here's a conversation I recently had:

"I bought ______ for my _______ but it was $50 including shipping. Now I feel like I should buy something else to go with it, since the actual PRESENT wasn't $50, just once you include shipping..."
Me: "Does _______ like (thing you bought)?"
them: "Oh they love it it's their favorite (food/tv show/whatever)."
Me: ??????????????????????????????

I.... don't even know what to do with that conversation.



Please inject a little sanity into your holiday gift giving and receiving. And if you can't manage it, please don't ask you friends/coworkers/spouses/whoe
ver to assess whether your spending habits are properly aligned to your relationship tiers. We have no idea and you're making us bonkers. Try to choose gifts based on people's interests, not attempt to arbitrarily assign a monetary value to the relationship...

Thanks for your time,

-Grinchy McGee
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I agree completely.
    1458 days ago
    OMG, I love your blogs. I wish I was as good with blogs as you are! Because you have it exactly right!

    and your phrases are SO MUCH FUN!!!

    This year, I am sending my mom a box of chocolate covered cherries (which she will B#$&h about) because I am not willing or able to spend a fortune on things she is just going to b$*%h about.

    Hubs' mom, on the other hand is getting HANDKNIT SOCKS! which she will love, an inflatable pig for her yard (family joke because of Hubs' rig, she is going to die laughing) and some tools that used to be my daddy's because she can use them and I can't.

    Guess who will be more appreciative? oh well.

    To quote my dear friend "not my problem"

    Happy Holidays!!! emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon mm

    oh, gift for Turtle Puppy emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1461 days ago
    I feel the same way about Christmas spending. Wish my other half did too....

    1461 days ago
    emoticon I only buy gifts for my immediately family, and we all just shop for each other. No one sets limits or rules and we just try to be the thoughtful people in each other's lives that we are.

    Although last year, my brother and I did decide to buy each other the Sonic Screwdriver of our respective favorite doctors. I know, why not buy them ourselves, but it was fun pretending to be surprised, and we enjoyed ourselves, so it worked!

    This year, I made a donation to a local alpaca farm in my mother-in-law's name. Because she doesn't need anything, and it's a place dear to her heart.

    Good luck surviving the Christmas insanity, and I totally agree with where you're coming from!
    1466 days ago
    The very best present I have ever received in my life was a wedding present - $100 gift certificate to a very nice butcher shop. BECAUSE I LOVE TO COOK BUT DIDN'T HAVE A LOT MONEY. That was 5 years ago and it's STILL the best gift I've ever received in my life. Because that person KNEW ME (and he wasn't even family, just a friend of my dad's).

    My step-mom gave me two of the worst gifts ever in my Christmas stocking one year - a Tube of mustard and spearmint life savers. I DESPISE mustard AND spearmint. Everyone got lifesavers and mustard, even though she knew I didn't like mustard. *rolls eyes* Turns out she hates me, which should have been obvious, lol.

    The point is - the best gifts are the ones that show you how well people know you. Not how much they spent.

    1467 days ago
    My brother's kid's wish lists are always populated with a pile of electronic gizmos and games that I cannot afford. So I do not buy them. I pick out something in my budget from a store I know they shop at. So if they decide they like the item I If they don't....they have the gift receipt for said item and it will be returned to a store they enjoy shopping in. So far I have never had any of my gifts returned (the oldest in now a freshman in high school, the youngest is 11). In fact, they are usually a bigger hit then the stuff they did ask for that was more expensive. I think it is because I find stuff that they didn't even know they wanted, but was bought simply because it was just too perfect for them (like Doctor Who Yahtzee, awesome by the way) =)
    1467 days ago
    I second, third, and fourth this blog, and nominate you to the Keeping Christmas Sane committee.

    One of my closest friends and I exchange soup every year. It has become a fun challenge to find or invent a soup awesome enough to warrant gifting. Last year this friend tried something new and put her soup in a freezer bag and then inside a decorative shoe-size X-mas box. The freezer bag split and it was Soup in a Box. We had a screaming laughing fit and poured it all into a couple of mason jars. Best Christmas ever.

    I have made miniature books with teensy weensy little stories and cut lines to go with itty bitty pictures from the person's life. That was a hit with my Father in Law.

    This year for my daughter's teacher I am making a cardboard house with a mountain behind it and a little plastic goat on the side, all to riff off a story he tells to the kids every year before Christmas.

    Whatever we do, it should mean something and hopefully be fun or funny and above all personal. It helps if we try to notice stuff about people and really listen to them all year. Otherwise it's a sea of Gift Cards from the box stores, and that's just no fun at all.

    Thanks again for an awesome blog.
    1467 days ago

    Comment edited on: 12/11/2013 6:57:35 PM
    You are hysterical! So very funny but so very true. What is it they say about comedy "tragedy over time becomes comedy"? I was at the post office today thinking about the reactions my in laws will have about their gifts (probably "what the heck is this" ?) but my husband and I enjoyed the present search and I feel better having made an effort.
    Ho ho ho!
    Thanks for this!
    1467 days ago
  • PICKIE98
    I agree comepletely.. I took this step further one year.

    Sister #1 complained that I spent more on one of her sons than the other,, also , she saw that the ____ I got her, had been on clearance for six months, so I should adjust my shopping accordingly. '
    I smiled at her and stepped into the living room where everyone was finishing opening their gifts. I then announced: "Apparently, Michelle , as an expert shopper with an unlimited bank account, has informed me that I am doing things wrong,,according to HER."
    I then turned to both my nephews(10 and 12 years old) and told them their gifts were bought with love and thought for what they would like, not by the cash register receipt. I then turned to my sister and stated,"From this day on, anybody who complains about any gift from anybody here, will get no gift from me ." I will take it as a sign that I am putting undue stress on them and do not want to cause that."
    Never heard any more about that...

    My nephews are now 42 and 44.... ironically, Michelle can no longer afford to buy ANY gifts for anybody.

    1467 days ago
  • TREP13
    I loved this blog because I know exactly what you're talking about. Although I subscribe to the equal spending thing (for the most part), I like to buy things that people actually want and I don't just spend the money to get to a certain dollar amount. If I find a $40 gift but wanted to spend $50 I don't stress about it. And I don't care if I get nothing in return or a free book or whatever because I'm not giving a gift just to receive one. Also, the idea of giving a gift card irritates me because it says "here's the money to spend at this store, pick it out yourself."

    Don't get me wrong. I love, love, love Christmas and I love watching my little nieces and nephews open up their gifts but I understand the frustration that goes along with the holiday. I don't think you're a Grinch at all.
    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1467 days ago
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