A lot of folks in the world spend an awful lot of money at this time of year. (Duh.) Me, I spend less & less & less as the years go by. This is not just because I have a tiny income, or because I am terribly “cheap” (although I am pretty frugal compared to lots of people); it’s because I dislike intensely all that Christmas hoopla that suggests that with consuming (& waste) come joy & happiness.
Humbug, say I.(1)
I do buy presents for a few people, & my kids still seem to like me to fill those increasingly tattered stockings I made for them 27 years ago now – so I do.
But you know what? The presents I remember when I focus for a moment on memorable gifts that have been given to me are ones that involved more thought & care than money.
I remember packages of Christmas goodies I used to get from my Mom (who never had tons of money to spend), & CDs of music that my daughters made up for me…& some other very dear & thoughtful gifts over the years.
The men in my life have given me some very nice gifts of jewellery, & I’m not saying I’m not grateful for those things – I am! I still am, & I still wear & treasure them.
But the gift from my former husband that stands out for me is the binder he fixed up for me when I was still new at the environment-column-writing gig. He created a 'Janet’s Jottings' page for the front of the binder, & I can’t tell you how delighted I was with this simple but very thoughtful gift.
Another special man once gave me a two-drawer filing cabinet (this one not a Christmas present, actually) – on top of which he’d taped, with red tape, the words 'Janet’s Planet.' The filing cabinet was a used one, & more than a little battered – but it too was a gift I really treasured. This fellow probably doesn’t even know I’ve used that phrase as the name for this blog – but I have! & I recall from time to time where it originated, & am grateful.
Another man gave me a very beautiful (& very expensive) watch (& it’s a beauty!), but what I will probably always treasure the most is something he said to me one time. Our relationship was short-lived, wildly fraught with complications (slight understatement here!!), & probably doomed from Day 1. But I’ll always remember that really, really ‘specially nice & memorable thing he said to me one time.
I guess by now my message is becoming pretty clear, eh?? I’m 100% convinced it isn’t the spending of gobs of money that makes gifts really special – it truly is “the thought that counts.”
As I’ve said before elsewhere, we humans have made this world a very complicated (& more than ever-so-slightly messed-up) place (heh heh; I am the mistress of understatement!) – but some things still really are rather simple…aren’t they?
p.s. Many parents these days spend gobs & gobs of money on their kids, which really isn’t necessary (as so many of us have learned the hard way). It isn’t expensive toys, clothes & gadgets our children really want from us – although this may be what they think they want. & say they want. At bottom, what they really want (I think) is our love, approval/affirmation, & time. I guess when the love, approval & time are absent, that’s when the material goodies become a substitute. Well, duh, eh?? (Hey… I’m pretty clearly not the only slow learner on this bus…)
p.p.s. Under the ‘Living More with Less’ tab, you’ll find an essay called ‘Raising Children on a Shoestring’ with some thoughts on how little money really means in our children’s lives. I maintain to this day that the things my kids loved the most when they were little were things that were free. Big cardboard boxes (from the drugstore), forts made from couch cushions & blankets; the snow slide their Dad made for them in the backyard; special visits with their friends & especially their cousins. Go ahead & ask them! I’m convinced money was never at all what it was really about…
'Quote of the day' with this post: “The single most important contribution any of us can make to the planet is a return to frugality.” – Robert Muller, former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations
(1) Please watch ‘The Story of Stuff ’ to get a very quick (not to mention amusing & very clever!!) take on the modern human obsession with consuming. It’s really quite brilliant…