Christmas Contentment

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If you’ve been reading my blog for at least a year, you know all about my objection to the whole “Black Friday” thing. (I won’t go into details, but if you’re interested, you can read my post about it here). I’m even more dismayed this year because the insanity doesn’t seem to be limited to Friday. My husband and I refuse to participate in “Black Friday,” but this year we didn’t venture into any store all weekend, because according to the local news, there were “special sales” every day, and the whole city was a zoo. This morning, I’ve been trying in vain for the last hour to log on to my Discover account so I can pay my bill, but I can’t get onto the site. Rumor has it that it’s down because of the flurry of “Cyber Monday” activity.

Gimme a break.

We were perfectly content to just stay home this weekend. My husband finished some projects, and I got our Christmas cards ready to mail, while watching “Lark Rise to Candleford,” on PBS. I didn’t worry about the great deals I was missing out on, or fret about giving my children “a Christmas as big as their imagination,” like the Mom on the Wal-Mart commercial that drives me completely insane.

Bee asked if we could go to the mall and look around on Sunday, and I told her there was no way I was setting foot in the mall until all the craziness was over. She asked when that would be, and my husband said sarcastically, “Well, Monday is “Cyber Monday,” and then there’s “Terrific Tuesday,” and after that it’s “Wow, What a Sale! Wednesday,” and then there’s “Thank God It’s Not Wednesday Anymore! Thursday,” and then “Find a Great Deal! Friday,” and it pretty much continues that way until after Christmas.

Poor Bee. I think she’s worried that we’ll never take her to the mall ever again.

To make her feel better, we did put up the Christmas tree last night. I snapped this picture this morning, because I thought it was so cute how both Bee and the cat seemed to be staring at the tree in awe.


A few weeks ago, Bee asked me, “Mom, what should I ask for for Christmas?”

I was so surprised by this question, because most kids have a Christmas list a mile long. I asked, “Well, what would you like, honey?” and she replied, “I don’t know. I got everything I wanted for my birthday.”

Now, Bee didn’t get a giant truckload of presents for her birthday, because my husband and I have a strict $50 budget per kid for birthdays, and $100 for Christmas. For her birthday, Bee got a CD and DVD she wanted, a pair of new PJs, some books, and a board game. Nothing extravagant, and yet she can’t think of anything she wants for Christmas. I’m proud of her ability, at age 7, to just be content with what she has.

Many years ago, before I even had children, I read an article in the The Complete Tightwad Gazetteabout the “Christmas Fulfillment Drama.” This idea was originally written about by Joe Dominguez in his book, Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence: Your Money or Your Life.

The theory is that when we spend money on the basics of survival, it gives us the greatest fulfillment for our dollar. We’re fulfilled to a slightly lesser degree when we spend money on a few comforts and luxuries, but beyond this, as we continue to spend more and more on unnecessary stuff, our fulfillment peaks and begins to drop, so that no matter how much we spend, we still aren’t happy.

Anyone who has lavished a small fortune on Christmas gifts for a child has probably witnessed this phenomena. The first few gifts are met with great excitement, but as the unwrapping continues, the greedy monster starts to rear its ugly head. I have personally witnessed children who, after opening a literal mountain of gifts, express disappointment. (“Is this all I got?”) What upsets me even more is when a child receives a gift, and rudely says, “I didn’t want this,” or “This is dumb,” right in front of the person who gave it to him/her! If one of my children ever behaved that way, I would insist that she apologize, and I would have no qualms about taking the unwanted gift away. In our house, lack of appreciation means lack of privileges, and we’ve taught our children to be gracious and appreciative of any gift, no matter how small.

In our effort to raise children who are thankful and fulfilled, my husband and I don’t put much emphasis on gifts, on any occasion, and as a result, the kids don’t either. This is not to say that they aren’t excited to get presents, but whatever they receive, they’re happy. When we begin to see evidence of an ungrateful attitude, we check it right away. Our children also know that they should never ask for anything in stores, from us, or anyone else. I was shocked when we had Bee’s school friend over for a sleepover, and the child actually asked me to buy her a toy! Do parents not teach children basic manners anymore? Judging by the pushing, shoving, fistfights, theft, and other appalling behavior displayed by some adults on “Black Friday,” all in the name of “precious stuff,” the apple probably doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Moving on to a much happier Christmas-themed subject….Christmas cards. This year, thanks to a tip from a lovely reader, I got 100 free photo Christmas cards, and I’m blessed with about 30 more than I need. I love to receive Christmas cards and letters, and I thought it would be really fun to exchange cards with my blog readers.

If you would like to exchange cards with me this year, please send me an e-mail with your mailing address. I sincerely wish I had enough for everyone, but since I don’t, I’ll exchange with the first 30 of you that I hear from (Janel in NJ, and Rachel H. in CA – I already have you on the list). YAY! I can’t wait!

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Heather is a minimalist in love with a recovering packrat. 7 years ago, she and her husband sold pretty much anything that wasn't nailed down in order to pay off their mortgage, and they've been living happily debt-free ever since. They have 3 hilarious little kids who were conceived with the help of in vitro fertilization, and they haven't had a good night's sleep in the last decade. Heather is an anglophile who loves all things British, and spends her free time looking at real estate listings in Cornwall. Every day, she and her family work toward a simpler, more meaningful life. Some days are awesome, some are disastrous, and you can read about all of them here.

Have a question? Need a listening ear? Contact Heather, or visit Want What You Have on Facebook.

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