Tuesday, December 18, 2007


We've never spent much money on gifts for our children, not for Christmas or birthdays. It's partly out of necessity: there just isn't enough money there to be spent. Truth be told though, we're both gawdawful cheap, and even if we had the extra cash to spend, we wouldn't.

This astounds and puzzles a lot of our friends. I can understand, in theory, why parents want to lavish their kids with toys and clothes and stuff and things, but I sincerely don't want to do that. Some people think I'm cruel and that I'm depriving my kids of stuff and things.

Do kids really need stuff and things? Honestly. How much do any of us NEED?

Beyond the want/ need discussion though, there's something deeper. I don't expect to be agreed with on this point, but this is how I feel:

I don't want the size and expense of the gift to be the important quality about it. I don't want them to think that my love is measureable by how much I spend on them.

My god, what if I have a particularly bad year and can't afford to buy them "anything good?" Does this mean I love them less?

I don't want them to think that all you have to do is ask and you'll get.*** I did not grow up that way. When I was a kid, I'd go back to school in January and listen to my friends rattle off this ridiculously long list of crap they got for Christmas. Did I feel jealous? Heck yes. Did I still feel like my parents loved me? Absolutely. I knew, maybe a bit too clearly, that we were struggling. I knew, because I was a terrible sleeper, that my parents had late night discussions about our scary money situation.

Contrast the possibility of losing your farm, your home, your ponies with jealousy that some chick in your class got a TV for Christmas. F**k the TV. I'll keep my home, thank you. I'll keep my home with my barn cats and my fields, and if it means I have one pair of jeans and one shirt and one dress for Sunday. Priorities.

Maybe it's wrong, but I've raised my kids with the awareness that we are not big spenders, and that we won't be, even if we could. Growing up like that makes you appreciate what you have. I appreciate what I have. I can't believe this is mine. Even if the bank owns it all...I can call it mine.

Even deeper? Yes. Being one of those annoying Christian types, I refuse to turn this into a SPENDFEST. I am not offended that others don't celebrate this event for the same reason I do- I'm totally okay with Christmas being a time of togetherness and love and giving and reflecting- without the religious aspect. It's still good and meaningful! What offends me is this idea that if you don't GET something or BUY something, it's not Christmas. ****

I give gifts to my loved ones because that gift is something I want that person to have. I want to see the expression when the gift is opened.

One of our loved ones went ahead and bought my kids a Playstation for Christmas, without asking first. They mean well and have the best intentions, but I'm in a dilemma. I don't want it. We have two computers, a DVD player, a gameboy, three guitars and a piano. And a Pug. We have enough entertainment. We aren't lacking! I don't need one more thing to nag at my kids to put down and do homework/ have a shower/ take the garbage out/ sweep the floor. We made a decision years ago to be a video game- free house and we were not quiet about it. We let the gameboy in, but that was the limit.

Also, I cannot financially reciprocate this gift.

The whole thing is disturbing to me.

Guess what I'm doing today? Shopping. I've got my music, (the family iPod shuffle, which we all share because we're not forking out for more than one, and which my boy Bucky has loaded up with some soothing Rage Against The Machine) and I've got my list. I'm taking myself out for a $5 lunch. I'm trying to keep my sense of value and meaning in the front of my head, and not let myself get angered by the pressure to express my love by spending money.

*** yeah I know- in the bible it says, ask you you will receive. I just don't think that was meant to be a shopping list.

****I also don't mean to say that anybody who spends lots and gives big lavish presents is wrong, but rather that I can't justify doing it that way.


CindyDianne said...

We give what we can, when we can. And expect every one to understand they are loved. This Christmas, we are taking care of our kids. Every one else is getting a token. This year, that is how we must do it. In years past, we've been carried away with the spending because we could. I am concerned that people will think we are being cheap. That isn't the case.

CindyDianne said...

BTW, I think it is perfect - the way you handle gift giving.

(and I would ask that your loved one return the play station for something on the approved list.)

Heidi the Hick said...

You know what Cindy? I would hope that people who know you and love you would understand.

(We are going to bring up the subject, no matter how difficult. They mean well, I know that, but it's just not going to work.)

coffeypot said...

Just do what I do. Grab the shotgun, run outside and fire a few shots. Come back in and tell the kids, "I told that fat man last year not to park those damn deer on the roof." I shot them. No Christmans this year, now get your asses to bed.

katy said...

i agree with cindy, ask them to exchange to play station.
we get too carried away with spending at this festive season and too many forget what it is we are celebrating.
i love to give, and yes i do spoil my son, well when he was young, and now i spoil the grandson, but i do stick to a budget and only buy one toy, of his mum an dads choice, this year an art easel, the rest are clothes that he needs. me and him have no gifts this year, and no it doesn't spoil the season, we have the gift of love and happiness.
great post Heidi

dilling said...

Heidi...that's a touchy situation to be in. Maybe if they want to "give" that much to the kids, starting a college fund would better "spoil" the kids? Then all future "spoiling" could be directed there...

Donna said...

So well said. Our kids are grown. Our parents are dead. We give each grandchild $25. That's IT. Everybody has been told we don't buy gifts and don't expect them. I also let the grandkids know we don't expect anything from them. If someone chooses to buy a gift for us, they had better not expect us to reciprocate. Because they've been told.

Nicole said...

You go, girl.

Anita said...

I am just like you...
Isaiah loves lincoln logs, legos, magnetix, hot wheels, and anything john deere. He has 5 totes with those 5 labels and the totes are half full. All he ever wants is more of those 5 things. No fancy-schmancy things, advertising is lost on him...lol
He gets more excited watching others open their presents, and forgets to even open his own.. lol

My family draws names, and then hands out lists of what they want within the dollar limit... what we buy is expected to come from that list, I can't be sponatneous and buy something that I pick out... I think we might as well just hand esch other the money, or buy our own presents... lol

Heidi the Hick said...

My sister hands out a VERY DETAILED list and she does not want deviations from that list! I laugh at her for being so in control of it all, and for depriving herself of surprises, but she's never disappointed.

Olly said...

I totally agree.
I grew up with a bunch of rather well off kids in my school. They got everything they ever wanted. And when they turned 16? Yup - the car of their choice.
I paid room and board at home after I started working and when I bought my first beater my mom handed me a bank book with about 1/3 of the rent I'd been paying. I appreciated this soo much and took such good care of that car. Most of the other kids racked their's up within the first year or two.
Most times "less is more".
BTW - you should stand firm on the playstation thing.

A Paperback Writer said...

Regardless of the price of the gift, a person who buys something s/he specifically KNOWS if forbidden in your home is rude. It's as if s/he is saying, "You're not a good parent because you won't let your kid have this, so I'll go behind your back."
It's fairly common. Parents says, "Please don't give the kids more than X amount of sugary stuff today," and the grandparent undermines the parental authority by ignoring/blatantly flaunting the request.
I applaud you for not wanting video games in your home! I wouldn't have one in my house either, if I had a kid. So much time is wasted by my students with those things, and so many pounds are gained because free time is spent moving thumbs instead of riding bikes or jumping on a trampoline or whatever.

A Paperback Writer said...

I like Dilling's idea: ask them to put the playstation money into a college fund for the kids instead. That' fabulous!

Heidi the Hick said...

thanks. It's hard to say no to someone you care about but sometimes we have to, eh?

As for the kids who got everything...I didn't get my own car, but my ol man picked up a VW Bug for $200 for my mom and I to share. I put gas in it but I didn't have to pay insurance.

The sun rose and set on that little car, man. One girl in my class got a car bought for her and for the first week that car was perfect. After that, complained constantly about what a piece of crap it was.

I didn't understand.

Heidi the Hick said...

My mom started giving them college fund money for their birthdays a few years ago. They were young enough that they weren't really thrilled...but now they're starting to understand the importance! We will not be able to contribute much to their further education the way things are going. (Hoping/ planning for improvement but we'll see.)

My kids don't watch much TV. We only get one of our five channels at a time. We live in town, we could get cable, but I'm so friggin cheap!

They spend a lot of time on the computer which I'm not crazy about but they're creating things so I allow it. There's a severe limit on the gameboy.

Don't get me wrong- for being so cheap with money and forbidding all these things, I often feel like the meanest mother in the world.

They don't appear to be really, truly suffering though...