It doesn’t matter how many times Mariah Carey sings, “All I want for Christmas is you,” we’re all hoping to find at least a little something with our name on the tag under the tree on Dec. 25.
Christmas shopping is a task that is either loved or loathed – there are very few who are indifferent about the task. My mother saw it as a year-round opportunity. She quietly took note of both overt and passing comments we made about items we wanted, then on Christmas morning we always would be surprised that something we had mentioned months before ended up in the pile of presents. Mom also was adept at mixing the stuff we wanted with items we needed, such as socks, underwear and school clothes.
I have known people who literally do all of their shopping on Christmas Eve. They work with a specified amount of cash – no credit-card transactions that can quickly pile up holiday debt – and make a day of it. Whatever is left on the store shelves on Dec. 24 is what they have to work with. They wrap everything when they get home and they’re done. I have been tempted to try this, but my fear is that someone on my list might end up with jumper cables, Butter Rum Lifesavers and a dented tin of popcorn, and I would end up with that dented tin refilled with dryer lint the following year.
I try to be like my mom and pick up gifts throughout the year, but I have fallen prey to retailers who build anticipation for Black Friday sales. While I don’t go crazy on Black Friday, I do hold off on some spending to see what deals I can cash in on. I have noticed, however, that an awful lot of Black Friday markdowns don’t align with my family’s gift lists. Getting a handheld stick blender for $5 is a good deal, but only if you know someone who wants something like that. This doesn’t even factor in the strategy and energy it takes to overcome Black Friday crowds and emerge victorious – or at least unscathed.
Those holding out until Black Friday or the fairly redundant Cyber Monday are learning that many of those offers and more keep filling up our email inboxes and Facebook feeds until the hours just before Santa Claus is scheduled to arrive. The sales just keep coming and the language of the ads gets more and more intense as the calendar creeps closer to the 25th. I thought I was done with my shopping for this year, but JC Penney had other ideas. After that one more purchase, now I’m done – until the next smokin’ hot offer ends up in my email.
The season is certainly about a lot more than gift-giving, and it is important to keep that in mind. The best gift I will receive this year and any year is a few days surrounded by my wife, children and dogs with no work responsibilities eating away at our time together. We can relax and reconnect. It’s a gift that comes without a price tag but still holds plenty of value.