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We've made a list, we've checked it twice and now we’re braving the shops (or the internet) to do our annual Christmas shopping. The problem is that at this time of year it’s easy to get somewhat carried away.
All the lists and all the planning in the world can’t prepare us for the onslaught of bright displays, flashing advertisements and clever sales tactics designed to draw us in and make us spend our hard-earned dollars.
We might go armed with a steely resolve and a fixed budget but we have to keep in mind that stores spend thousands (or maybe hundreds of thousands) of dollars on marketing and sales gimmicks designed specifically to part us from our money.
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I particularly recall the agony of shopping for my children’s presents when they were young. I was always very conscious of how the gifts would look wrapped under the tree. It would be a disaster if one parcel might look bigger or more expensive than another. Everything had to look fair and even so that no-one could argue that they received less than another.
I would set out to buy a particular thing for child number one and after searching fruitlessly I’d give up and buy something else. Then, wouldn't you know it; I’d find the thing I was looking for in the first place. Then of course came the agonising decision. Should I traipse all the way back to the first store to return the one I’d already bought? Should I buy both? But if I buy both, that means child one would have one more gift than child two. In most cases I’d end up buying both and then having to think of an extra gift for child two.
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And then there were the stocking stuffers. Each year my children would hang a stocking at the foot of their bed and, of course, each year I’d have to come up with something new and different to fill them with. This meant more shopping and more spending - especially as they got a little older and more difficult to buy for.
Does this sound at all familiar, or was I the only one silly enough to get sucked into the Christmas buying frenzy? At the end of it all I would have spent way more than I should and have to delay paying a bill or two until after Christmas.
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There comes a point, though, where we have to draw the line. Christmas needs to become less about how much we spend, and more about celebrating family and the spirit of giving – not giving expensive gifts – but giving love, care and compassion.
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It’s not too late to reverse – or at least slow down – the spending trend within our own families. The strangest thing in my case is that now my children are adults, the memories they look back most fondly on are the little things; the outings, the traditions, the home-made decorations, the gingerbread, the Christmas carols and stories - all the things that cost nothing.