Saving money and alienating family; how to have the best holiday season ever

I’m not one to rush the holidays, but I’ve already seen a few Christmas themed ads, Starbucks has switched over to the holiday cups, and the magazine racks are filled with ideas on how to do the holidays.

Before you rush off and spend hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars on gifts for people you wouldn’t spend 10 minutes with if they weren’t family, before you amass credit card debt greater than the yearly salary your parents earned in their first years of working life, stop. Take a minute to consider ways to do the holidays in a quieter, more rational manner. To relax and enjoy them without stress.

I’m here to help with some hints on how to limit the amount of money spent on holiday gifts. Throw out those catalogues and spend your time online watching cute cat videos, and don’t even think about driving to the mall. Figure out the right tip for each person on your gift list and then sit back and start counting the money you’ll save.

1. Go green. For anyone on your gift list that espouses environmental consciousness, give them some random piece of crap you found lying around your house. Don’t even bother wrapping the item, just stick it one of those grimy cloth bags that you’ve been using for groceries over the last 2 years and haven’t washed once. After all, the motto is “reuse, reduce, recycle.” Be sure and point out how the gift reduces your carbon footprint.

2. Establish feuds with friends and family. Start your vendettas in October, and end them in March. If you’re no longer talking to your sister, you don’t need to send her or anyone in her family a gift. Bonus move: create an unforgivable breach with enough family members that you can spend the holidays somewhere with good weather and no relatives.

3. Become religious and deeply spiritual. It doesn’t matter which one; the point is that you have realized the shallowness of material items. Offer the meaningful gift of spending time with loved ones explaining your new spiritual insights. Don’t worry; no one will take you up on your offer.

4. Lie. State that this year you’ve decided to donate the money you would have spent on gifts to a worthy cause, and then mention that you’ll be providing the giftee’s name and address for future contact. Make sure to specify a group that completely horrifies the person with whom you’re talking: that way you can skip making the donation, pocket the money, and no one will be the wiser.

5. Channel your inner Martha Stewart (not really; that would be insane.) The point is to do something cheap and easy that looks makes it look as though you cared. There’s a world of ideas for fake hand-crafted gifts. I’ll give you two to start with:
a. Get a piece of poster board and some watercolors. Spend about 10 minutes randomly splashing paint around; be sure and cover the entire surface. When it dries, cut the poster board up into greeting card size pieces and sign the bottom right corner of each. Voila! Hand-crafted individual paintings.
b. Go to Costco and buy a giant container of some fancy-ass popcorn and a box of sandwich size plastic bags. Divide the popcorn and attach a little card to each bag with your name and some statement like “Hand made from my kitchen with love”.

6. Whenever anyone starts talking about gifts or the holidays, adopt a superior, world-weary tone and start putting them down. Make it seem as though the very idea of shopping for gifts is just so very, very gauche that you couldn’t bear to be associated with it.

7. Make up a heart-breaking story about a personal tragedy that completely prevents you from giving gifts. Look for something that can be resolved in the future and is just embarrassing or gross enough that no one will ask for evidence or want to know too much about it.

8. Fake a religious conversion. If you’re Jewish, tell family that you are now Christian and therefore no longer celebrating Chanukah. If you’re Christian, inform everyone that you’ve just converted to Judaism and will not be celebrating Christmas. Explain that since you’ve become a (insert any religion other than what you were raised in here) you are no longer participating in family gift giving traditions.

9. Send everyone a heart-felt note stating how much you love and appreciate the people in your life, and how buying something just wouldn’t be as meaningful as telling them how much they mean to you. Be sure and use BCC when you sending your heart-felt and personal note, so it looks as though you are sending each one out personally.

10. Pretend the gift was lost in the mail. On the big day, ask everyone about the wonderful gift you sent. Tell how long it took you to pick out the perfect item, and how excited you are to see the reaction when it’s opened. When you’re given the news that no such gift arrived, be outraged and then deeply despondent.

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