Based on casual conversations, this is another holiday of reduced circumstances. Many families who haven’t experienced a job loss have had a significant reduction in income or are anticipating one. A blazing hearth loses its charm if you’re preoccupied with how the roaring gas logs will add to the utility bill.
What are you doing differently this year? Here’s what I’m hearing:
* Kids are getting the One Big Gift that tops their list. No promises about the gift list from item #2 down.
* Grown-ups are daring to suggest that they stop exchanging gifts and just worry about the kids. Mature families were already at this point, but financial limits seem to have given younger families an excuse.
* Spouses have accelerated the gift curve. It might have taken two kids and seven years of marriage to get to the point of “gifting” a home repair or appliance, but now you can get there in only three years and one kid. Or a remodel, regardless of years married/children.
* What would have been a $10 gift card a couple of years ago is now going to be a bag of candy and a heartfelt note. The biggest appreciation gifts are going to the volunteers such as Sunday School teachers, less so those who are paid (sorry, postal carrier).
Most of us are still shopping, we’re just being more judicious about what we purchase. This isn’t a bad thing. What is unpleasant is having to give up that Sugar Daddy/Santa feeling we had when we felt like we share bounty of our overflowing lives. Now the cup isn’t exactly overflowing, so we have to carry it carefully.