Curbing the Christmas urge to overspend

christmas-presents under treeMy Christmas shopping came to a screeching halt this morning when the garden center rejected my debit card. Fortunately, I had the checkbook from my other account, the one I share with my husband, so I wrote a check to cover the cost. I’d finally found the perfect ornament for the top of the tree, a woman swathed for winter in Victorian clothes, and it was the only one left. That plus a couple of other ornaments cost only $36 – a deal I couldn’t resist.

He’s not going to be happy about it. He’ll be even unhappier when I tell him I drove down the road to the bank and deposited a check from our joint account to cover my shortfall. I usually check my balance online to avoid sinking into the red, but my computer had mysteriously refused to let me to access my account for the past few days, offering up a pesky argument about lapsed security certificates. Now the glitch is gone, but the damage is already done, to the tune of a $25 overdraft fee.

I thought I’d found an okay treetop ornament last night – a gilded light-up star for $10.99 from Walmart. But when I showed it to my spouse, he gave me that sardonic half-smile, half-sneer that means “This is so ridiculous that I’m not even going to dignify it with a comment.” (It’s the same expression he dons when I tell him I’m going to make a gazillion bucks from my books in the near future.) Given that look, I decided to visit Hewett’s one more time. I’d seen some treetop angels there last week, a bit pricy, but I hoped they might be on sale by now. They weren’t, but I couldn’t resist that Victorian woman, or the beautifully feathered red and green birds, even though I’ll have to hang the latter well out of reach of my cat Lunesta and my dog Sirius, who will no doubt find the plumage irresistible. Christmas shopping-frenzy checkout

Actually, last night I’d decided my shopping was pretty well finished anyway. Just before midnight, I ordered a Yamaha keyboard for my six-year-old granddaughter Jasper, a beginner’s model with lots of voices and built-in lessons on sale for $79 from Best Buy. I’ll give my 13-year-old granddaughter Kaya a promissory note for tickets to the travelling show of Les Miserables at Proctor’s next spring – that way I can put off actually buying the tickets till January.  

I ordered my husband a special present – something beautiful and totally impractical that he’ll never guess in advance, and that I can’t describe here because he reads my blog. Our daughter Stacey’s present is a new washing machine to replace the one that died – essential for a working mother with two young girls. For my 83-year-old brother, who lives alone in the Bronx, an assortment of cheeses and sausages, including his favorite Limburger, from our native Wisconsin. And that’s about it.

Back in the last millennium, I would have been a lot more extravagant. I had more credit cards back then, and I used them freely. I’m bipolar, after all, and one of the endearing traits of my diagnosis is a tendency to spend like crazy. But I’ve long since reined in that aspect of my manic side. Now I have only one credit card, and I’m proud to say I haven’t used it in years, though I’m still paying off the old balance. It’s not even activated, but they sent me a new one, and I admit I’m tempted.

My husband and I don’t need much new stuff these days, but three weeks ago we bought our main Christmas presents – two state-of-the-art Samsung Galaxy II smart phones. For years I’d struggled with my old Blackberry, hating its tiny keys and avoiding it as much as possible. Incredibly, I never even tried texting until I got this new gizmo, and already I’m finding it useful. In Target the other day, I texted Stacey to double check Kaya and Jasper’s current sizes.  And an hour ago, while my husband was out, I texted him as follows: 

Hi. U should know that I wrote checks for $240 today because my debit card was declined. Please don’t yell! IOU.

Unfortunately he came home just as I was sending it, so I told him to go into the bedroom and check his messages before we talked. He obliged, and when he emerged, we had a calm, rational conversation about our Christmas budgeting concerns.

Household harmony – what more could I possibly want for Christmas? How about you – how are you coping with the holiday spending frenzy? I’d love to hear from you.



4 thoughts on “Curbing the Christmas urge to overspend

  1. Thanks for link to read and chuckles this provided. My holiday spending is the same as any other time of the year as I struggle to find funds to cover basic living costs. Any gift will come from what is already owned or can be created. Perhaps this is the year I finish uploading photos to the digital frame I purchased for my mother several years ago and ship along with the extra warm socks I got for her and her sister last year. I mailed them to my aunt who was able to enjoy hers before she died this past April.
    I have the first live tree I’ve had in nearly 30 years and brought out ornaments and lights however haven’t put anything on it yet. Maybe tonight.

    • Thanks for sharing, Jacqui, and especially for being so open about your austerity. Glad you have a live tree – so do we, but we haven’t put ours up either. Tonight for sure!

  2. I tend to go nuts at Christmas, or so my husband thinks, but I can remember vividly the huge amount of presents my brother and I found under the Xmas tree because of 7 older bros. & sisters plus my parents. We were the babies, so the presents for us stretched half-way across the long living room! This is still my image of Christmas, so it’s no wonder I get a little bonkers.

  3. I hope you’re not going TOO bonkers. With just one brother, 12 year older than me, I tended to be treated like an only child at Christmas – tremendously overindulged. Fortunately, I’ve ditched those great expectations years ago. No more shopping!

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