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Mr. Maroon

December 3, 2014

Bah Humbug!

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‘Tis the Season

Every year at Christmas, since the beginning of our togetherness, Mrs. Maroon and I fight.  It’s true.  Despite all of the jolly carols, warm emotions, happy childhood memories, and beautiful décor that surround us, we can’t seem to find happiness because the Christmas season has ALWAYS brought despair. Despair in the form of Christmas Presents.

 

But, it’s such a wonderful time of year – what EVER could two people so in love argue about at Christmas? Here’s a small insight:

  •  Mrs. Maroon innocently never wants ANYTHING for Christmas. She simply detests assembling a list of items for which you can buy her. This is a concept that is lost on most normal individuals.
  • Mrs. Maroon’s family insists on giving, and often over-giving, Christmas presents. I prepared what my mother-in-law perceived to be a mediocre Christmas list last year and, though I was satisfied with the gifts I received, I was reassured Christmas morning that “I just feel like I didn’t get you enough presents, so let me know what else you want and I’ll go out tomorrow and get it.”
  • Mr. Maroon’s family has a lower budget for Christmas presents than Mrs. Maroon’s family which, on the surface, doesn’t seem like it would be an issue. But all it takes is one curious “What did ‘so and so’ get you for Christmas?” and you have to don a raincoat just to protect yourself from the pissing match that ensues. It’s not a damn competition, folks.

The list, quite literally, goes on AND on. But this year, armed with our newly adopted lifestyle, finds us tightly bonded in agreement about Christmas and fighting more and more with our families instead.

 

2014 Was The Year of Change

I’d even go so far as to say this was the year we became grownups. We took control of our finances and, thus, our lives and future. We moved away from home. We grew our family by one and have really started becoming an independent family unit.

 

So it was awesome last night, as we discussed what Christmas traditions we want to start establishing for our family now that our soon-to-be three year old Mini #1 is transitioning from toddler to little boy and discovering Christmas again for the first time. We want him to understand that the true meaning of Christmas isn’t opening a mountain of presents* or focusing on what Santa Claus brought – but giving to others and being thankful. We want to be in our home on Christmas morning – just the four of us. We crave simplicity. We reject consumerism. We honor thoughtful surprises as gifts, instead of long lists of stuff from which our gift givers can choose from, assured they’ll be getting us exactly what we want. (Here’s a hint, if you’re reading: We make those lists to appease you. That stuff is not what we want.)

 

Our conversation quickly turned to how ridiculous Christmas gift giving has gotten. I mean, really ridiculous! In the past, for example, we’ve established a $100 per person budget in Mr. Maroon’s family. There are five adults: Grandpa, Mr. & Mrs. Red, and Mr. & Mrs. Maroon with our two kids: Minis #1 & #2. It’s easy to see that it’s not equal, but that’s another argument for another day. So, here we are with a $100 per person budget. Let’s be honest, $100 is still quite a bit of money when it means you’re spending $400 on your brother’s family for Christmas; but $100 doesn’t buy as much as it used to when we were kids. This means that, in order to have the requisite LOTS of presents, we end up with about ten or so $10 presents that are mostly crap. Not usually thoughtful or useful crap, mind you. Just plain-old, no sugar-coating it, crap. Like this gem I received last Christmas:


I cannot give an example of what he said. Not a single saying is appropriate to repeat, even to a bunch of strangers on the Internet.

 

Which begs the question: Why not just give me the cash? Because really, if you’re all going to give me $100 worth of crap, I’d rather have the Benjamins so I can put them all together and buy something worthwhile with this unexpected income!

 

Better yet! If we’re just going to get together and exchange cash, $100 per person to be exact, why not just drop the whole charade? I mean how silly is it to get together and hand each other identical $100 bills?!?! Perhaps yours is more thoughtful because you made the effort to go get nice, crisp ones from the bank? Seriously – you keep yours; I’ll keep mine. OH NO! That’s not thoughtful. But a cussing bear in a house with two young kids is…?

 

That’s what Christmas has become. It’s all about the presents. It’s all about the stuff. And the damnedest problem for us this year has been trying to get our loved ones to realize that what we really want is nothing. It’s that simple.

 

But There’s Hope…

 

Several weeks ago, Mrs. Maroon found an article that discussed the simplicity of Christmas gift giving. That discovery led to our approach for this season:

 

Something you want, something you need.

Something to wear, something to read.

 

It’s simple. It’s catchy. We eagerly shared this concept with our families and, you guessed it! They HATED it! So much so that they pushed back with passive aggressive comments like “oh, you don’t have to buy us anything, but we still want to get you more than that” and “if you’re so worried about spending money, I’ll be happy with some cheap perfume”. I threatened to cancel Christmas almost a dozen times.

 

And then it finally clicked. Oh, it’s going to take some massaging to encourage our families to stick with it. But they’re coming around.

 

We’re All In This Together

 

Change is hard. The Maroons and our extended families have endured a lot this year. With communication and understanding we’ll assuredly survive another Christmas. So, in the spirit of the holidays, I’m going to end with this. It sums up most of what I’m feeling about Christmas as I write this post. In spite of all the nonsense:

 The wisdom of Clark W. Griswold

“Nobody’s leaving. Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We’re all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We’re gonna press on, and we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny f***ing Kaye. And when Santa squeezes his fat white a$$ down that chimney tonight, he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of a$$holes this side of the nuthouse.”

 

* Last Christmas, Mini #1 received as his first present a slinky. He was a very curious and confused by the present opening experience. All he wanted to do was play with whatever it was he had just unwrapped. He innately found happiness with an incredibly simple gift and couldn’t have cared less about each subsequent package. We found ourselves encouraging him to quickly rip the paper off, toss it aside, say ‘thank you’ as he put the prize in a pile, and then immediately move on to the next package. After all, if we didn’t speed things up, we would have been there watching him for hours – HOURS. About half way through the process, I got pretty sad as it dawned on me that we were encouraging the behavior we regretted so much about Christmas. It was US who were bastardizing him by teaching him to tear through the packages. It was us promoting the idea that receiving and opening lots of presents was the thrill to be cherished. We were robbing him of the innocence of exploring what this wonderful new gadget could be. Fortunately, he doesn’t remember last Christmas; so this year we have the chance at a do-over. But we agree it is likely our last chance, so we better get it right this time.

 

~ Mr. Maroon

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Weekly Goals: November 30, 2014
  1. Comment by Mrs SSC — December 4, 2014 @ 7:51 AM

    After reading a few blog posts on different sites about Christmas, I am realizing how lucky I am at Christmas time in regards to presents and gift giving. We typically celebrated with my parents and my yet-unmarried brother, and we are a fairly tight-knit group. I love giving presents, and I think for the most part everyone else puts some thought into gift-giving, as none of us are spend-thrifts. I’d say a good 90% of the gifts are welcome and useful. So, I’m thankful for that.

    One thing that might help cut down on the crazy gift giving in a big family (my Mom did this with her 7 brothers and sisters), was that they would draw names. So instead of getting 7 crappy cheap gifts, everyone would get 1 really awesome gift.

    Having the kids does open up a whole new dimension of complexity – trying to teach them generosity instead of selfishness. I finally convinced my parents to give them just a small gift or two, and then the rest put in their college fund. I do the same thing – just get them a couple of small gifts and then invest some cash for them. Although, it is hard for me not to spoil them!
    Mrs SSC recently posted…The ‘lightbulb’ emailsMy Profile

    Mr. Maroon Reply:

    I only wish our families were large enough to draw names.

    I hear you on spoiling kids! I did learn a valuable lesson, though, back about seven years ago, that makes me not want to spoil the Minis. The first Christmas that Mrs. Maroon and I spent with my family, we were gathered in the living room – Christmas music filled the air and the roaring fire in the fireplace set a Happy Holiday tone, reminding me of many a childhood Christmas. As the gifts were relocated from beneath the tree to each person, I started to slowly glance around the room, noticing that each attendee had quite a haul (the usual 15-20 packages) while I had about five. I couldn’t hardly hide my disgust and jealousy; so much so that Mrs. Maroon and my sister quickly took notice of my emotion. It turns out my BIG gift that year was an altimeter. As a child, we spent an inordinate amount of time in the Rocky Mountains. It is a place that I dearly love. But I haven’t regularly been back since I was in high school in the mid- to late-1990s.

    I tell that story for two reasons:

    1) Your family members will always remember the younger you. Many of the presents I get, even now in my mid-30s, are related to my hobbies back when I was in high school or before.

    2) I was extremely disappointed with my Christmas presents and incredibly ashamed of it. I never thought I was the kind of person that would count presents and compare, but it happened. I realized I had been pretty spoiled with gifts growing up. I guess I figure I can prevent some of that behavior in my children by not overdoing it early on.

  2. Comment by Erin @ Journey to Saving — December 7, 2014 @ 10:25 PM

    While no fights happen because of Christmas, it is difficult to deal with my side of the family. They’re very generous (sometimes overly so), and we just don’t have the means to give back that much.

    I also don’t like compiling lists of what I want for anything, and no on believes me when I say I don’t want anything! I’m actually kind of thankful that we moved away this year – people are sending us cash instead of presents. Much easier!

    However, my mom still believes we need things under the tree to open. I agree to some extent, as long as the gifts are needed/wanted and not trivial junk, but I don’t really want her to spend anything on us. My parents gave me a lot growing up, and they were in debt…well, they’re still in debt, and even though they’re in a much better situation, I just feel guilty.

    So all of that to say I can relate on some level, and I wish it wasn’t about the gifts. I wish my family would realize that their company is enough!
    Erin @ Journey to Saving recently posted…Being Grateful: Fifty-Fourth EditionMy Profile

  3. Comment by Laurie @thefrugalfarmer — December 8, 2014 @ 7:59 AM

    That is craziness! We have dear friends who struggle with the same stuff with extended family Christmases. I feel lucky that both Rick and my extended family have dumped Christmas gift giving with the exception of the kids on my side. What a relief! We do, on occasion, no pressure, give family gifts, usually at a cost of under $25. A nice little gift just for fun. Christmas gatherings are SO much more fun now. Best of luck to you guys as you navigate around the greediness of the Christmas season. 🙂
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted…May I Suggest Some 2015 Resolutions for Your Money?My Profile

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