Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas - Griswold Style

I read an interesting article in the Province newspaper on Friday. Online of course because I'm too cheap to buy the paper.

The title caught my eye. Seven Ways to Save Like Scrooge. Now that's my kind of Christmas cheer.

But I was quickly disappointed. The author started talking about how amazing it was that someone set a Christmas table for $90. I don't spend $90 on our entire Christmas meal, let alone on the table setting.

I began to think this article may not be scroogy enough for my life.

And then I read suggestion #4 "Last year's lights and faux wreaths, garlands and trees can all be reused."

This blew me away. I always throw out the brand new lights I purchase every year. I can reuse them?! Those Conservatives better get their butts back to work and pass some new legislation that says Christmas light must have the words "REUSABLE" posted in red letters on all the boxes. How's a person suppose to know these things?

Seriously though, I laughed and snorted as I read the article. Then I got irritated that someone had been paid to write an article about "Saving like Scrooge" when they really meant "Saving Like I'm Going to be Earning Less than $100, 000 Next Year and I Don't Have Children or Any Common Sense". There's a subtle difference.

So I thought the time is at hand for the REAL "7 Ways to Save Like Scrooge".

Merry Christmas and Ba Humbug to all.

7 Ways to Save Like a Griswold
by Mrs. Mahoney

The holidays....the joyous time of year when your counter tops are piled with unaddressed Christmas cards, broken Christmas ornaments and plates of gingerbread cookies with all the candy picked off. You've just hung up the phone after yet another conversation with your mother-in-law about table settings and green candles vs red. You must convince yourself that you can make it through the day without breaking out the Christmas Baileys you have hiding behind the light bulbs in the cupboard over the the stove.

As you sit down at the one corner of clear counter top, you start another list. The dreaded "how am I going to make the chequing account stretch enough to cover everything else I need to get" list. Alvin and the Chipmunks start singing about the joys of the season over the radio waves and something cracks. You've hit the proverbial gingerbread wall of Christmas preparation despair. A reprieve from all things jolly and bright is not in your near future. You know you need to get up, brush off the cookie crumbs and get on with it, but without the Baileys, how's a person suppose to cope?

Fear not. Mrs. Griswold is here to help.

In seven remarkably common sense steps, you too can have a Griswold Christmas.

As long as you serve liquor.

Step 1: Reality check

Before you can start saving your sanity and your money, you've got to get a grip. There is no such thing as Martha Stewart. Not even Martha Stewart is real. She pays gobs of people to do most of that stuff for her. So unless you're rich (and if you are, I'm pretty sure you're not reading this little article), stop thinking this is going to be the perfect Christmas. I've got news for you. The perfect Christmas took place in a little barn over 2000 years ago. There is no way you can compete with that.

Think back to the Christmases in your past. What are your favourite memories? Unless it was unwrapping a diamond of any shape or size, I'm betting that your special memories had little to do with getting 'things'. Favourite Christmas movies, driving through different neighbourhoods to look at the Christmas lights, baking the yearly Christmas fruit cake....oh, wait. That's my dad's favourite memory. Well, not baking it himself. 'Supervising' the baking would be more accurate. My recollection of that yearly event in my childhood is one of kinda feeling bad for the relatives that were getting that particular gift. Don't be baking fruit cake for people. Well, except for my dad.

Step 2: Prioritize

How much do you have to spend? Be it $20 or $200, what's your reality? Crack open the Baileys, sit down and face the reality of just how middle class you really are. Join the club and pass the liquor. If you sit there long enough, you'll start seeing that dismal number in double and that can only be a good thing.

Ok. I'll be serious. What gifts do you still need to purchase? What food do you need? What Christmas lights do you need to buy that your husband won't end up putting up anyways and you'll just end up boxing up with great irritation and cook him a crappy dinner that night and he'll have no idea what he did? It's all a matter of prioritizing wants versus needs.

Step 3: Gifts

Who do you need to give gifts to? Family and relatives of course, but then there's the list of teachers, coaches, babysitters, dance instructors....the list goes on and even a small $5 gift really starts to add up.

Instead, put a few Christmas cookies in a festive bag tied with ribbon and a personalized card from you child telling why that person has made a difference in your child's life. Christmas is an important time of year to recognize all the people in our lives and a gift from the heart speaks volumes. I worked in daycare for a number of years. I can't remember the things people gave me, but I still have the cards from the people who took the time to tell me that I was valued part of their child's life and why that was so.

When it comes to family and relatives, set yourself a dollar amount before you head out to the malls....actually, don't head to the malls. I'd rather you shop at your local 7-11 than go to a mall during the month of December. And in fact, if you're buying gift cards for anyone, why on earth would you enter a mall? You can buy practically whatever card you need at your local grocery store or gas station. Get gas, gift cards and a breakfast burrito all at the same time. It's a wonderful world.

Step 4: Decorating the House

Apparently, you're suppose to have a Christmas decorating theme. I choose the same theme every year. It's called Holiday Explosion. If it's red, green, silver, gold or given to me free, it is covering something or hanging from somewhere in the house. Sadly, this year's 'in' Christmas colour is purple. It's going to be very embarrassing having people over this year. What will they think? I mean, besides for my sad cooking skills and the desperate need to call a carpet cleaner.

I choose to decorate our house in memories, child made ornaments and candy. It works for us. It could work for you too. But if you're needing to acquire some holiday decorations, I implore you to get thyself to your local Salvation Army. Everything Christmas is 50% off right now. I scored a huge garland with adjustable twinkly lights for $2.50 this week. (Sadly, not one twinkly light is purple.) They look fabulous on my banister up the stairs. No, they're not LEDs, but I figure that it all evens out. I'm supporting the work that the Salvation Army does. And I'm reusing something instead of buying a new set of environmentally friendly lights that have made their way on a cargo ship all the way from China. I think we're even.

When it comes to trimming the tree, ingenuity can be key. We had two Christmas decoration disasters - one involving mice and one involving a large quantity of tepid water. Both resulted in the majority of our decorations being destroyed. And me crying. And cursing the day we ever decided to live in that particular house. Anywhoo...both those Christmases were times that did not have extra money to even head down to the local Salvation Army. So we decorated our tree with strung popcorn and decorated gingerbread men. We all had fun making the decorations. And the tree looked great.

Step 5: The Christmas Table

Let's be realistic here. A few pine cones and evergreen boughs (we live on the west coast....go for a walk), some candles, a bit of glitter, a Christmas cracker on each plate, and you're set. People come to eat your food. I have yet to have someone over that refuses to sit at my table because it's not decked out in purple. And the one time I DID have a lovely centrepiece, it was completely in the way of talking to people on the other side of the table and took up space where I wanted to put food. No, my table will never end up on the cover of a Christmas magazine, but I ask you this. Do you remember what the table you sat at last year looked like? Or do you remember the people who sat around it?

I thought so.

If you're one of those people who love the whole table decoration stuff, all the power to you. But truly, this is a place where you can use what you already have in the house and still have a beautiful table. Put some decorations in a bowl for a centrepiece, use some of nature's beauty. Imagination and not money is what's needed.

And wine glasses. Don't forget the wine glasses.

Step 6: The Christmas Meal

If you're really smart like me, you'll have your in-laws host their side of the family over at your house because it's bigger, and they'll bring all the food. Then on the opposite year have your side of the family's big dinner at your parents' house. It works out great.

If you're totally not lucky like me, and have the great task of putting on the Christmas feast, I suggest cooking with lots of wine. In your glass. And some in the gravy.

And of course, having everyone chip in. That's actually what we do with my side of the family. Everyone brings part of the meal. Works great. Everyone shares in the buying and making of the food. It really takes the pressure off of one person. And as long as my sister brings Tomorrow's Salad, it's all good.

Step 7: Remembering What Christmas is All About

The magic of Christmas isn't found in gift cards, fancy decorations or any shade of violet. It won't appear just because your home is picture perfect and ready for the Queen to stop by unannounced.

The magic appears at the sight of your husband hauling a Christmas tree over his shoulder, being followed by your four children, the two year old skipping along and shouting, "Tismas tee!! Tismas tee!!" It can be found in the joy of knowing you've been given one more year to share it with loved ones. It can appear when unwrapping a decoration that used to adorn the tree of a relative long since passed. The magic of the season is in remembering the 'reason for the season'. It's about a baby who was born in a stable and changed to world.

Presents need to be bought and wrapped, dinners prepared for, houses cleaned.

But don't forget to let the magic in.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is really brilliant. You should submit a link to this in the comments section of said offending article.