‘Tis the Season

Christmas has never been a “magical” time for me. I loathe snow and anything snow-related, like ice-skating and snow boarding. I’ve never felt that is was a particularly romantic time, either. I don’t have much “Christmas spirit” for Christmas shopping, watching reenactments of the nativity scene, and doing charity work.

I guess I feel this way because I’ve always struggled with the “true meaning” of Christmas. As in, what does Christmas mean to me as a Christian? How do I celebrate Christ’s birth and His life? Somehow, I often find myself feeling guilty during this time; I haven’t done enough charity work or I didn’t buy enough presents. I never feel like I do or give enough. These feelings are, of course, self-imposed.

I remember discussing Christmas with some friends a few years ago. One friend, when prompted about the meaning of Christmas, said, “Presents.” Of course, this led to an argument, during which I sat back, amused. I don’t disagree with what she said. For some people, Christmas is literally just a time to give and receive presents and I don’t think that’s a horrible thing. Christmas-time has become a social custom, a time when people “celebrate” with parties and presents.

Back in my shopaholic days, and even now, I used to go overboard on Christmas. This year, I’m making an effort to reduce my personal level of materialism. Sure, I’ll still give and receive presents, but just not as much. My sisters and their significant others started a tradition last year of drawing names in a gift exchange instead of buying presents for everyone. For us, this is better for the conscience and easier on the wallet, which helps 🙂 We use Elfster to set it up.

At 11 people, our gift list is by no means short. We’ve already begun to chip away at some of it.

  1. Gift exchange – family (2)
  2. Gift exchange – fellowship
  3. My parents
  4. ST’s parents
  5. ST’s little sister
  6. ST’s nieces
  7. My grandmother
  8. ST’s grandparents
  9. ST’s baby cousin
  10. Our god daughter
  11. My nephew

To get a head start on the madness, I’ve been trolling my favorite shopping websites, Ben’s Bargains (for tech-related gifts) and Brad’s Deals (for everything else). I’ve also tried to purchase from websites that offer cash back via Ebates (referral). This requires a degree of savviness. I found ST’s present on Amazon but since they don’t offer cash back, I had to search using Ebates to find the same item at the same or lower price. 3% cash back might not be much for a small order but it really makes a difference when the item costs hundreds of dollars. Something I noticed is that while Amazon is convenient (especially if you have a Prime membership), it does not always offer the lowest price. They also charge sales tax, which is a total bummer. I purchased the same item for a lower price, with cash back, no sales tax, and free shipping through Buy.com, saving a nice chunk of change.

Ebates is also known to double up or more on points. I was just about to order a present for my nephew with a 20% off coupon from Piperlime but I hesitated when I saw that the cash back was only 2%. Cash back for Piperlime, Gap, and Old Navy is often 10%. 10%! Since Piperlime has free 3-5 day shipping, I can l wait on this purchase.

For the kids’ gifts, I ordered toys through Target since I got their credit card, which gives me 5% off every purchase and free shipping. Thanks for tip, Winn!

To be honest, I’ve been thinking about Christmas presents since the beginning of October – insane, I know. But you have to have a game plan to stay on top of things. And I think it helps me to reflect on my past spending habits and attitude.

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