Growing up and even now, my mother complains about how my dad shops for her for Christmas. He wants a list. He takes her list, hits the bank for cash, and then goes to the mall and goes down the list getting her everything on it. She hates that. I can see her point to some degree. Most women I know foolishly expect our men to read our minds and just "know us." It is just so romantic to have our sweetheart find a perfect gift and surprise us with it.
But most men I know are like my dad. They don't want the pressure of finding the perfect gift. They don't enjoy or have the time to spend hours in the mall scouring the clearance rack for a great deal. And since most women, when shopping for themselves, make several trips back and forth to the dressing room, critically eying the length of the skirt or the tightness of the hips or the plunge of the neckline, and discarding half the selected items, it is small wonder that any man who has witness that scene would ever have the confidence to pick out something and expect his wife to be happy with it.
I have tried to defend my dad to my mom and tell her that his shopping for her in that manner is an act of love. Here she has told him her heart's desire and there he goes to fulfill it. What more could (should) any woman want?
Fortunately for my husband, I am much more pragmatic. For our recent anniversary, I bought myself a Bissel carpet cleaner and then thanked him for his generosity. Usually, though, I tell him what I want and let him buy it. The year he was in Kosovo, he bought me a blender/food processor. He actually bragged to his buddies that his wife requested a blender for the occasion. And I was happy. I let him shop (online) for it, and he spent a good deal of time researching features and reading reviews to make sure he got me a really good one. He picked one that was far superior to any I may have considered myself. Now that's love.
So, this month, I am looking at how I spend our money and am trying to begin shopping for Christmas with an eye on how I may be wasting money. I think the system my husband and I have, where we each write a long list of things we'd like including size and color if appropriate (we mark catalogs), and then we set a budget, and then we are free to shop off the other's person's list within the budget, is a nice blend of getting things you'd like but still having a surprise. And in recent years when money has been less tight, we've each felt a bit freer to get one or two things that are not on the list but we think the other would like.
But I have not been quite as spend-thrifty when it comes to the kids. Stocking-stuffers are my big downfall where I know I spend too much money on little things that they don't care too much about. I want those stockings to be full, but I don't want them full of candy, so I fill them with stuff. Maybe this year, I'll fill them with nuts and buy a nutcracker (a real one) and introduce my children to the inexpensive and time-consuming pastime of working for your snack.
Also, I need to move fast and think hard about some deals that are too good to miss. We always buy books for Christmas time. I received this email a few days ago:
Borders Books will honor educators during "Educator Savings Days,"Thursday-Tuesday, October 12-17. During this time, educators will receive a 25 percent discount on books, music and gift items, and a 20 percent discount on DVDs. (Normal exceptions apply.) The discounts are available for items purchased for personal as well as professional use. Current and retired teachers, librarians, school employees, principals, homeschoolers, instructors, trainers, and other educators are eligible.If I do an hour of hard thinking, I should be able to come up with a shopping list for my nearest and dearest, including nephew and nieces. A 25% discount is hard to beat, and since I know I will be buying books anyway, I think it would be a waste of money to wait another month to shop.
I'd like to hear from you. What goes in those Christmas stockings? Do you and your husband have a good system for buying gifts for each other, or is Christmas a big disappointment for you both? And who has started shopping already?
Also, I'm looking for some good ideas for the kids to make for each other and others. I've thought about the boys picking out cookie recipes (we have a great book with pictures) and baking them to send to grandparents and to our deployed friends and to wrap and give to each other. I've thought that even my 3 year old can dip pretzels in chocolate for a yummy present. Any other ideas?