Monday, December 5, 2011

‘Tis The Season To Be Those Relatives

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know that Captain Carl and I are pretty strapped for cash these days. I don’t care what the politicians and polls say, the economy in our world is not recovering yet. I have a good job and the Captain is doing okay with his business, but we are just barely making ends meet. So he continues to job search and I continue to kick ass at work in the hopes of getting another pay raise and a promotion. And of course we still have Huey, who basically pays the Kiddo’s allowance with his rent each month.

I’m not going to complain about having less than other people. Mainly because we used to be the “other people” and we completely fucked it up by being arrogant and dumb about jobs and money. We’ve learned our lesson and now we’re just trying to hang on until we can pad the savings account again.

But in the meantime, the Christmas season has arrived. And damn, but it came faster this year than other years for some reason. I wasn’t prepared for it like I was last year. Last year I set aside a fair amount of cash for presents early on. I had most of my shopping done by the end of October. But not this year. This year, I completely put it off and now I’m paying for it. Well, our families are paying for it actually.

See, we just don’t have enough money to buy everyone nice presents. It’s just not possible. We now live credit card free, so we must have the money up front for everything we need. It’s a hard lifestyle when you are on a budget, especially after using credit for everything under the sun like we used to do. Sometimes we have to get creative, but so far we’ve made it work and I’m pretty proud of that.

Except it leaves very little for gifts. So we had to tell our families that gifts will be small. They understood, of course, but we still feel bad. I’ve shopped sales, something I’m really good at anyway, and have managed to find something for everyone. And we are making homemade candy to supplement our paltry offerings.

It’s not about how much you spend. It’s the thought that counts. Remember the real reason for the season.

That’s what I keep telling myself. And I’ve been quite proud of us, actually. Everyone will get something nice and it will be a heartfelt gift.

But then I talk to other people and hear about all the things they’ve bought over the weekend for their relatives. A laptop, a wool coat, a flat screen tv, an iPad 2...

And I start to feel like an asshole.

My stupid little gifts…a scarf, some lotion, a book…are now super lame and sad. They scream “Merry Christmas. We can’t afford to buy you anything awesome.” And now I want to call everyone and beg them to please please please not buy us anything expensive. Not because I don’t think they can afford it, but because it will make me feel bad when I open their gifts. I don’t want anyone to spend $100 on me when I can only spend $10 on them.

But it’s hard to tell your family that. Especially when you know they’ll just say “Oh, don’t worry! It makes me feel good to buy you things!”. And there’s just no Christmas-y way to say “Well it makes me feel like shit when you do.”

We’re tired of being “those relatives”. The ones that everyone knows are broke and can’t go on trips and can’t go out to eat every weekend and can’t buy the things they really want to give their family at Christmas. Not that it really matters. Because what’s most important is that our family is healthy and happy and blah blah blah.

Whatever. Maybe next year we will get rich and buy everyone an iPad3 and a 3D tv and then we can be all “Jesus is the reason for the season, but who cares because I’m totally wearing 3D glasses!”.


Jaclyn said...

We are those relatives too. Except my whole family is pretty poor so no one notices. But its definitely frustrating when you want to do more and can't. Now, at least, all the adults in my family have young children so we've agreed to a "kids only" policy. And toddler like fucking anything. I'm giving them all empty boxes for Christmas. Really,though, it isn't just about reciprocating the same level of money for a gift. It's about the same level of thought. If the tables were turned, would you spend less because a relative could only get you a small gift? Would you be all "fuck this shit" if you gave them something better than they gave you? Take a moment to enjoy the fact that you have people who love you and want to give you nice things. It doesn't make the things you are giving them any less nice or any less heartfelt. Cut yourself a break. Everyone is fucking broke.

Fragrant Liar said...

I know what you're saying, but this will pass. You and Capn Carl will gradually get to where you want to be. Since it's the season, I can play the eternally optimistic card, but in truth, I believe it. So hang in there and just enjoy your holidays without stressing over what you get or don't get, is what I'm sayin'.

Mrs Jones said...

Next year go blackberry/raspberry picking in September. Get the cheapest vodka you can find - add the blackberries and LOADS of sugar to the vodka. Shake the bottles every week or so to ensure the juice gets out of the fruit and into the precious, precious vodka. Give the bottles to friends and family at Christmas. They'll think you're wonderful and - winning here - too drunk to realise what a cheapskate you really are! Hooray!

Miss Yvonne said...

@Jaclyn - I wish our families would go to the "kids only" thing. We've tried to encourage it, but it's a no go.

@Fragrant Liar - thanks for your kind's hoping you are right!

@Mrs Jones - OMG. Why haven't I heard of this trick before now????

Ariane said...

Not sure if you've been to or not...I bought a bunch of our gifts on there this year. Lost of folks I know are "those people" (including us)and they're trying to sell their homemade crafty things so they can have a good Christmas. The prices are really reasonable and you just might spend an afternoon drooling over all the cool shit on there. Oh, and don't forget to hit up afterwards to look at all the "best" *cough cough* things ever posted on Etsy.

oh, and Hi, I'm Ariane. And I compulsively read your blog. :D

Eva Gallant said...

We're where you are this year. What with medical bills for hubby's chemotherapy, and now Lymphodema appointments, there's hardly enough to get us through the month, and we need to buy oil for heat; so Christmas gifts will be minimal, if at all! Not a fun Christmas.

Eva Gallant said...

We're where you are this year. What with medical bills for hubby's chemotherapy, and now Lymphodema appointments, there's hardly enough to get us through the month, and we need to buy oil for heat; so Christmas gifts will be minimal, if at all! Not a fun Christmas.

Gia said...

I hear you. I hate it when a friend wants to exchange with me. NO! I'm poor! I have no money! DON'T BUY ME ANYTHING.

Anonymous said...

I think your presents will be fine because you had to put more work into finding and/or making something meaningful than you might have if you and the Cap'n had a ton of loot. Good for you.

And I have to say, I'm mad jealous of your not living on credit! Whenever anyone poses the "what are the first five things you'd do if you won a ton of money" my number one item is "pay off my fucking stupid ass debt; credit cards first, then student loans."

Try not to beat yourselves up; your loved ones know all of those thoughts that you have toward them.


Marty said...

I work at Target, which means two things:

1) I have no money (believe or not working entry level retail, despite having a college degree, is NOT where the big money is).

2) I spend 40 hours a week watching other people spend ridiculous amounts of money on stupid shit. Shit to give, shit to make their house look like a magazine photo, shit that they'll loose or break and buy again next week.

And it makes me hate the fact that I can't just go buy a cheesy lighted lawn flamingo and a barbie dream house for my kids "because it's Christmas". "Because it's Christmas" doesn't mean jack to my bank account, and it sucks that I get see what feels like everybody else on the planet doing just that.

Joy to the world, the season of embittered consumerism is upon us.

A Kitchen Witch said...

Yep, the holidays can really make you feel crappy. Our car got sent in for a belt change and thanks to the a-holes who did the work and left a bolt out, now needs $2500 in repairs. They're fixing it, but you know what they say about older cars? Once one thing breaks, it's all down hill. I've only got two semesters left in school so we've been praying that no major expenses happen until I graduate and get a job. If there are any to be had by then ; ( Anyone in need of a teacher???

Cookie Monster in Therapy said...

Hey Mama and Mrs Jones. Go the vodka, but skip the berry picking and just add your favourite sweets!!!!! Jelly lollies, chocolate covered pineapple flavour, whatever (I don't know names of your funny USA sugary treats). They all disolve and taste soooooo damn good.
I'm a pauper too, and can barely afford to buy pressies for my kids and unfortunately a bottle of voddie won't cut it with them, or Child Services may have words for me. But whatever, the love is there. I can cry about it (and sometimes I do) but it won't help so make the most of what you do have. Cyber hug for you, and cos they are cheap, I'll give you two!

SherilinR said...

i've thought i was poor for years, but this year we're really beating our own record for paupery-ness. i can barely scrape together enough to pay bills all the time, how can i possibly add in gifts this month when the paycheck is no bigger? this year, i'm buying for my kid, but no one else. i feel like crap about it, but you can't create money where it doesn't exist. i'm resorting to the old "one coupon for a full body massage" for mom or "one coupon to have your car cleaned, vaccuumed and washed" for my dad. cheesy, but better than nothing, i hope.

Miss Yvonne said...

Awwww, you guys. You're so sweet. And so fucking depressing. Thank God, because I was starting to feel all alone with this problem.

Murr Brewster said...

Last year we told everybody (real early) we didn't want to do gift exchanges anymore. Absolutely everyone was relieved. Except my sister. She wants me to make her a present like I've done for the last thirty years. So, okay.

Repugnant Parachute said...

My bf was hurt at work a year and a half ago and was told by workers compensation that he was faking and they cut off his benefits.

We've been living on my income for the last 6 months and are just barely able to make ends meet. And I mean barely.

My 'friends' are all excited about their vacations, their new iphones, their new HD tvs, their home renovations, their new cars and I can barely eat every day. Nice.

Anyways, the point of this sob story is that you aren't alone. I'm broke. You're broke. Almost EVERYONE is broke. If someone is all offended that you can't afford to buy their love, then screw them. As long as your gift is well meant, then who cares how much it cost?? If I can make something thoughtful and useful for $5 that's a hell of a lot nicer than someone blowing $200 on something I don't need, can't use or don't want.

Holidays are far too materialistic and I've been a much happier person since I realized that.

Eventually this too shall pass, right?

Rebekah Mae said...

My family and I are in the same boat as you are, kind of, and so we've opted to not do gifts at all this year. As for those people buying their kids PS3's, IPAD3's, etc. I have to wonder, do they really have that much money or is it all a facade? I'm leaning towards the latter just because I know a few people who have almost no money to be spending and yet, their buying TV's for their four year olds and Xbox's and what not. Which is a shame if you think about it, everyone has lost sight of what Christmas really is and now it's all about who can give the best gifts,even if it means going into massive credit card debt. Never the less your small gifts mean more than those other people's Ipads and TVs because your gifts came from the heart.

VM Sehy Photography said...

I'm impressed. I'd like to be credit card free.

I'm reading a book about the difference between price and value. It's very eye opening. A handmade gift may cost less, but it has way more value.

Miss Yvonne said...

Hey everyone, thanks again for all your amazing comments. You make me feel less alone and more hopeful and shit, now I'm getting all mushy because of the feelings. Damn it.

Also, I just want to say that everyone should try the credit card free thing. We were basically for forced into it with a job loss, but I don't think we will ever go back to charging once we're back on our feet. It really is freeing, even if it is hard and kind of depressing. You really truly spend only what you can afford. Which means you miss out on some awesome stuff, but at least you can look yourself in the mirror and blah blah blah encouraging words blah blah blah fiscal responsibility blah blah blah armpit fart.

gman said...

Wow! You have a lot of comments on here and I am betting that a lot of these people know you which shows how big your heart is. There’s something that money can’t buy when it comes to Christmas, your time, personality and kind words. For those family members that live close to you, give a card with a homemade gift certificate for free babysitting, house cleaning, paint job or carpet cleaning. If they are close relatives they would appreciate the time, or for elderly relatives who can’t do things for themselves. Also you could give a framed letter explaining how much the person means to you, special memories or encouraging words about how they are smart, beautiful, helpful, or great at listening. I did something similar for my parents last year and I bought them a year of DISH Network HD service along with a Sling Adapter I got free with the subscription just like my employee model. Now they talk as much about the letter as they do the mobile TV they have with the Sling that they watch when they are traveling in the RV. I coordinated with my sister and she bought them a laptop they use to watch the TV and my other sister got them the Sprint WiFi internet and now they watch news 24/7 on the road the same as at home. (My siblings were more jealous about the letter though than the idea for the coordinated gift effort.)

Karen said...

We are those relatives, too, and have been for many years, due to some of the reasons you stated and other crappy circumstances.

About 20 years ago I started giving the adults in the family homemade candy/cookie trays for their gifts. (I'm a pretty good baker...just being honest!) I felt cheap and embarrassed, but it was all I could do.

Well, one year when we were a little better off financially, I didn't bake cookies or make candy. We bought real gifts for everyone. And you know what? Everyone bitched and moaned because they were looking forward to the homemade goodies. Apparently, they look forward to them all year long (or they're just really good liars!).

So it's now a tradition on both sides of the family. And one day (hopefully, someday soon!), when we're not so "poor", I'll still be baking cookies and making candy for those *poor* souls who can't bake to save their lives.

Hugs to you and yours...hang in there, sweetie!

Karen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nina Patricia @ The Adventures of Nina Patricia said...

Yay! We are those relatives too. Even worst: the ones with one (me) has been unemployed for over a year, we have no cell phones or credit cards (which actually saves us a ton), the one who always say no to trips and dinners too.
Also the ONLY one's that rent (we couldn't afford our home and end up homeless 2 yrs ago, when our youngest was a few months old). Oh, and did I mentioned we also have a son in college?
Trust me, we feel you.
Specially when we have relatives who's kids , at 3yr olds, have Ipads and I touch...bwahahaha is so funny and sad at the same time.
Is ok though, you will see that money is really not everything. We are happy and healthy and together, and yes, I would love to buy the new MAC makeup collection, my Frye boots and and Ipad without having to worry about paying the rent, but money is not everything (or so I tell myself)

I hope you do enjoy the Holidays and always think it will get better!

nova said...

I'm "those relatives" too. And also "that friend" who can't ever do anything because I'm perpetually broke. And I'm "that step-daughter" who only talks to you when I need money. Well, not so much anymore but totally sucks to always be that guy.

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