Christmas and the Cheapskate

Monday, December 10, 2012

It is that magical time of year - when you are still light-headed with sugar high withdrawal symptoms from eating all of your children's leftover Halloween candy, your mind is numbed by the election season, your pants won't quite close due to all the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, and truth be told, your Fourth of July decorations are still up. Barely December, but when you say you haven't done your Christmas shopping yet (and EVERYONE asks), they look at you with that odd mixture of pity and revulsion that is usually reserved for serial killers and political candidates.

I was beginning to panic, until the wonderful Holly!, my consultant on all things happy and holidays, eased my mind. "Amongst ourselves we refer to the afternoon before Christmas as 'Guys Day,'" the local gift guru notes.

Everyone is tight of fundage this year, so, I'm here to offer the Top Ten tips for affordable gift giving!

10. THE FRUITCAKE EFFECT - Normally, this is where I would encourage you to recycle a bad Christmas gift. Send on that petrified smoked meat log you got from somebody last year to the next hapless relative in line. Goodness knows how many years that thing has circulated around the clan, being wrapped and unwrapped over and over. I'm convinced that it is Christmas gift recycling that has destroyed the economy, however, so as much as you would like to move that Hawkeyes Snuggie or the Taylor Swift boxer shorts down the line, resist. Do it for your country.

9. LET VICTORIA STAY A SECRET - If you plan to buy sexy see-through lace lingerie for your new girlfriend, take extra care not to accidentally mix it up with the gift you got for her mother. Trust me on this.

8. LETS GET READY TO RUMBLE - Guys are traditionally hard to buy for. Keep in mind that all we really want is stuff with motors. A Harley would be great, but you can save a few bucks and go with the 600 horsepower leafblower that will blast our lawn refuse half way to Minneapolis; if it's noisy, we're golden.

7. I-PROD - When it comes to electronic gizmos, in any case where a product has an "i" in front of it, it stands for "It's overpriced," and "It's not in stock until next August."

6. JUST SAY NO - There are certain gifts that should only be given in the event you wish to escape an invite to that person's Christmas party the following year. An acne product, for example. Remember, "One size fits all!" is a cruel lie. I find that females seldom like to be given anything meant for the cleaning of residential space (ie: Swiffer and ShamWOW) or for the cooking of food intended to be consumed by you. Nice try, cowboy, but skip the Ginzu knives, unless you intend for her to lodge one in your back.

5. THE MALL TAKES YOUR SOUL - There will come the moment, likely around noon on December 23, when you are inspired to hit the urban mall and find the perfect gift for everyone on your list. Lay down until it goes away. Think 'seventh circle of hell.' If the family drags you, enjoy all the piped in air, Musak carols on an endless loop and horrific plastic trappings, but keep your wallet in your pocket. Everything you really need is in your own town - heck, it might all

be at your gas station. And charging children to sit on Santa's lap? Shame on you, malls.

4. ACT YOUR AGE - Do not presume to pick out clothing or music CDs for your teenage children, unless you have help from another teenager. You are not nearly as cool as you imagine at this point, and spare yourself the experience of seeing the condescending look on their faces as they hold out their hands for the gift receipts.

3. GIVE THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING - The great thing about Christmas presents for people who cohabitate in your digs is that you simply buy them what you yourself want. They won't really like it, so it will be right there for you to play with and enjoy whenever you like, all year around. You might even be able to break even on gift shopping. Make sure everything runs on 40 AA batteries, which you then offer to sell to your children for triple face value, since there are no stores open on Christmas.

2. HANDMADE! (USE SOMEONE ELSE'S HANDS) - The craft industry would have you believe that the only gifts that really matter are the ones you make with your own two puffy Frankenstein mitts. So here's what you do: gather all creative materials (mostly pinecones), and spread them out on the kitchen table. Carefully hot-glue all the parts, and most of your fingers, together. Realize that whatever it is supposed to be, it looks like a massive lump of cat vomit. Cry. Realize that just because you don't have money, it doesn't mean you have talent. Throw the whole sticky mess against the wall, hard, with a primal scream. Go to the store and buy the gift you should have gotten in the first place. Feel fantastic.

1. IT'S ALL ABOUT PRESENTATION - Expensive wrapping paper and ribbons and musical poetic tags and all that stuff, forget about it. Listen - the perfect guy wrapping solution is always a black trash bag, a bow that you've been reusing for at least 20 years, and a stapler. WA-CHUNK! Done.

Think about it. If you buy a barely decent, inexpensive gift and wrap it in magnificent trappings, the crestfallen recipient will be only be able to think what a cheapo you are when they finally get it open and see what it is. But when its in a garbage bag, even a barely presentable gift is going to be a pleasant surprise. Be a Hefty hero.

BONUS! - What are kids asking for this season? I was hanging with Santa after the Miracle on Lake Avenue parade, and a kid came up and asked for (I am not making this up) "a cloak of invisibility." Too much Harry Potter? Tell him it's wrapped under the tree, but it's invisible.

DOUBLE BONUS!! - I'm going to share my ultimate personal gift-giving secret here, never before revealed to the public. The perfect gift to give anyone and everyone, without requiring any thought, or even really knowing who those people are. It is not too personal to embarrass, it angers no one, is never the wrong size and no one will really miss it if it gets stolen. The no-fault, affordable, go-to gift I've given to every Secret Santa or grab-bagger for years. Wind chimes. Yes, wind chimes! God's perfect gift. Unless you are in high security prison or on the space station, everyone has wind.

Perfect. You're welcome. Happy holidays.