I did something really daft yesterday – I decided to go Christmas shopping for one last look around. The daft part was that I actually believed that the shops would still be quiet this early in December – WRONG! It seemed the world and his wife had all thought the same thing and an hour later I was cursing them all and desperate to be on my way back home. Served me right I suppose for hitting the shops when I didn't really need to. Don't worry, I didn't go overboard on the spending, though! It's just not part of my shopping persona any more and I find it almost impossible to fritter. I'm sure several shop staff thought I was a few sandwiches short of a picnic as I went round and round, picking things up, carting them around for ten minutes while I reasoned with my inner self before putting everything back and walking out of the shop. I was keeping my Six Steps in mind the whole time, you see – particularly Step 5 'Is there a better way?' Yes, the Spongebob Squarepants pencil case would have made a lovely stocking filler and I carried it around for quite a while before reminding myself that the plastic Spongebob drink tumbler from last year's stocking made a perfectly acceptable pen holder ever since its straw had broken off. Maybe I only saved myself $3.49 on that particular occasion, but by the time I had talked myself out of also buying a Spongebob lunch tin ($9.99 – we already have plenty of lunch boxes) a book of Most Dangerous Animal Predators ($29.99 - Ali already has one which he loves) and a new release book for me ($34.99, will order it from the library), I had saved myself a grand total of $78.46 – and that was just in one shop!
I did manage to bring myself to buy a few things, but even then I made some valuable savings – more a fluke than anything but I was pretty pleased with myself for keeping my eyes open. Ali had a Playstation game on his Christmas list and I was pleased to find that as it was one which had been out for a while, it was a good $30 less than I thought. I picked one up for $59.99 and continued looking through the rows of games for one which was on Liam's Christmas list. While I couldn't find that one, I excitedly spotted another copy of the same game I was already holding in my hand for $49.99! A whole $10 saved just like that (and yes I did check the docket while I was still in the store to make sure I got it for that price!) Another lucky saving happened not long after. When I had been in the book shop I saw a beautiful book called 'The Children's Encyclopedia of Animals'. I knew Ali would love it, but at $39.99 I told myself that he already had enough presents. I left it in the shop but it was such a lovely book I was soon kicking myself for not getting it. Just ten minutes later, I was walking past another book shop several blocks away and was amazed to find the exact same book on their specials table for $10 less! I decided I must be meant to have it after all and snaffled it up quick smart!
When I got home I decided to sort everything out and write a list to see exactly what everyone had and make sure the boys were even on the present stakes. I was surprised to see that their overall present tally was actually quite short and it took me a while to work out why that was, until I clicked. No toys! Well, hardly any. Contrary to my Sad Sally Christmases of old, I had managed to almost completely refrain from buying them any useless clutter (unless specifically mentioned on their wish lists). For example, one of Ali's presents is a half-day Junior Zookeeper's course at the local zoo. Another one is an adoption pack for an animal at Australia Zoo. I can't wait to see his face when he opens his gift and adoption certificate from Agro the Crocodile! He has learned so much about Agro from watching Steve Irwin over the years and hopefully this time next year we will have saved enough to be able to take him to Australia Zoo to see him for real. It feels far more rewarding to give the kids gifts which will hopefully stand them in good stead for years, rather than the usual five-minute wonders. After a lengthy online auction search, I won a beginner's guitar for Liam. He has wanted to learn the guitar for some time but in our small rural area there are no teachers around to help him. So he asked if I would help him learn as something we could do together. How could I say no to that! I found an awesome package from a registered music store seller, with a brand new electric guitar, amp, case and all the accessories including a 'How to Play' book and DVD for less than I had expected to pay for a second hand guitar! I also bought him a good quality sleeping bag for his first week-long school camp in February, so one way or another, hopefully all the boys' presents will be put to good use.
The Vault has so many brilliant ideas for making Christmas gifts! I'm looking forward to trying out some of the amazing recipes for festive munchies and tipples. There are so many clever and creative ideas from members, I have been gleaning tips from them all year round and am hoping to put something special together for Liam, which hopefully he will love even though it costs next to nothing! Being a family of devoted rugby fanatics, we have been lucky this year to see some brilliant games from national and international competitions. Thanks to some ideas from the Vault, I had the foresight over the past few months to keep every piece of memorabilia from each game, the tickets, programmes and any photos and reports from newspapers and magazines. Any articles I didn't remember to keep, I managed to source from the Internet. All these have been collated and are being put into an A3 display file for Liam to keep and remember his first All Black game and so on. I have used some of the great scrapbooking tips from the Vault to get ideas for free page embellishments. I hope it's going to look as good as I envision, and more importantly I hope Liam will love it.
Talking of rugby, I can't wait to see the school concert this year! It's supposed to be a secret but the boys' enthusiastic practising is a bit of a dead giveaway. They are doing the story of New Zealand and all the kids are really getting into it. How often in this day and age do you see buses of school children going past, all earnestly singing the National Anthem at the top of their voices instead of the latest chart topper? It's a lovely sight! However, the part I'm most looking forward to seeing is the Haka. All the boys in the school have had to audition and how their teachers have managed to keep a straight face during the 'Haka Idol' elimination rounds is totally beyond me. Ali is extremely proud to be the Haka leader in his class and takes his job very seriously. Every afternoon this last week I've found him practising in front of the bedroom mirror – unfortunately his teacher has asked him to please refrain from doing the controversial 'throat slitting' action at the end and jump along nicely with the others instead!
With no real plans for these Christmas holidays except carrying on with our work in the garden, we decided to take advantage of an opportunity to go away for a few days in the small window between where the school term ends and the official holidays begin. We contacted the owner of the beach house we usually stay in and were pleased to find that the house would be free to rent during that time. 'Excellent, we'll take it!' I said. 'Very good dear', said the owner. 'Now I must just tell you that the price has gone up a little for this time of year'. No problem I said, thinking of perhaps a $20 increase. 'The price is $200 a night over the Christmas season'. I almost dropped the phone – almost FOUR times as much as we usually pay to use the exact same house at any other time of year! Our three nights away were going to cost $600 without food and expenses! I covered up my horror as best as I could and said 'thank you very much' and then waited until I knew she would be out to leave a message un-booking it again! Even in my saddest of Sad Sally days I couldn't have justified spending that much and these days I wouldn't dream of it. As it is, this Christmas Day is set to be a relatively cheap one for us, as we will be spending it with the in-laws. However, on catching up with a group of friends a few days ago this could be subject to change. With four other families spending Christmas on their own this year, all of us decided we would get together for drinks and a BBQ on Christmas night, but there was some deliberation over whose house everyone would go to. 'Ah well, they might as well come around to our place', suggested Noel cheerfully. 'Good idea' I replied, 'I'll ring everyone – hang on! That's no good – the host always ends up paying out more for food and drink, I don't want to do that!' Jings, have I really become that frugal?!