Bah humbug...

Posted December 9th, 2007 by Penny Wise

Christmas spirit is somewhat divided in our house at the moment. I am SO over it already, whereas Liam is already beside himself with excitement. While it's wonderful to see he hasn't lost the magic of Christmas since discovering the identity of Santa's little helper, I wish I could summon up half his enthusiasm! I have almost, ALMOST finished my Christmas shopping, thank goodness as after the weekend's expedition I don't care if I never set foot in a shopping mall again. Scores and scores of harassed women, snapping 'No you CAN'T have that, you have to wait until Christmas!' to their screaming little ones, men with long faces waiting outside shops or trailing miserably behind the rest of the family - why do we do it? We only went on the Saturday to save petrol and combine trips anyway - Noel's Christmas work 'do' was an hour away in Hamilton city so we thought we might as well go early and get some gift shopping done. I figured the timing was perfect, as the Santa parade was about to start on the other side of the city and I presumed everyone would be there instead. WRONG. 'Can I hit someone? Please can I hit someone?' pleaded Noel under his breath as he navigated his overladen trolley, waiting for yet another oblivious shopper to stop blocking his way with their inane browsing. The only reason we didn't flee from The Warehouse entirely was because we were determined to get everything that we possibly needed, to eliminate all chances of having to go back in there before 2008. Oh - and of course the fact that they had a great special on trampolines.

Yes, it wasn't all bad. If there's one thing I can muster up a bit of excitement for it's the savings we managed to make. After much wracking of brains and weighing up of pros and cons, we had decided to get the boys a trampoline for their main Christmas present. A BIG one, with a net enclosure. A very important feature because not only will the trampoline be great for bouncing, it will also double up as a wrestling ring so I'm told! The only thing which put us off was the price but we remembered one of Fiona's favourite sayings, 'Everything comes on sale eventually' and waited for a special. Fortunately we didn't have to wait long and ended up saving a whopping $350! I also used my Dick Smith's VIP card to get $10 off a new release PS2 game and my Whitcoulls vouchers to get $40 off a board game. The boys really wanted it for Christmas but there was no way I was paying $60 for it, so at just $20 it was a great bargain! Next we headed for Kmart, where we wanted to look at getting an artificial Christmas tree instead of the usual real one - we felt bad about the non-eco friendly practice of needlessly chopping down a tree for just a few weeks. Until we saw the prices of some of the fake ones - $250 and upwards! Even the teensy ones started at $89! Needless to say we left them there.

As for the beautifully arranged displays of decorations, ornaments and knick-knacks, it was all I could do not to sneer scornfully at the hapless people putting them into their baskets. 'Pah, there's no WAY I'm buying into all that!' I scoffed to Noel. 'We don't need any of that stuff anyway.' We ended up getting a tree on the way home - a real one in the local garden centre in a big pot, roots and all for $20. Better still, this one is still small enough to stay watered in its pot for another year once Christmas is over, so we'll be able to use the same one next year before planting it permanently. It's reassuring to know after talking to my friend Maxine however, that I'm not the only person in the universe who finds decorating the Christmas tree horribly stressful. It's my upbringing, you see. My dad was an absolute perfectionist and it was years before he would let me touch the family Christmas tree - it all had to be done a certain way and I could see him cringe more by the minute at my amateur efforts. Consequently I have passed the same on to my children - 'No! You have to put the lights on first! No - wind the tinsel AROUND, don't just drape it. You can't put THAT many baubles on the same branch - tut, see? Now they've fallen off! Honestly - let ME do it'... Mind you, the atmosphere was hardly festive to start with; the kids commandeered the CD player and instead of Cliff Richard's gentle 'Mistletoe and Wine', I got blasted out by Linkin Park. I'm surprised we didn't all end up strangling each other with the tinsel and even Grandma couldn't stop laughing when she saw the state of the tree. I've a good mind to hang a sign on it, saying 'THE KIDS DID IT'.

I may have been too stingy to succumb to the lovely Kmart displays but unfortunately even I could see once the boys and I had put up the decorations, things were looking a bit sparse. I hadn't bought any decorations for years and had never bothered to replace any that were broken. With a national Sunday newspaper coming to photograph our frugal Christmas in just a few days, I was a little concerned. After all, we wanted to show them just how festive we could be without breaking the bank! I looked around the room woefully - and then remembered a brilliant hint I had seen in the Vault - 'Turn your framed pictures into Christmas decorations'. I couldn't wait to give it a go! The boys thought I had gone mad when they saw me taking the family photos off the wall and wrapping them in Christmas paper but they followed suit anyway, helping me wrap them up. We stuck on some recycled red and gold ribbon and then hung them back in their old spots on the wall. Honestly, you wouldn't believe the difference, it has made our lounge look really Christmassy! I have also run out of tinsel but I don't have to buy any more of that either, since I read the hint 'Colourful decorations from junk mail'. We can make as many colourful paper chains as we like for no cost! As for baubles, I made some a few years ago using polystyrene balls from the $2 shop, a scrap of sequined material and some curling ribbon. I still have enough left over to make some more and if I say so myself, they look great!

Even the media and I can't agree on Christmas at the moment. I couldn't believe my ears yesterday when I heard a radio show host going on about how much women love Christmas shopping. He obviously hasn't been to The Warehouse. I was so tempted to call in and say 'you can flush THAT stereotype right down the toilet mate!' Then to top it off, I sat down with my new issue of Consumer magazine and read the results of their latest survey on 'Top five Christmas gifts' . The top five gifts people apparently most wanted to give or receive this Christmas were as follows:

1. Vouchers for garden centres and book stores

2. Books

3. Pampering treats

4. Kitchen stuff and dinnerware

5. Computer equipment, jewellery and underwear.

Vouchers? After our weekend of complete and utter shopping hell, all most people supposedly want is VOUCHERS??? Well I'll remember that for next year, with a bit of luck I won't have to go shopping at all next Christmas! Honestly, where's their imagination - they obviously aren't Vault members or they would be far more creative! Come to think of it, a Vault membership really is a brilliant gift, isn't it? The SS team have been getting creative with wonderful results too. Kirstin's family have spent hours putting the junk mail paper chains into practice and check out Natalie's gorgeous SS-style Christmas tree!

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