I am a Big Christmas person. My childhood was a whole lot of doing without and feeling less than, but Christmas was the time of year when my wildest dreams could (maybe) come true. Truthfully, considering my circumstances, my Christmases were bigger than they should be. One reason was that my only parent was determined to have us not stand out as the poor relations, and so there was a fair amount of illegal hustle and bustle that went on to provide the trappings of the We Definitely Are Not Poor Annual Holiday Spectacular. But the other, far more heartwarming reason was because my extended family was aces at rallying and chipping in so that I could have the occasional fancy doll, gaming console, or the name-brand sneakers like my peers.
When I was a teenager, I watched Oprah interview Paul McCartney (I’ve always been different, okay?), and I’m going to paraphrase the conversation, but she basically asked him, were your kids just spoiled stupid? Because, you know, Paul McCartney. And he said, “No. Well, Christmas and birthdays, we spoiled them rotten. But the rest of the time, we didn’t.” I decided that this was parenting advice to live by.
I say no all year. When we are forced to exit through the gift shop (wtf, Phoenix Zoo?), I am the mom hollering, “Eyes down, straight ahead!” I am rarely the mom who buys something fun “just because,” and I am definitely never the mom who lets you pick out a toy for getting through Target without a tantrum. Christmas and birthdays, though?
We have had very lean Christmases (like the one where I left the workforce and gave birth to a baby on Christmas Day), and we’ve had years where we could spend more. Regardless of budget, I have always made it a point to make them feel a little spoiled. You could see it as a reflection of late-stage capitalism, or you could see it as me trying to model the ridiculous, exorbitant love of Jesus. Neither interpretation is incorrect.
Which makes it extra weird to announce that…Christmas 2019 is canceled.
There will be a handful of presents, and wow, are they going to be Weird. There will be some lanyards, glow sticks, maybe a t-shirt, and an assortment of even weirder crap: a bingo dauber, a calendar, a paper chain. Little will they know, this hodgepodge of nonsense is actually a puzzle worthy of a Dan Brown novel. Once they crack my DaGrinchy code, they will find out that the real present comes in January, when…
If you know us IRL and you spoil this surprise for us, I will pack you in my suitcase. In small pieces. And then I will throw that suitcase into the moat around Sleeping Beauty’s castle.
Hold up, hold up. We are babystepping out of debt! This is outrageously dumb! How in the WORLD are we going to pull this off? Are we going into more debt? Are we skipping bills, or raiding our emergency fund, or backing off on our snowball?
None of the above. Our tickets are a phenomenally, ridiculously generous gift from a loving family member who views our kids like their own grandkids. This is the same loving family member who made sure I had the Disney rite of passage, which 25 years later(!!) is still probably the best week of my entire childhood. And this magnificent gift allows us to enjoy the magic for the relatively low cost of travel expenses and incidentals….which, times six people, in the (priciest) happiest place on earth, is nothing to sneeze at!
But here’s the trick: I’ve been saving for Christmas–in cash–since the first paycheck in January. Every two weeks, I add to it. Because, as I may have mentioned above, BIG CHRISTMAS PERSON. So, I have a tidy little sum tucked in an actual physical envelope, ready to pounce on sales as they pop up through the fall.
I am Really Good at shopping for toys. I buy thoughtfully, and am absolutely cut-throat about getting the best possible price. Some year, I will walk you through that process, but not this year. Why?
Y’all, I am so Tired of the STUFF. Remember when Toys R Us went bankrupt? Well, come to my house and relive the thrill! The overcrowded shelves, the scent of cheap factory plastics, the oppressive sense of overstimulated panic…we’ve got it ALL! The idea of another expedition up the four peaks of Gift Mountain, sorting and storing the resulting plunder, kind of makes me want to cry.
Maybe you noticed that there was no blog post in the back half of last week (probably you didn’t, but it makes me feel good to assume that you did). That’s because I spent about 48 solid hours on travel websites, buzzing in that special zone of manic hyperfocus that one can only achieve with ADHD or vast quantities of cocaine. I then shoveled a hefty chunk of our Christmas savings into a hotel that may or may not have bedbugs, I don’t really care. Bedbugs can be killed, but Disneyland memories are forever.
Have you ever planned something so totally wild and outrageous, that it doesn’t even seem real? That’s where I’m at right now. In exactly 78 days, I will get to present the Christmas surprise of a lifetime. In the meantime, I don’t have to shop. Or wrap. Or declutter in a frenzy because OMG, where are we going to put all this stuff?? Instead, I get to plan the most elaborate scavenger hunt the world has ever seen, so that 1) my kids actually get to pretend they’re opening presents and 2) we can make everything about this situation as epic and memorable as possible.
I will be checking back periodically with updates on my plan for Disneyland on a budget, because that is going to be a major consideration as we undertake this magical mayhem. Meanwhile, hit me with your tips! I need them all! We are committed to not spending a penny more than we already budgeted for the holidays.
I’ll be honest, I’ve been doing this save-all-year thing for a couple of years now, and I was always pretty proud of it. But now I see its full potential and I am really excited. We may just have a new family tradition!