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December 21, 2006

Recreational Christmas Shopping

By Nancy

When my husband and I dropped off our oldest daughter at college, the two of us bawled the whole way from New York City to the Pennsylvania border.  Our baby! Off to college! Faraway in the big city!

When we got home, I was pretty down for several days, I must admit. Our younger daughter was still at home, in high school, but it didn't seem fair to burden her with how sad I was, so I kept it to myself.

But one day, I couldn't stand it anymore.  I was trying to write a book and cope with the loss of my kid, and I was a mess.  So what did I do?

I went shopping.           

I went to the biggest mall I could find, and I blew several hundred dollars--money better spent on paying the tuiton bill!--on stuff to perk up the house. A new vase for the living room. A set of candle sticks for the mantel. New curtains for a bathroom. And I forget what else, but it's around here somewhere--probably in storage because we've moved and it was all stuff I really didn't need to begin with, but it called out to the grieving parent inside me.

Retail therapy. It's shopping to improve one's mood.

Like just about everyone else--judging by the traffic jams around here lately--I've been doing a little shopping. I hit a couple of malls, Sam's Club (their filets of beef are terrific, and you can't beat the price, so please don't tell me they come from Argentina where the cows are mistreated) and some specialty stores in search of a few gifts. And what's not to enjoy? The familiar, upbeat Christmas carols put a smile on nearly everyone's face. The kids lined up in front of Santa's photo kiosk are fun to watch. The false cameraderie of strolling with fellow shoppers feels almost like being together with friends. And buying gifts--always a pleasure, right?

But I can't help noticing the person I'm really buying for is . . . me.

Sure, I've got a list and I've checked it twice, but if I see something I like, I can't restrain myself. It's on sale! 30% off!  I might need those sandals next summer for a picnic! And I can't pass up a sweater that's in My Color, can I?  I've always wanted a trifle dish (it's so close to a cake stand, yet not!) and the price at Williams-Sonoma looked reasonable, so I grabbed it.

Admit it. Are you shopping for yourself--just a little bit--while you're at the mall?

A couple of years ago, my family decided we were all getting out of control with the holiday shopping. And buying gifts for so many people was literally making our elderly relatives sick. So we hit upon the idea of exchanging names. And the only gift we're allowed to give each other is a book. One book, that's it.  That's all the shopping your supposed to do. It's a decision that has transformed the holidays for us. Even the couple of family members who aren't big readers get books.--Coffee table books, travel guides, cartoon compediums, audio books.

Let me tell you, everyone is so much happier.  Christmas has truly returned to being a time to be together as a family, to enjoy each other without the stress of buying a lot of junk nobody needs and probably doesn't want. Mind you, we eat like kings, but a walk around the reservoir is much better than cleaning up a mountain of torn wrapping paper after an orgy of consumerism.

But despite the book exchange, I still need to get a few little things for non-family members. A gift for the housekeepers. Something for my daughter's boyfriend. And Jeff's family still exchanges gifts, so we need to buy stuff for them. And who can pass up a few new tree ornaments? Not to mention the latest invention to make life easier? (This year, it's the hands-free can opener.)

Yet I manage to come home from shopping with something for myself every time I leave the house, too.

The most crowded department of our Macy's is the women's clothing section. And the ladies all leave lugging bags big enough to carry gear for a weekend safari in Kenya, so you can't tell me they're all buying presents for Aunt Mildred.

Last year while supposedly looking for the perfect gift for my mother-in-law, I found the perfect set of Christmas earrings for me at Filene's. When I came home and opened my jewelry box, I discovered I already owned a pair. In the haze of my shopping euphoria, I had forgotten I owned them.

Men are suseptible, too. Sure, they make fun of us for buying earrings we already own, but they're buying anything electronic. This year, they're snapping up $2000 flat screen televisions and gadgets that will enable them to communicate with other planets. In a nearby town a few years ago, there was a place of business--strategically located between a big mall and a bedroom community--where a gentleman could pause after shopping.  He could drive up to a shuttered window, insert a $10 bill (presumably saved when he found a bargain on his mom's gift) and the curtains would roll up from inside. Without leaving the comfort of his toasty-warm car, he could enjoy a woman dancing in panties and pasties. Climax One did the lion's share of their business during the two weeks before Christmas. So a lot of men were buying a little something for themselves while they were shopping.

There's plenty of advice out there for those of us making too many impulse buys.

But the best advice, experts say, is to leave your credit cards at home.  Hahahahahahahahaha!

Instant gratification. I'm all for it. 

But lately I've been asking myself the same question I'm asking the characters in my current book:  What makes you feel loved?

Maybe having a few friends over to share a plate of cookies is better this holiday season---for my January credit card bill and my own well-being.

Enjoy the holidays.           

PS.  A big thank you to Graham over at Crime Spot, who's done a fabulous job for a lot of mystery bloggers this year!


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Nice blog Nancy. My theory is if I'm the one out doing all of the work, shopping that is, I deserve a reward. So if I see a nice sweater or cute ornament I buy it because I earned it. And if it's on sale, well I'd be a fool not to get it, right. I come from a family and married a man who all love to shop. My father is the exception. We squeeze the cash out of him. So it's in my genes. My favorite time to shop is after Christmas. I can hardly wait .

I find I do my best shopping in August, that is when bookstores have some great sales.

I hate the Mall. I'm not even sure hate is a strong enough word.

If I can't find it at our local bookstore, I get it online.

The joy of shopping online is that you feel like you're getting it twice - once when you place the order and once when you get the box.

Plus, our Borough has started recycling cardboard so now I don't feel guilty about that part of it.

As for Climax One - is that the place that had the swimming pool? Good grief - not enough chemicals on this planet.

Tonight and the next two nights, Mary Carey is appearing at an upscale Gentlemen's Club strategically located "seconds from the airport" and (not in the radio ad) along a strip of junkyards and seedy automobile body shops. I've passed the place on the way home from work, and it actually looks reasonable attractive from the outside.

I suggested to my wife last evening that we go, just so we can meet someone who ran for governor of California. For some reason, she looked at me askance. I don't remember if she expressly nixed it, but I just have the feeling that it would not be a welcome surprise if we somehow "ended up" there Saturday evening.

I did not mention that it would be a good civics lesson for our son, but she has such an unreasonably narrow view of appropriate high school education that I just bet she would not be in favor of that, either.

Yes! Yes! Yes! I ALWAYS buy for myself. Plus, this year I'm in the piggy position of frantic Christmas shopping to make up for not shopping (though I did buy tons of stuff online) while writing a book WHILE I'm coming down from deadline hysteria. See, having plunked my butt in a chair for months on end, having awakened in the middle of the night to reoutline, falling asleep at my desk because of this new book, I now deserve a gift. Or maybe more. This is big bad news for my January credit card bill.

My weaknesses are diversions - movies, books and, okay, I'll admit it. GUITAR HERO. I am the only middle aged woman standing at EB Games trying the whammy bar on Smoke on the Water. I may just have to go buy one myself.

Oh, Nancy. Thank you so much for understanding!

Sarah - wait until you see Guitar Hero II - Santa is bringing one for my daughter so both kids can play together - it's the only way I can get them to listen to my music.

The one I want to try is Dance Revolution.

P.S. Josh - I read somewhere that Mariah Carey is suing Mary Carey. Apparently Mariah thinks people are confused about who is the stripper and who just dresses like one.

We have DR - Very, very fun! That's what Anna plays at all her parties...

Not a fan of malls at any time, I did a lot of my Christmas shopping online this year and had most of the presents shipped to Portland where I got to wrap them two weeks ago. Cardboard was definitely recycled :o) Took the others to my sister's last weekend (and picked up one present there). My downfall is the bookstore...even last night I had to stop myself from buying three books that finally showed up in softcover :o) And I was working at the time! I'm holding off though...B&N giftcards are coming.I can feel it! My sister is the shopaholic...we went to K Mart to return a sweater and ended up with, well a lot more.
On the shopping male...mine hates to shop, asks me to find Christmas presents for his friends, and would probably feed ten dollars into a video poker machine before going to that shuttered window. I'm not sure this is a good thing.

Ah, shopping. I fall somewhere between my two sisters on the retail therapy scale: my middle sister actually views some kinds of shopping as recreation, whereas my youngest mostly just hates it. This time of year, I can enjoy it thoroughly when I can get into and out of the mall early enough to beat the worst of the crush and the horrific traffic.

As a lifelong academic (one way or another, I've been in college for, um, lessee, geez -- 30 years!), I've come to adopt a Christmas mall crawl (with or without lots of buying) as part of my end-of-semester decompression routine. Knowing that I'm on vacation means my time there is guilt-free, and knowing that I don't have to be anywhere at any given time liberates me to just enjoy the decorations, the music, and the exchanges of holiday wishes.

These days, I do most of my shopping on-line, which takes even more pressure off the mall run and makes it that much more fun. I succumb to last-minute impulse buys for my friends and family, and yes, I always manage to find something special for myself. This year it was a bread machine and some very high-end measuring spoons and cups from William Sonoma. All part of my resolution to do at least a little more real cooking. Heck, that hardly even counts as fun stuff :) Hmmm. . . which means that maybe I deserve a few more treats . . . .

Yes, Nancy, yes. My formula is this: two for them, one for me. Then, as the day progresses, it's one for them, two for me. Which is why, when Poor Husband says, "what am I gonna get you for Christmas" I can honestly say, "Oh, I don't need anything, honey." (you see, even if it's for me, it's really for them.)

Harley, you are a selfless woman. Love the mathematics, too. And the best part about buying for yourself is you don't need to wrap those things up!

Jeff does the wrapping at our house. I do the bows. Which I go overboard on, of course. Plus I like recycling things, so I have a huuuuge collection of satin ribbons and assorted junk (dried flowers, pine cones, tree ornaments, and whatever that thing is Margie gave us all a year ago) that I glue gun onto the packages.

Thanks for the info, good blog!
Managing your money during the holidays is simple once you know the pro's and con's involved. Reevaluating how you shop during the holiday seasons is also a part of sensible money management. Setting spending limits where your credit is concerned is always the best bet. Hope you will find those resources useful for your blog and to your many readers. Have a super day!

We also have Dance Revolution, which I got last month as a Teen Sex Pevention Device (it's mainly for my son's girlfriend when she visits). They can't writhe around on the couch if she's jumping around on the dance pad.

I have to agree with Annette! If we're out doing all the work we need something for our pain and suffering, even if it's shopping online! And besides, I'm a single mom. I'd hate for the kids to get upset because I had no presents to open too. What would they think of Santa then? *ggg*

Amie, I like your logic. You're setting an example for the future, right? Good thinking.

These Dance Revolution things? Is that a video game? Because you guys are making me feel old.

Gee, I think we've been spammed! Or what do you call it when advertisers commandeer your blog? In any case, I'm inclined to leave it here just for the sake of entertainment. If anybody's offended, let me know & I'll delete it.

Right now, my best Christmas present is my fictional movie sister, Rosie O'Donnell. I'm loving her telling it like most people think.

I would bet that the polls showing that people think Trump is more right than she is are would be reversed if the genders were reversed.

As if this were on point.

I missed the initial parry from Rosie on Trump. All I heard was his return.

But I have to say, for Trump to diss someone based on their looks, is well, "Pot? This is Kettle. You're black."

I have to admit that I also tend to buy stuff for myself while doing my Christmas shopping. Moreso this year than any other...probably because I not only did a lot of my shopping early, but due to the gifts themselves, I was giving them to the recipients early (ex. Penn State cheerleader outfit and football jersey for my niece and nephew, respectively).

My weakness, as Nancy and Sarah well know, is books. I buy a book for me, and almost all of the adults on my list. Yesterday, I went to B&N for a quick peak (Ha ha ha) and ended up in there for over an hour and then walked out with $100 worth of books (after my discount) that were all for me.

*note to self ~ update the book spreadsheet before I duplicate again.

What is really sad about that, is that when I got home last night, I found that I had received two B&N gift cards! LOL!

No, no, Debby -- that's not sad at all! Now you simply *must* go back and buy more books. Preferably the super-guilty pleasures you couldn't quite bring yourself to get the first time :)

During the Christmas season, we never fail to give gifts to the people we love. I love the idea of giving books to each member of the family. And don't forget to give something for yourself too.

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