Let’s do something different this year

Our pastor shared this graph during his sermon last Sunday. The $438 BILLION DOLLARS represents consumer spending in this country in November and December this year. The other three bars show what it would cost to eliminate the most devasting problems facing our world population:  clean water, hunger and poverty.

Consumer Spending vs. World Needs

It’s shameful ya’ll, it breaks my heart. How can such a small population have such a disproportionate amount of the wealth? How long can we keep this up despite the fact that it is wrong for so many reasons.

We have to do something different, we can’t keep this up. I don’t want to overspend this year. I don’t want to set an example of over-consumption for my kids. And I want to feel good about addressing the issue in the graph above, rather than just turning a blind eye to this gross inequity.

So after the jump, the why and how of doing something different this year.

You can’t afford it

Do you budget for Christmas? Do you plan for it and set money aside? We never have. We just let it happen to us. Every year. The funny thing is, when you don’t plan for something, you don’t set limits and guidelines. And when you don’t set limits and guidelines, you are making decisions on the spot, under pressure, on a whim. The stores are designed to exploit all these weaknesses, by dazzling and overwhelming you with choices and “good deals.” If you are making decisions in the store, you will buy more and spend more. And most of us are shopping like that. You know its true.

Mr. Applebum and I are pretty responsible spenders, yet December still managed to give us this attitude of entitlement: We work so hard, this is our chance to spoil the kids. And ourselves. And those we love. And then January rolls around and the bills pour in. And all those rationalizations seem ridiculous and it’s so clear that we could have done without most of it. Yet fast forward eleven months and there we are again. We haven’t planned nor budgeted for Christmas and we have worked so hard….

You are setting a bad example for your kids

When did we decide that Christmas had to be this orgiastic toy experience for children? It’s not enough to get one toy or a few toys.  We picture that sort of commercial moment where the kids run in on Christmas morning and they can’t believe their eyes. Like the big reveal in Extreme Makeover Home Edition, it’s only a good Christmas if your kids loses their mind with joy over the great toys.

Yeah, it’s fun to see your kid like that, but what are you teaching them? That more is better? That we love you so much we got you all this? That you are entitled to all these consumer goods as a birthright? I’m sorry if that makes you feel bad, but that graph above makes me feel terrible. We have to see this problem for what it is.  How many kids in the world will get a Christmas as nice as ours? Let alone a lifetime of Christmases, filled with so much more than we could ever want or need.

So how about this year you buy two or three toys and then just stop.  Can’t our kids think two great toys are enough? Use the rest of the money for toys or clothes to donate, or to buy a heifer from Heifer International, or to donate to any of the HUNDREDS of worthy causes that are trying to address these gross inequities.

Here’s what we are doing this year

We are setting limits and strictly enforcing them. We are doing $100 per kid and set the same limit on our gifts for each other. I’ve got the kids shopping almost done, it really doesn’t take long to spend a hundred bucks. I will admit, the small little pile of presents looks pretty sad to me. This new way is going to take some getting used to for us all.

The way to keep us honest is no credit cards, only debit purchases. That’s new this year, but it’s long overdue. I make a list of who I am shopping for and go in with limits and ideas. It’s better for me to do multiple short sessions, than one or two mammoth expeditions.

Replace bad habits with good

All the money I used to spend on gifts for the grandparents is now donated to a cause they would feel good about. In the past they have donated art supplies to the boys and girls club, fulfilled an elderly persons Christmas wish list, supplied holiday meals for local families and bought stoves for families in Central America. This year, I will be donating to tent city 3 in their name.

A little perspective

The kids and I will  make the grandparents a Christmas gift, something simple and easy. (I asked for ideas on facebook:) This year I am going to get the kids involved in holiday baking. We are also taking the kids to church this Saturday to kick-off the advent season with the story of Christmas. Hopefully, it will help us to keep the spirit of the season in our hearts throughout this month. My goal is to make every day of the season meaningful and peaceful. Or as our pastor put it: Give presence, not presents.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kristi zimmer
    Dec 03, 2009 @ 15:25:31

    love this message. peace on earth. bake a pie.

    thank you for the practical application of our big hearts!


  2. Cousin bry
    Dec 11, 2009 @ 22:06:47

    bonita, glad ta meet cha. Tell it like it is! I like the video addition to this one.


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