And it comes around to that time of year, where emotions run high and so does retail. This Christmas; however, we did something a little different. Given the fact that we had so little money this year, we let our close friends and relatives know that despite loving them enough to buy them all individual islands if we had the money, that since we didn’t – we’d be limiting our purchasing power to one another and the kids this year. Neither of us had jobs, and we were holding on to the savings, just in case. We were going scrooge all the way!

I didn’t even buy my mother a gift for Christmas! Other than knowing I’d go straight to hell for that, I figured that this Christmas would be harder, since we decided to make presents for people, and no one would be getting that special item from any catalog. So we started early this year on the creative ideas. For one friend, I made cookies, for another, a home-cooked meal. For my mother, I put pictures together in a frame (that I’d bought two-months earlier). I’m not sure if that counts since I didn’t fashion it from wood or anything, but I’m not allowed to play with sharp objects after the ER visit of ’89, you see.

For my dad and step-mom, we videoed hours of an old television show on a marathon that we knew they’d like, and then converted it to DVD. We had a blast, really, making presents. I finally ended up getting one gift for each sister, but they were small ones (one DVD each). Other than that, they were getting home-made music videos, and I’m even writing a Christmas story for the other one.

It was an adventure too, going to the shops, only to pick up the normal, necessary objects – and resisting the last-minute Christmas items that I knew my sister would love, or that my brother would eat with a happy chocolate face. It was a different rhythm for this time of year as well. It seemed even more full of cheer and goodwill than usual. In fact, I felt better about not spending money frivolously, so I ended up more relaxed, and contributing more money towards charity; ’cause I wasn’t stressed about that “extra” $25 on my Christmas budget. No, I didn’t make large donations – but a few small ones here and there really added the feeling that I was helping others at Christmas.

One relative gave us cards, letting us know we’d adopted an animal. While my first response was, “dude- this isn’t a gift card?” Waaaah … then I was overwhelmed with the idea that hey – instead of another useless thing – I’d actually participated in helping this faraway creature. There was some smiley porpoise somewhere, getting fish – because this person had donated money on my behalf. And it was better than a gift card.

This Christmas taught me a few things about giving; that it doesn’t always have to be some over-the-top gift to make someone smile. That making someone cookies, and being inventive had joy for me, instead of the stress of “finding the right thing” to add to someone else’s clutter. And the beauty of this Christmas, was that my stress was so reduced from avoiding the malls, the rush, the panic of trying to get all the right things in time, and under budget, and then stressing more because I went so grossly over my budget, and then they barely got excited about the gift anyway? That was all gone. There was barely any stress. I got to hang out with my kids, my family, eat together, share the joyousness of creative gifts – and it truly felt like Christmas. What a wonderful surprise, that this “leanest of Christmases” – was the most enjoyable.