Lowering expectations for Christmas

Personally, I begin to panic every year as the holiday season approaches. It's not because I don't love Christmas. I really do love the holiday season, in general. I just cringe at the thought of all of the money that gets spent unnecessarily, especially mine. And as holiday spending has steadily grown out of control, expectations have come along for the ride. What is now considered to be a reasonable amount of presents is completely different than it was when I was a kid. Nowadays, children are getting showered with big gifts, expensive toys, and things I never would have dreamed of receiving as a child.

My mom once told me that, when she was young, she typically got an orange and some candy in her stocking on Christmas. Seriously. And she was thrilled to get it. She also reminded me that she and her siblings would each get only a few small toys as well. The thing is, this isn't just some story about walking 10 miles to school, uphill, both ways. It is actually the truth. Of course, it happened 60 years ago, and I cannot believe how times have changed. Kids certainly expect a lot more gifts now, and it doesn't take much to figure out why things have changed so dramatically.

Doesn't it seem like the holiday season creeps up on us earlier every single year? It is no longer surprising to see stores decorated for Christmas in early November… way before Thanksgiving! This year, several stores even announced that they would open for Black Friday on Thanksgiving Day, and they made many customers upset in the process.

We are inundated with toy store ads and commercials featuring the tippy tops of Christmas trees hidden by huge piles of gifts. In the meantime, I have also noticed that children's toys have gotten extremely expensive! My 3-year-old recently asked for a Nintendo 3DS for Christmas. After a quick Google search, I determined that it is a nearly $200 gaming system! My brother has also convinced her that she needs an iPad for Christmas. Obviously, that is not going to happen. Still, it's hard to avoid the trappings of a consumerist Christmas when we are constantly confronted with expectations that are sometimes unreasonable and wasteful.

So, where does that leave us? What should families do to keep holiday spending under control? Should we sacrifice our own financial well-being in order to deliver the Christmas that advertisers portray? Or should we stick to our guns and only buy the bare minimum for our children, family, and friends?

Since my children are so young, ages 3 and 1, we have decided to keep expectations fairly low. This year, we spent approximately $100 per child, and we actually got them some nice things that I believe they will enjoy. The additional money we have allocated to spend on them this year is going straight into their college savings 529 accounts. How did we do it? It's fairly simple actually. We're giving them used stuff.

There, I said it. I give my children used toys and clothes for Christmas. Well, not all of their gifts are used. Still, many of the toys and clothes that will be under the tree are second-hand items. Do I feel bad about it? No, absolutely not. In fact, I feel like it makes perfect sense.

This strategy might feel completely tacky to some….but I have to ask you, “What difference does it make?” My kids are so young that they can't possibly know or care. Once the gifts are wrapped and under the tree, they will easily blend in with the others. My children will never suspect a thing. Buying some used toys and clothing has allowed me to stretch my holiday dollars much further. I am also able to buy them nicer gifts than I would be able to if I paid sticker price for every one.

Maybe giving used items isn't in your game plan this Christmas. Still, there are plenty of other ways to stop spending so much money during the holidays. Here are some easy steps that may help you save some of your holiday cash.

Make a holiday gift budget and stick to it. Making a gift budget is an ideal way to keep your spending under control. First, decide who you are buying for. Second, determine what you can afford to spend on them and stick to it. Remember that it is not necessary to buy for every last relative and person you know – and it is unreasonable for them to expect you to do so.

Stop buying for siblings and their spouses. Initially, this didn't go over too well with my family. However, since my siblings and I are all adults, it seemed silly to insist on buying each other gifts. By the time we finally stopped, we were basically just trading gift cards around. It was totally unnecessary, and I was relieved when it finally came to an end.

Make homemade gifts if you can. Choosing not to buy for extended family members, neighbors, and co-workers can save a ton of money if you are able to get away with it. If you feel obligated to give them something, try making them something instead. If you aren't crafty, bake some cookies or holidays treats and wrap them with holiday wrapping paper or bows.

Stop buying for pets. Do pets really need Christmas gifts? No, they don't. If you feel obligated to put something under the tree for your pet, re-gift them something that they already have. I'm giving my dog a bag of dog food for Christmas this year. Trust me, he'll love it.

Don't try to keep up with the Joneses. Everyone has some Joneses in their life. Don't try to emulate their bad Christmas spending decisions. Spend only what is a responsible amount for your family. Remember that the Joneses may or may not be able to afford all of the gifts they bought in the first place.

Obviously, there is so much more to Christmas than rampant consumerism. Maybe lowering Christmas expectations will help us all focus on what is really important during the holiday season – spending time with the people we love.

How are you saving on your Christmas shopping this year? What gift-giving limits do you practice?

More about...Budgeting, Giving

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Carrie
Carrie
7 years ago

Another popular way to get away from the consumerist Christmas is to give your children four gifts: something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read. (Or some sensible variation on that.)

I will continue to get my dogs their traditional Christmas present: a chew bone each to help them deal with the activities around them.

michiel
michiel
7 years ago

I guess it is all a point of reference. Spending $200,- on two kids so small would never enter my mind. In the Netherlands, we celebrate Sinterklaas, with focus on gifts for kids, like X-mas, but in our family we agreed on a limit of 25 euro per person (also adults). Even though there are large differences in income between the various family members, everyone can chip in 25,-.

Pauline
Pauline
7 years ago
Reply to  michiel

I wouldn’t spend so much on kids, but it could change if they were my own. I don’t think my niece is getting $100 worth of gifts from my sister. I sent her a package with a little pouch, a mini wooden coffer and miniature dolls, all typical Guatemalan handicrafts for $10 with shipping and I think she will like it. She is two and probably won’t remember much until next Christmas.

Anne
Anne
7 years ago
Reply to  michiel

Same reaction here,. $100 worth of presents for a one year old? And some of them used so the budget goes further?

I think in number of gifts you are setting fairly high expectations for your children.

Jane
Jane
7 years ago
Reply to  Anne

Sorry, but I don’t agree. I hope those of you who think this is an excessive amount don’t treat yourselves to nice gadgets or clothes. In what universe is $100 a lot of money? You can go out to eat these days at a family friendly restaurant and drop $40-$50 on one night out. We go to the movies and that’s $40. I guess I just don’t see how $100 once a year for a child is that much money, even for a one year old. Heck, one pair of infant shoes runs between $15 to $40. A pair of… Read more »

michiel
michiel
7 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Hi Jane, Thanks for the reply. I read two things in your post: one about how much you can get for $100,- nowadays, and a comparison of the $100,- against all other “gifts” and dinners out etc. during a year. As for the first: my five-year old, after receiving his Sinterklaas gifts (EUR 25,-) said that he felt spoiled, so I don’t see a problem there. As for point 2, the question for me is more like “if I don’t spend $100 on my kids, but $25, what do I use the other $75 for?”. The answer is easy: at… Read more »

Michael
Michael
7 years ago
Reply to  michiel

It doesn’t always have to be about the amount of money, rather getting your child something they will genuinely enjoy. If they really, really want the 3DS, I see nothing wrong with spending $200+ on it (if you can afford it), but that doesn’t mean you have to spend $200 every year. Likewise, if what they really, really want is $10, you don’t have to top it up with loads of other stuff. Kids think in terms of what they like, not what it costs, until we teach them otherwise!

Jacko
Jacko
7 years ago

Yeah great points I have updated our family holiday tradition.

This year we are having a white elephant party where everyone brings a $10 gift and we play a game where they can get swapped around.

I hope to have a lot of fun this is our first year trying it.

Christmas in 2012 has lost all resemblances of what it’s really supposed to be about which is the birth of Jesus Christ.

Now it seems like acknowledging this is a conspiracy theory or something its all about santa claus and Xmas reindeer, sad.

mary w
mary w
7 years ago
Reply to  Jacko

We do the white elephant gift game also (for the adults). The difference is that you have to bring something that’s hanging around your house. Some are jokes (hideous vase) while others are practical (travel iron). Some show up year after year (said hideous vase). Many involve re-gifting.

Jan
Jan
7 years ago
Reply to  mary w

After a Christmas in which we had spent the equivalent of rent money for gifts for the extended family….we ventured into white elephant. It works well and has for the last 15 years. Only children under the age of 5 get a gift.

Orrin
Orrin
7 years ago

I’ve spoken with everyone close to me and specifically told them that I don’t want a present and that I won’t be giving them anything in return. It steps on some toes and gets me some pretty funny looks but it’s been worth it in the long run. Now I don’t have to spend a whole week running around shopping, something I hate. And I don’t wind up with a pile of things I don’t want or need. I live quite minimally, so usually the only thing that I’d actually find beneficial would be money… and trading money for christmas… Read more »

Sam
Sam
7 years ago
Reply to  Orrin

It takes some time to get family adults on board with the no gifts for adults plan. My brother and I started, then we included my Mom and Dad, then I included my BIL, etc.

It took a couple of years to step down. Most people were happy to agree to no gifts and focus on kids, even if they had no kids.

Lincoln
Lincoln
7 years ago
Reply to  Orrin

Sometimes it’s not that easy telling people that there won’t be gifts. I know someone who tells everyone not to get them anything, but then they go and buy presents for everyone. Sometimes I buy them a gift just because I feel like there needs to be some reciprocity. Also, while I realize the focus of the article is family gift giving, it doesn’t address friends, coworkers, or employees. While theoretically I could tell my assistant at work that I’m not going to buy them a gift this year, it’s customary to buy them a gift and it’s a good… Read more »

Juli
Juli
7 years ago
Reply to  Orrin

My siblings/sibs-in-law have exchanged names for Christmas gifts the last few years. This year, we just decided not to even do that. The only one upset with that decision was my husband — Christmas presents are very important in his family (all the siblings buy presents for everyone in his family), so he couldn’t comprehend why we wouldn’t want to do presents at all.

Andrew
Andrew
7 years ago

Good way to make it easy is plan your Christmas budget for the next year right after this year. Figure out what you want to spend, divide that number by 12, and save that much each month (perhaps in a dedicated online account just for that purpose). Poof! Christmas just became painless! It’s an old concept called a “sinking fund”. Thanks, Grandma!!

Jacob @ iheartbudgets
Jacob @ iheartbudgets
7 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

@Andrew: This is exactly what we do! I call ’em “savings buckets”, but all the same. We also break down our allocations per person, as we usually buy for 10-20 people per year (very close, very large families!). And Holly, yes, we are buying used toys for our 1-year-old this year. We’ve gotten some GREAT wooden toys (no BPA, woohoo!) that would cost $20-$30 in store, and we pick them up for $5 or less. And heck, my kid doesn’t even care about the toys as much as he does the gift wrap and box they were kept in. And… Read more »

Lindsay
Lindsay
7 years ago

I have quite a few friends who are raising their children with the expectation that they receive only three gifts at Christmas. Why? That’s how many gifts Jesus received when He was born. Goes a long way toward minimizing the 50-present pressure!

TB at BlueCollarWorkman
TB at BlueCollarWorkman
7 years ago
Reply to  Lindsay

That’s a pretty good idea because it makes for few gifts AND reminds them of the point of the whole thing! GREAT idea!

We, also, buy used toys and clothes. And our girls are of the age to notice. But they usually don’t. And if they did, well, *shrug* it’s the “reuse” part of reduce, reuse, recycle. And, kids outgrow toys REALLY fast, it’s weird that we get them something and throw it out a little bit later. Used is a great way to go!

CincyCat
CincyCat
7 years ago
Reply to  Lindsay

We do something similar. No matter how many items are in their list to Santa, he will only bring ONE thing. They actually forget about what Santa is bringing *them* fairly quickly because we purposefully shift their attention to what they will give to others. Each child also chooses one special gift for her sibling (there are only two of them, so this works well). I will take them to choose a special gift for daddy, and daddy takes them to choose a special gift for mommy. On Christmas morning, they are often more excited about the gifts that they… Read more »

BD
BD
7 years ago
Reply to  Lindsay

That’s great, until the kids catch on that one of those gifts was a bunch of GOLD. Sure, getting only three gifts sounds frugal, until you realize one of those gifts is the (possible) financial equivalent of a sports car.

Holly@ClubThrifty
7 years ago
Reply to  Lindsay

This is exactly what my brother’s family does and it makes a lot of sense for them since they have six children!

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago

Welcome, Holly 🙂 After hearing how some of my friends from other countries celebrate Christmas, I can’t help but think North Americans have gone overboard with the gift shopping. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in what other people expect. Sounds like you have some good solutions here. I’m curious — how do people handle Santa with their kids? I found Christmas a lot easier to understand once I realized Santa didn’t exist and my parents could explain to me that some families had more money to spend on gifts than others. When you can separate the amount and… Read more »

kt
kt
7 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

whilst we were at college and didn’t have much money, my parents told me that they had to send the money to santa for him to find, buy and make all the presents. worked on us!

Clara
Clara
7 years ago
Reply to  kt

When my kids were little, I told them that Santa only fills the stocking and everything else is from parents. I also told them that Santa was a wonderful tradition where every adult in the whole world pretends this thing about Santa filling the stockings and bringing presents. That did not stop them from believing it but it did keep them from feeling dissapointed when their friends for huge amounts of gifts from “santa” while they got little (I have been a mimimalist for a long time). I just don’t like the whole crazy christmas thing and if I participated… Read more »

Holly
Holly
7 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

I handled it by only giving my kids one small gift each from Santa each year. Most of the gifts come from parents. This was done to avoid the feeling that admitting one no longer believes in Santa will mean no more Christmas gifts.

However, this hasn’t been successful, apparently. My 10 yo insists that all her Christmas gifts have been from Santa.

Rick
Rick
7 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

What???????????? Santa doesn’t exist?!?!?

*faints*

Mom of five
Mom of five
7 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

I personally don’t do Santa. However, my kids still believe(d) in him. Santa’s everywhere and reinforced by lots of adults in authority – teachers, aunts, uncles, neighbors, etc. I’ve always told my kids whenever they ask me any questions about Santa, that I don’t know anything about him – you kids are the experts. And then if they asked me directly, I’d say, “what do you think?” Invariably they’d tell me they’d think there was a Santa. It’s always somewhat annoyed me the lengths my kids would go to explain away the Santa phenomenon. I’d ask them why the rich… Read more »

Carla
Carla
7 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

To me believing in Santa is not much different than people who believe in Hell, the 2nd coming of Christ, resurrection after 3 days, etc.

Juli
Juli
7 years ago
Reply to  Carla

And this is exactly why I try not to emphasize Santa. I am a Christian, and I do believe the things the Bible teaches. When my kids get older I don’t want them to think “Well, Santa and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy aren’t real, but mommy and daddy told me they were. So maybe Jesus isn’t real either.”

BD
BD
7 years ago
Reply to  Carla

Good point, Juli.

Also, why do people always have to bring in snark against Christian beliefs? No one was discussing that topic, Carla. The topic was about Santa Claus, not religion. You didn’t have to drag in a snarky comment.

Carla
Carla
7 years ago
Reply to  Carla

It wasn’t meant to be snark, BD, I was speaking my truth as Juli just did back to me.

Mom of five
Mom of five
7 years ago
Reply to  Carla

No Carla, it was more than that. From your own perspective, you just walked into a daycare and announced to the class that believing in Santa Claus is ridiculous. Your comment was inappropriate.

Carla
Carla
7 years ago
Reply to  Carla

OK, Mother of Five, I’m not going to quibble with you about it because its a battle that’s not worth engaging in.

I’m sure though if another (popular) poster that shall remained unnamed were to say something similar, he would have gotten tons of thumbs up and very little flack.

Mom of five
Mom of five
7 years ago
Reply to  Carla

There are plenty of appropriate ways to convey the idea that you opt out of the whole meaning of Christmas without being insulting to Christians. There’s at least one poster (and there are probably more) on this very thread.

Julie
Julie
7 years ago
Reply to  Carla

Carla,

I was curious if you feel this way about the beliefs of Muslims and Hindus too?

Penny
Penny
7 years ago
Reply to  Carla

I’m a bit late to the conversation. But why does it have to be Santa vs. Jesus? I personally get a bit sick of the assumption that if the holdiay isn’t all about Jesus it must be all about CONSUMPTION, and I think that is just a, well, very close minded uncharitable view. Dare I say unChristain? For me the holiday is about traditions and events that celebrate family & friends, showing people you love them (however that works in each situation) and creating a little light and wonder in the darkest, coldest part of the year. And what the… Read more »

Carla
Carla
7 years ago
Reply to  Carla

@Julie – I didn’t notice your question until now. In terms of how I feel about other religions especially the ones you mentioned, I really don’t have much of an opinion. I grew up Christian (very, very strict; fundamentalist) so my experience with other religions is very limited.

Carla
Carla
7 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

It wasn’t meant to be snark, BD, I was speaking my truth as Juli just did.

Meredith
Meredith
7 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

I didn’t grow up with Santa (being Jewish) but I married someone who did who really wanted to have the magic of Santa for our kids. I did a good job at keeping the secret until my 7 year old son reasoned it all out himself. It was a huge relief to me. It is so much easier to explain that the presents are from us and why we should buy gifts for disadvantaged kids than explain why Santa only seems to give presents to some kids and not others.

CincyCat
CincyCat
7 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

See my post above, regarding how we have handled Santa. I know that this will be the last year for the big guy for my oldest. I plan to come out & tell her the truth after Christmas this year since she is a sensitive romantic, and I want to break it to her gently, rather than having her hear about it from classmates. I’m going to read her the story of St. Nicholas (3rd century bishop), and also other stories and legends about St. Nicholas that have grown over time. Hopefully, this will help explain why mommies and daddies… Read more »

Juli
Juli
7 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

We don’t really talk about Santa at all to our boys. But they are in daycare, so sometimes my 4 year old will come home and talk about how Santa is coming, or what Santa is bringing Johnny for Christmas, or whatever. When he mentions Santa, I will just nod my head, or say “Is that right?” or something like that, then change the subject. I don’t want him going back to daycare and telling his friends “My mommy said Santa isn’t real”, but I also don’t want to make him think that Christmas is about Santa. As they get… Read more »

Holly@ClubThrifty
7 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

Ahhh…..what to do about Santa? I don’t want to lie to my children but I find it hard to buck all of the typical holiday traditions. I’m also pretty sure that my three year old would tell all of her friends at daycare if I told her the truth. I don’t want to be responsible for 20 other children knowing that there isn’t a Santa Claus. I don’t know how to handle it, so I just try to be as vague as possible when it comes to Santa’s existence.

Anni
Anni
7 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

I never told my kids Santa was real. Even though everyone does it, it still just feels like lying to me. My kids always knew where the gifts came from, even though my step-mom gives everyone a gift from “Santa”. One year my son was excited by a gift of name brand cereal he’d been begging me to buy. It wasn’t his only gift, but expectations definitely play a big role. I was usually so frugal, he never thought he’d get Lucky Charms instead of Marshmallow Mateys! His list this year includes an iPod touch. I’ll probably give him a… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

Thanks for the replies! My siblings are atheists so Christmas celebrations have a different meaning for them then they do for me. I respect that, and will go along with whatever the parents decide to do.

I do feel a little awkward about it though — but everyone has to make their own traditions and celebrations. I really like some of the tips listed above. Great ideas!

KP
KP
7 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

My mom’s reply to is the Santa Clause, was to Read the old editorial “Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Clause”. Put the whole thing in perspective.

CincyCat
CincyCat
7 years ago
Reply to  KP

My favorite part of that editorial is, “Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! … The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

🙂

Marsha
Marsha
7 years ago

Our response to the increasing commercialism of Christmas is to go in the opposite direction. Our celebration has become simpler in material goods but more profound in spiritual significance. We don’t decorate before December 15th, and the tree comes down before New Year’s Day. We don’t buy gifts for extended family or friends. We stay out of the malls and shopping centers. Our gifts to our college sophomore son will be warm winter clothes and textbooks for his spring semester. Our high school senior son will get a senior portrait package and an upgrade to his computer. There will also… Read more »

Anne Cross
Anne Cross
7 years ago
Reply to  Marsha

The twelve days of Christmas are December 25 — January 6th (Epiphany). If you really want to go old school, put up your tree on Christmas Eve and take it down on Epiphany. 🙂

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve_Days_of_Christmas

Marsha
Marsha
7 years ago
Reply to  Anne Cross

I wish this was the way it was still done. Limit the season to 12 days, rather than the 5 weeks or so it’s become. It’d be more special that way.

Joe+G
Joe+G
7 years ago
Reply to  Marsha

Some folks are so burnt out by an intense Xmas season that starts in October, they have the tree down the afternoon of the 25th.

I’ve always pushed for, say, the office holiday party to be after New Year when the calendar is far less crowded and we can have a better event for the same budget. Too many “traditionalists” pooh-pooh that as not Christmas-y.

kareninthecity
kareninthecity
7 years ago
Reply to  Anne Cross

Growing up, my family put up the tree on Christmas Eve. Only after my sister and I realized other people did it earlier did we change that.

Mom of five
Mom of five
7 years ago
Reply to  Marsha

To each his own. I’m sure you have a very joy-filled Christmas. But the memories you’re creating for your family likely come from the carolling and the few small fun gifts for each son. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a great Christmas, but I’m wondering if upgrading your son’s senior portrait package is really a gift for him? If it isn’t, I’m wondering why you need to tell yourself it is? (And it might be, I have no idea what kids do with those senior shots – maybe they sign them and hand them… Read more »

Marsha
Marsha
7 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

My older son was happy with the inexpensive senior portraits that a friend took. My younger son wants a more professional package. The only other thing he wants is more memory for his computer, so he’ll get everything he wants.

My older son says that the best gift we’ve given him is 3 semesters of debt-free college.

Emily @ evolvingPF
Emily @ evolvingPF
7 years ago

My husband’s extended family has the expectation of everyone (at least every child) receiving a gift from everyone else, which is a nightmare for someone like me who doesn’t speak the gift language. Last year we set a $10/person cap on the gifts we bought but it was still incredibly time-consuming to pick out so many! This year I think we’re going the homemade baked goods route for the extendeds. For our immediate family we set a $50/person limit. I tend to give practical items and books. In my family we also exchange wish lists. My husband and I no… Read more »

AMW
AMW
7 years ago

Emily, I love gift giving with the love language idea! My love language is ‘acts of service’, so the year my landscaper brother came and pulled bushes for me as my present or the year my kids cleaned up the basement were the happiest for me!!! So much better than jewelery or perfume or electronics!

AMW
AMW
7 years ago

We have always kept expectations “low” as far as $ goes. My children get a stocking and one main gift that usually ranges in the $25-$50. We have been doing it for 19 years and their favorite part is the stocking. It’s all little stuff that just show’s I’ve(Santa) been paying attention (thier favorite tea, something that makes them laugh, a cosmetic they have had their eye on, etc.). When my oldest daughter was 5 we were flat broke. In her stocking she got oranges and socks. Her big gift was a vintage typewriter that I got at a garage… Read more »

Ginna
Ginna
7 years ago
Reply to  AMW

This is such a beautiful picture, AMW! Thanks for sharing!!

Keith and Kinsey's Real Estate Update
Keith and Kinsey's Real Estate Update
7 years ago

A few years ago, my family decided rather than all the adults buying for each other, we’d just buy one gift and do a gift exchange. This has been awesome. It’s more fun, because we make a game out of it. It saves money, and it saves the headache of shopping.

Anna
Anna
7 years ago

We do the same and it is a ton of fun, great entertainment, and keeps costs reasonable (we also have a spending limit of $50). Additionally, I only have to think about what to get for one person, not for each member of our pretty big family.

Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies
Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies
7 years ago

I think giving for the sake of giving has definitely gone overboard, but some of the people that we’ve discussed it with are really reticent to change. I’m not sure that demanding people stop giving us gifts is worth fighting with family over.

Justin@TheFrugalPath
7 years ago

I was shopping two weeks before Halloween and the Christmas decorations were already creeping into the Halloween area. As Halloween merchandise was being bought it was replaced. I love Christmas for the reasons I loved it when I was a kid. It wasn’t just about gifts. There was so much more to it. Now I feel like it’s a just a reason to shop.

Jane
Jane
7 years ago

We also give our children (4 and 2) used toys at Christmas. Just this past week-end we drove to a nicer neighborhood to buy a $120 wooden dollhouse for $50. He told the woman that it was a gift. It never even crossed my mind until afterwards that she might have found the thought of a used Christmas gift sad. Oh, well. If a stranger thinks we are poor, so be it. We could have technically afforded to buy the new dollhouse on amazon, but…..why? The used one was in excellent condition, plus it was already assembled (big bonus for… Read more »

Mom of five
Mom of five
7 years ago
Reply to  Jane

It blows my mind that people could possibly have a problem with someone buying a used dollhouse to give as a Christmas present. When our oldest daughter was ready to get rid of her American Girl stuff, it went to a family who I knew was going to wrap it up and put it under the tree. If the stuff was in good condition, how could it possibly matter if it was used?

Meredith
Meredith
7 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Used toys and clothes in good condition are wonderful gifts to both the recipients and the environment. I find it amazing and sad when I meet someone who thinks it is disgusting to buy used clothes for kids – they grow out of stuff so fast that it just makes more sense to buy used. Sure there is the bed bug fear but I read if you take it straight to the washer and wash/dry hot, it will kill any bed bugs. I too have given my kids used clothes and books and toys for presents. I even prowl the… Read more »

Carla
Carla
7 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Did she say or do something that revealed her feelings towards used gifts or were you just projecting based on her income and lifestyle? I am truly curious.

Jane
Jane
7 years ago
Reply to  Carla

Carla – There was no indication that she thought anything of it. I was just pointing out that it would be possible that someone could feel sad with the knowledge that their child’s used dollhouse was going to go under the tree for another child. I wasn’t really even projecting based on her station in life. It was more a thought process I went through after we picked it up. Some things that are normal to us might be highly unusual to another family, regardless of how much money they have. I’m happy that the environmental movement has made used… Read more »

Carla
Carla
7 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Jane – I guess I’m so used to buying used items for myself that many times are as good as new that I’ve rarely thought about how other’s might feel about it. Some of my best finds were items from wealthy neighborhoods and the sellers were more than happy to find new homes for perfectly good items.

Holly@ClubThrifty
7 years ago
Reply to  Carla

Carla,

I recently bought a few used toys from a friend at work. Another co-worker witnessed the transaction and told me that I was the cheapeast person he had ever met once he realized that they would be Christmas gifts. It was strange to me to receive such a harsh reaction for doing something that seemed totally normal to me. Yet, I always forget that some people buy everything new, all the time.

Carla
Carla
7 years ago

Wow, even if he felt that way, his reaction was totally uncalled for. 🙁

“Yet, I always forget that some people buy everything new, all the time.”

The way I feel about it is, “more for me”!

Holly@ClubThrifty
7 years ago

I know, right?

And I suppose we should be thankful. Somebody has to pay all of those inflated prices to keep our economy moving!

Jane
Jane
7 years ago

I imagine your average Craigslist seller doesn’t have a problem with used items. It takes a degree of effort and implicit frugality to even post something on Craigslist. That leads me to conclude that the woman was probably fine with it. But I suspected (as Holly herself has experienced) that some people do have a problem with used gifts and would view the whole scenario through entirely different glasses. What I want to do is instill in my children the fact that used things are not embarrassing or a sign of poverty but rather an expression of certain values. Even… Read more »

SAHMama
SAHMama
7 years ago

My kids are 6 and 2 1/2 and I have a baby due in 2 weeks. We don’t do Santa. My husband also hates the consumerism of Christmas and all the hoopla around the whole season. So any shopping, wrapping, cooking, baking, decorating and activities are all my doing. He hates it because he just isn’t into shopping and his parents ruined the spirit of the holiday for him many years ago. For gifts I do something they want, something they need, something to play with and something to read. I fill the stockings with candy, toothbrush, hair/bath things. We… Read more »

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
7 years ago
Reply to  SAHMama

May your labor be easy,and your joy a thousand times what you expect!

Holly
Holly
7 years ago

I am totally on board with this, and have never spent an overwhelming amount on my kids. Not everything is a toy. My husband and I have also give our kids a museum membership and a season pass to an amusement park each year. Those are some of the best gifts. The problem I have is with convincing my mother and childless sister to get on board. They overspend to an alarming degree, and my kids have learned to play this. They ask me for the practical and small-ticket items, but save the “good stuff” for the lists they give… Read more »

CincyCat
CincyCat
7 years ago
Reply to  Holly

Hmmm… Sseems to me that forbidding the kids to give “lists” to your mom might be a good place to start if you’re trying to break the cycle. Or, tell them that if they are deliberately greedy, that you’ll make them choose half the items she gives them to be given away to the poor. They’ll quickly get the message, even if your mom doesn’t. (Just ideas…)

Shevonne
Shevonne
7 years ago

A couple of years ago, I finally put my foot down and told my family that I am only going to buy for the children. When a child turns 18, then that is the end of gifts. I also told my kids that they only get two gifts, and surprisingly, they were fine with it.

nicoleandmaggie
nicoleandmaggie
7 years ago

My in-laws go seriously overboard with presents so Santa just fills the stocking. As they’re pretty big stockings (another present from the in-laws), we put in small non-edible things in there in addition to candy.

Probably the biggest hit was a $5 calculator a couple of years ago. This year I got a prism and a Japanese hand game.

http://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/non-edible-stocking-stuffers-for-budding-nerds-and-other-small-fry/

Megan
Megan
7 years ago

My parents go overboard, too, and it makes me angry. We have a small house and my kids have toys from last Christmas that are still unopened. We don’t need any more crap! And the more I say “We’re cutting back, please don’t buy so much” – the more they buy.

(To keep my sanity, I return some items on the sly for stuff we could really use.)

nicoleandmaggie
nicoleandmaggie
7 years ago
Reply to  Megan

It doesn’t make me angry, because they’re getting joy out of picking presents and they live far enough away that we don’t actually have to show them the gifts. And some of the gifts are pretty spectacular– the kinds of things I dreamed of growing up (train sets, giant wooden castles, a real microscope etc.). But yes, some portion of the presents end up unopened in our gift closet for other kids’ birthday parties because there’s only so much space and only so much a child can play with over the course of a year. It’s weird because they give… Read more »

amber
amber
7 years ago

Last year before Thanksgiving I made noises that I thought we should stop gift giving to adults. No one backed me up until at the actual Christmas exchange, where my brother pipped up and said he thought we should only give to the kids. Too late! Now again he is saying this, only at this point his wife has already bought all of our presents, and I theirs. How to get consensus? When is the best time to reach agreement? I budget very carefully and spend about $1K on all christmas-associated giving and decorating. Before you all freak out I… Read more »

valleycat1
valleycat1
7 years ago
Reply to  amber

A good time to decide is when you’re all together (if possible), or early in the year. Our extended family went this route years ago. I now make a fairly sizable donation to charity instead, & let everyone formerly on my shopping list know what organization I donated to. Those who still have the gift-giving/shopping bug buy for the Toys for Tots or local adopt-a-child/family campaigns. I also know some families with small children & too many incoming gifts who let the children select some of their gifts to donate to a family shelter once the holiday excitement has died… Read more »

Random Hangers
Random Hangers
7 years ago
Reply to  amber

I’d recommending just leting everyone know this year that next year you won’t be buying presents for adults and leave it at that. That way, if they still buy you presents, it’s with the knowledge that it won’t be reciprocated. Your brother already said he’s on board with it, so that’s a win.

M
M
7 years ago

Last year I discussed with my family my desire to stop exchanging gifts, and instead, make a donation in each others’ names. I think I heard an audible sigh of relief from my dad. He wants/needs nothing and is probably glad to be free of the obligation.
Here in Canada there is a drug store chain similar to CVS. This chain requested that store owners start playing Xmas music right after Halloween. On Nov 1st, customers flooded head office with complaints. The music stopped!

Marie
Marie
7 years ago
Reply to  M

The elevator in my office building played Halloween music all through both September and October (you would be surprised how much spooky music is out there besides “the Monster Mash”). I predicted that on Nov. 1, it would switch over to Christmas music for the next two months, and so it did! I LOVE Christmas music but I think one month of it is plenty! People are silly sometimes.

Michelle
Michelle
7 years ago

We try to save year round for Christmas, but I’m not going to lie, we definitely spend too much. Something we need to work on.

EMH
EMH
7 years ago

My side of the famiy doesn’t exchange gifts anymore. Without any little kids, opening gifts is more of a chore than anything else. We all prefer to hang out, play some games, eat, catch-up and just enjoy the company. My husband’s side of the family has little kids and I do enjoy buying gifts for my niece and nephew. They get so excited and yes, I probably spoil them a little too much. I guess that is one of the joys of being an aunt. I can spoil them, love them, act silly with them and I don’t have to… Read more »

partgypsy
partgypsy
7 years ago

We spent about $100 on each kid (all new except for some used books) and I think that is too much! I still spend too much becaue I have about 13 people to shop for, with certain expectations. An agreement to only get gifts for the kids is not ideal either. The kids get buried in gifts, and many of the adults get nothing (my sister is a single aunt to 4 kids and is very generous despite living on a a limited budget). I do let the gift givers know that the kids have college funds and a donation… Read more »

Linda
Linda
7 years ago
Reply to  partgypsy

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “pay an entry fee” (for my daughter’s swim meets or son’s baseball tournaments) and no one ever did it.

Sam
Sam
7 years ago

As a kid, I remember getting an orange in my stocking. My favorite gift was the big box of crayons each year. My parents were hippies, so consumerism was a no no and our Christmases reflected that. Even when I was a kid, I saw my friends getting gifts way in excess of what I got and that was hard. I respect it now, but as a kid its hard. Our holiday planning is pretty set in stoned and we save each month into our holiday savings account so we are ready to go. Our holiday plan generally includes no… Read more »

Mom of five
Mom of five
7 years ago
Reply to  Sam

Yeah, I buy our dog presents too. He feels left out if he doesn’t get anything in the morning when everyone else is getting stuff. He really does. I left him out of Easter one year and I felt so guilty I can’t imagine leaving him out of Christmas. I usually pick up some treat as well as a dollar store stuffed animal he can rip apart. He’ll also get the hambone but he won’t get that til after dinner – he definitely needs something in the morning, like everybody else.

KSR
KSR
7 years ago
Reply to  Sam

Ah Sam! You made my day with your comment.

“My parents were hippies,… Our holiday planning is pretty set in *stoned*”

I love that!!!! Ha! And yeah, I know it wasn’t intentional, but hilarious just the same and worth the stop in and of itself.

CincyCat
CincyCat
7 years ago
Reply to  Sam

Funny that you mention your dog knowing that it’s Christmas. We usually give our kitty canned food on holidays. (Canned food is a special treat that he doesn’t get all the time.) He even comes running into the kitchen out of a dead sleep if he hears us get his “fancy feast” plate out of the cabinet. Well, last year on Thanksgiving, we forgot to get his canned food, but he came into the kitchen and looked and looked at the cabinet anyway & kept rubbing our legs (he *never* begs for food). We realized then that we had forgotten… Read more »

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
7 years ago
Reply to  CincyCat

So, who ran to the store to get some Fancy Feast?

CincyCat
CincyCat
7 years ago
Reply to  SLCCOM

LOL! Stores were closed at that point, so I think we gave him some hot dog instead.

Micah
Micah
7 years ago

We have a 4 yo, a 2 to and one on the way. We also do “a want, a need, a wear, a read” but only pick 3 categories. This year they don’t need anything to wear so they are getting legos and a candyland game, small chalkboards for school (with chalk and erasers, we homeschool) and books.
Last year they got lunchbox sized trucks, backpacks, hats/mittens and books.

LauraElle
LauraElle
7 years ago

My son has a December birthday and very generous grandparents and aunties. I have put the brakes on excessive gifts by asking them to respect the following: one tangible gift, like a toy or video game or book and one experience gift, like gift card to the movies or a zoo pass. For the most part, they do. It limits clutter, excessive gifts and he has an activity he can do.

Squirrelers
Squirrelers
7 years ago

Gift giving has gone way overboard. Now, I’m all about the idea of giving gifts during the holiday season. And, admittedly, I do spend money on them, particularly for my kids.

However, kids that are very young will simply not remember the next year anyway. Parents that buy expensive gifts for really little kids are probably buying the gifts to make themselves feel good, whether they realize it or not.

Totally agree on not keeping up with the Jonses, as well. The holiday season is about goodwill, cheer, and family to me, not competing with others 🙂

Mom of five
Mom of five
7 years ago

Having grown up with parents who were determined not to get caught up in Christmas commercialism, I know how much it stinks to be a kid and get new socks and underwear under the tree (and that’s it!). We did get some candy in the stockings but really that was the only treat to look forward to on Christmas morning for us kids. I refuse to do that to my own children. With the first couple of kids we went overboard when they were young. Now, unless a young child has a specific want – this year my two youngest… Read more »

Sarah
Sarah
7 years ago

My husband is one of four kids. Two of his siblings are married. His mother is remarried, and both her new husband and my huband’s dad come to Christmas, along with all siblings and spouses, and his grandfather. We’re all adults and we all have jobs. None of us had kids (until last week). Yet up until this year, we have all gotten presents for *everyone* else, and it has just been absurd. One year it was just handing over gift cards. I mean, come on… why not just hand over fistfuls of cash and be done with it? So… Read more »

Jezna
Jezna
7 years ago

Studies show that giving to other people makes you happier and I actually really enjoy getting people presents. Especially when its something I thought of that they either don’t know about or wouldn’t buy for themselves. Sometimes they’re a dud but whats the point of attempting to get them something they can buy themselves? I try to play to my talents. I often get people books or games that I’ve really enjoyed. For example, I bought my mom an ipod a few years ago and sat her down and showed her how to order songs and use iTunes. She’s been… Read more »

Kelly
Kelly
7 years ago

We’re going to be trying out a tradition I heard about from a friend – alternative Christmas. Every other year rather than all of the Christmas hoopla the family takes a vacation together. We’ve considered short cruises or renting a vacation house at the beach or the mountains. When our son is a little older we’d love to take him to New York City. It’s a great idea to keep the spirit of family in Christmas and get away from some of the consumerism. All that said, we’ve struggled with how to handle extended family in an alternative Christmas year… Read more »

Holly@ClubThrifty
7 years ago
Reply to  Kelly

That is an awesome suggestion, I think!!!!!

LauraElle
LauraElle
7 years ago
Reply to  Kelly

That is a great idea and something to think about!

Jane Savers
Jane Savers
7 years ago

I am a single mom and I struggle with gift guilt at Christmas. I feel badly because both my sons will graduate college soon with large student debts because I have not been in a position to help them very much and it would be nice to have one day without worrying about money. Except that if I fall off budget I will be left with more debt in the new year. I have told them that Christmas will be very small this year and I am trying very hard to stick to it the closer we get to Christmas… Read more »

Kate
Kate
7 years ago
Reply to  Jane Savers

I know what you mean about the tree looking kind of sad! We found a solution accidentally, when we had a dog who would “open” presents in advance if they were on the floor. Set up the tree as usual, but use a piece of furniture for the present display. Cramming everything on the top of our spinet piano made the presents look abundant. Could do the same with a small side table, a chair that doesn’t get used much, temporarily re-purpose a single shelf in a bookcase, etc.

Mom of five
Mom of five
7 years ago
Reply to  Jane Savers

Oh, Jane, don’t feel bad! We parents do what we can and that’s it. Guilt in your situation is counterproductive and can lead to you overspending. Your sons are old enough now to understand. It’s only important at this point that they feel loved and valued by you and you can do that without spending much (if any) money. Just to give you a few ideas – Make them their favorite meals, let them borrow your car, or maybe even doing their laundry for them might be a special treat.

Jezna
Jezna
7 years ago
Reply to  Jane Savers

Jane- My parents also couldn’t pay for my college. They also can’t afford a large christmas without going even further into debt. I’ve been begging them for a small christmas for years, but they never listen to me because they still feel guilty about the college thing and they don’t want the holidays to be sad. I hate having to worry about their finances and whether or not they’re saving enough for retirement. They deserve to have some money! You have to remember that you gave your kids enough support and love that they were able to graduate college. That’s… Read more »

betsy22
betsy22
7 years ago

I’m in my 30s and I still exchange presents with my mom and dad — I enjoy that, since it gives me an opportunity to buy them some high quality stuff that they probably wouldn’t buy for themselves. My grandma certainly doesn’t need more stuff, so I buy her theatre tickets — and promise her a date night where I’ll take her out to dinner and then to the theatre. I am spending a fair amount of money on this, but she really, really loves it, and after all that she’s done for everyone, I have no moral qualms with… Read more »

Budget and the Beach
Budget and the Beach
7 years ago

Congrats on your article here Holly! Anyway, I could not agree MORE! And kids have such short attention spans for toys and things that they outgrow that it makes total sense. I don’t feel that pressure at all this time of year because no one in my family expects gift exchanges. Kind of nice. I feel bad for people whose families make them feel guilty, even when the families know they don’t have a lot of money. And I see every year friends of mine have given up on the christmas card sending. I have to be honest here, I… Read more »

mitigateddisaster
mitigateddisaster
7 years ago

Great idea to get used gifts! This year, we are skipping xmas gifts in lieu of spending money on a family trip. Would rather spend the money on experiences rather than stuff they get tired of or that break so quickly. I’ll make a nice video / photobook of the experience and it will be the gift that keeps on giving! (btw, the kids were asked if they wanted a trip in lieu of presents and they immediately voted for a trip!) Oh, and if you still want that DS3, we have a barely-used DS3 from last xmas we can… Read more »

Holly@ClubThrifty
7 years ago

Thanks for the offer! I am (thankfully) done shopping for them this year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

adult student
adult student
7 years ago

This is so hard, it’s true. It feels extra complicated for me this year because I have no kids, but just got married, so now there are two families to get gifts for. We’re doing our usual “one small [~$10-25] gift per family member” and just saying they’re from both of us because we’re both grad students with big families who are far away and costly to visit. For some reason I don’t feel like that’s enough so I’m supplementing with some baked goods and flattering pictures of family members from our wedding to keep things relatively cheap, although my… Read more »

Colleen
Colleen
7 years ago

Wow, Holly, I couldn’t agree more!!! This time of year just makes me ill with all of the spending and excess. I loudly applaud the idea of re-gifting (or used) items. My son is 12 and almost every single electronic device, game, etc. has been purchased either used or refurbished on eBay or another similar site. He takes good care of his things and when it is time to upgrade or he outgrows something, we turn around and sell it. It works great. We purchase it used, he uses it and then we resell it. It’s a win for everyone… Read more »

Parvinder
Parvinder
7 years ago

I love holiday season because everywhere I look, I see happy faces and shops full of merchandises.

I love Christmas season. Buf yah you are right…. it’s a most difficult time for someone is living on paycheck to paycheck.

I usually go outside but never shop…. I love seing happy faces….

E. Brown
E. Brown
7 years ago

An excellent thoughtful topic, and many thoughtful comments. My mum is one of six children. When everyone in her family had growing families, she and her siblings settled on pulling names from a hat a few weeks before christmas, and buying for the one other family whose name they pulled. So they were still exchanging gifts, without straining anyone, and I remember loads of home-made gifts in these exchanges. My mother’s mother knit year round, to generate mitts, hats and slippers for Christmas. These were treasured in the family, and I nursed along the last pair I received for years… Read more »

Matt at Healthy N' Wealthy
Matt at Healthy N' Wealthy
7 years ago

Great article. It pains me that people spend JUST BECAUSE it’s the holidays. I told my girlfriend that if she spent more than $30 on me, I’d return the gift I got for her. And $30 was a compromise. My father used to spoil my brothers and me at Christmas time, but that was the ONLY time. And by spoil, I mean we’d get a video game system every few years (never the year it came out) with MAYBE one game, and sometimes that one game was rented. If we wanted more games, we’d have to buy them. Otherwise, we’d… Read more »

Matt at Healthy N' Wealthy
Matt at Healthy N' Wealthy
7 years ago

Do pets really need Christmas gifts? No, they don’t. Yes! Both I and my dog, Toby (RIP), would whole-heartedly and jokingly disagree with you. Every morning, Toby would expect us to play with him, pat him, pay attention to him, etc. Our first Christmas with him (1996), we didn’t get him anything. My two brothers and me were busy opening our presents, and then playing with them, and Toby was running around like a madman, chewing the wrapping paper, jumping on us and my parents, just begging for attention. So, the next year, and every year thereafter, we got him… Read more »

partgypsy
partgypsy
7 years ago

Pets are the most fun to shop for! We don’t make it a practice to buy bones or treats for the dog, or catnip for the cat so this is a pretty much once a year treat. We will replace the goldfish’s container of food (same container for the past year and 1/2, probably out of date) and the hermit crabs will get a food treat (frozen tiny shrimp, snails, or seaweed- yum!). The dog and cat get stockings, and especially the dog knows there is something in there for him.

Holly@ClubThrifty
7 years ago

Hey, if spending $10 on your dog really brings you that much joy then I would say that it’s definitely worth it! =)

Ramblin' Ma'am
Ramblin' Ma'am
7 years ago

My childhood dog Bagel used to get a big rawhide bone every Christmas. He would trot around the room showing it off to everybody! He was so blissed out.

HKR
HKR
7 years ago

My step-daughter has been working on her Christmas wish-list since July, and it literally changes every week. The gifts she received last year received an average of two uses each, with the exception of the Wii Dance-Dance Revolution game(because I play it). This year, my husband and I decided not to waste money on Stuff she won’t remember two weeks later, so we gave her a “coupon book” good for one Christmas mini-vacation. We have a three day weekend packed full of Christmas activities planned, and she’s super excited about the hotel pool. We’ll also give her a stocking-full of… Read more »

Kristin
Kristin
7 years ago

Welcome aboard, Holly!

I laughed out loud at the buying gifts for pets part. Guilty!

I love the alternative Christmas idea someone else mentioned. My family has been toying around with this idea for next year. We plan to forgo gift giving and instead use that money to take a family vacation somewhere nice. Preferably with snow.

Joanna @ Our Freaking Budget
Joanna @ Our Freaking Budget
7 years ago

Great tips. I say way to go on buying used! And for some electronics, buying refurbished from the manufacturer saves hundreds, but it still feels new… and you have the manufacturer’s quality guarantee!

Beth
Beth
7 years ago

Funny you mentioned the pets, everyone knows how silly I am about my pets and they ask, “what did you get the pets for xmas?”. My answer, I saved them all from death row, everyday they live with me is Christmas!!

Tina
Tina
7 years ago

My son loves books and doesn’t care if we get him a used book as a gift. As long as he can read it, he is fine. We make alot of things for Christmas. My daughter just learned to crochet, so she is making scarves. I love crafts so I have made light bulb ornaments, taken old xmas cards and framed them for small art, etc for family and friends in the past. The kids also do their shopping for everyone at the dollar store or goodwill or go in together to get a bigger present for someone.I can say… Read more »

Kandace
Kandace
7 years ago

I have friend whose children get two gifts for Christmas: one from Mom and Dad, and the other from Santa.

That seems like a nice balance to me.

Erica
Erica
7 years ago

With an an extended family of mostly mid 20s-early 30s “kids,” we do a Secret Santa with a $25 limit. Everyone draws names at Thanksgiving, and we share our wish lists via social media. We all get something, hardly anybody stresses out over shopping for one person, and half the fun is the month leading up to Christmas when we all try to figure out who has drawn whom.

The other half of the fun is seeing the gag gift psych-outs people come up with. Some people just can’t help themselves. 🙂

PB
PB
7 years ago

We took our teenage kids on a trip to Williamsburg one Christmas, which they loved. (lots of family up in Richmond, which was also fun.) We had their stocking presents and each was allowed to choose one thing when they were there. That was it, and they still think it was a very happy Christmas, 10 years later.

erika
erika
7 years ago

I’m a big fan of buying used gifts for my kids. I can generally find items on eBay or Craigslist in excellent condition for a fraction of the retail price, which allows me to get them much nicer things than I could otherwise afford. Each of my older daughters received a used Nintendo DS for Christmas over the past 2 years, and they were both thrilled and never gave a second’s thought to where they were purchased. I could never have afforded those gifts at the brand-new price, nor would I have felt comfortable putting such an expensive item in… Read more »

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