This year we had a very tight budget for Christmas spending. The Department of Defence lowered our overseas cost of living by 50%, I have yet to secure employment, and we are recuperating losses from repairs on our rental property in Colorado. I did my best to get at least a few things that each child wanted as well ensuring that we had all of our usual Christmas goodies.
When you live on a military base overseas, the prices at the Commissary (DeCa grocery store) are rather high. Our tiny little ham was $32–and it was the only one that was not already expired. Things like baker’s chocolate, sugar, and flour that we would normally get a tt a great price were also inflated.
I could have spent more on Christmas gifts if we hadn’t gone to the Christkindlesmarkt in Nurnberg, but I felt that it would be fun to experience one of the world-famous Christmas Markets. Too often we live in an area that has amazing things to see, but we end up never doing them because there’s always that little voice that says “we can do it next year.” It is my experience that the next year comes, and we still haven’t gone and then before we realize it–we are moving again. I have been looking forward to the Christkindlesmarkt ever since we found out that we had orders to Germany, so I was not about to let this opportunity pass. I’m glad that we spent the money on such a special trip!
This year, my son was greatly disappointed with his gifts. He wanted Fifa 14, but it was not available at the Post Exchange (PX). He also wanted Minecraft online, but I didn’t know about it. The other item that my son really wanted was a pair of $80 Euro shoes (after exchange & bank fees that comes out to about $105). The kids asked for sweaters as well. So I gave my son Fifa 13, two very nice sweaters, a nice Timex watch with an alarm and two time zones, and my husband’s old smart phone with minutes and some data. From my parents he received a $50 gift card to Amazon. Personally, I would love to have that gift card!
Off and on through the day he asked for Minecraft after finding out that he couldn’t buy the online game through Amazon. After telling him nicely that he could ask his sister to cash out some of his amazon gift card when she gets paid on the 5th of January, he got upset and said he shouldn’t have to wait that long.
My children are blessed, and they don’t even realize it. I grew up with very little. I remember eating lots of ground beef, tuna casserole, and soups. We were not dirt poor, but we certainly were not middle class. We lived in Santa Ana, California–a known gang zone. I had to take the bus or walk just about everywhere. We had junk cars that were often breaking down. I never asked for much because I grew up with these 6 words: “we don’t have money for that.” If I had a pair of L.A. Gear shoes–they were the previous years’ model and we purchased them at the swap meet. I don’t think my mother would have ever purchased a $30 pair of shoes for us girls. Our shoes came from Payless. Our clothes were purchased at K-Mart. I didn’t complain. I was grateful for every gift that I received, and if I didn’t like it, I pretended to love it. I still remember the year that I received the Prince “1999” album and the Cyndi Lauper “She’s So Unusual” album. I cherished those records for years!
I was so angry and hurt by my son’s attitude that I went up to my room to be alone with memories of him as a little boy. An idea sparked.
I came downstairs about two hours before dinner with two large storage boxes full of family photos. I called the kids to the dining table and had them sit down with me. We went through the photos together. We visited Christmases, birthdays, family gatherings, and impromptu snap shots. The kids had a great time looking through all of the wonderful memories. I did too. Thomas said to me later that night, “mom, I’m sorry. Thanks for all of the awesome gifts you gave me when I was a kid. I really do like the Fifa 13 game, and my sweaters. How did you know that I needed a watch?” I just smiled. Told him you are welcome and that it was a tradition in my family to get your first “grown-up” watch for Christmas when you are a freshman in high school. He asked me to help him set up the second time zone for Colorado. It was a good lesson for him, and a reminder to me–I have done well in providing a better life for my kids.
I also discovered a new Christmas tradition–looking through old photos before dinner on Christmas Day.
I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!
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My wife is a coupon nerd, but she collects more than she can possibly use. I understand that PX’s allow expired coupons. If they could help you, and you want/need any, please ask. You can PM me through my site.