Scrooge's Christmas List

Check it twice. You may be able to pare it down.

By Gary Foreman


"Cratchit, take your Christmas grab bag and be gone. Out, I tell you, or you'll be seeking new employment!"

While this scene wasn't included in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, I can easily picture crotchety old Scrooge taking Bob Cratchit to task for attempting to include him in an office holiday gift exchange.

If you think about it, many of us harbor Scrooge-like feelings today. We really don't want to participate in yet one more gift exchange. We're out of both time and money.

The sad fact is that for many of us, Christmas shopping has become an obligation. We buy presents because it's expected. Take a look at your list. How many people on it fall into the "I gotta" category?

Part of the problem is that most of the people whom we buy for already enjoy material wealth. They truly "don't need anything."

Whether you consider this time of year to be an important part of your faith or just a time of goodwill, rushing from store to store takes your mind from the real meaning of the season. You focus on things, rather than on the importance of relationships. So, I'd argue that it's in the spirit of the season to reduce the number of people on your gift list.

Shopping for Gifts
Before you go shopping, decide which people on your list are really important. You have limited time and money. Spend them on the people who are most significant to you.

Everyone else should be handled without much fuss. It's not that we don't like the people in the office gift exchange, but let's face it: six months from now they won't remember what you bought them.

An office party is a great place for a gag gift. For instance, stuffed animals, clothing, coffee mugs and toys are fertile ground for the imagination. Is the recipient a stickler for time? An old alarm clock with the hands missing is a clever gift.

Rather than combing the malls for the perfect item for faraway relatives and friends, buy them a gift from a national chain so it's easy to return - or a gift certificate. Or, better still, agree to a dollar amount that each family member will spend and buy your own present. Send the "giver" a photo of the gift that "they bought."

For local friends and relatives, think about where your lives intersect. If you discover that your lives have drifted apart, it's far better to spend time over lunch or dinner instead of shopping.

You will want to make the very special people in your life -- your spouse, children, parents, and dear friends -- happy with a gift. While it's nice to find a thoughtful gift for them, what they really want is you and your happiness. Don't disappoint them by choosing something that's expensive but impersonal.

Enjoy the Season
Finally, remember that not everyone is blessed with the abundance that so many of us have. If you can afford to, participate in any one of the not-for-profit programs that help the needy.

Nor is this meant to imply that you should ignore the holidays. This is a wonderful time of year. My hope is that you'd make the most of your resources to bring happiness to the people who matter most in your life.

Here's to a wonderful holiday for everyone. Hopefully your holiday will be filled with joy and wonder.

Gary Foreman has worked as a Certified Financial Planner and currently edits The Dollar Stretcher website