First Day of Flat Broke Christmas: Name draws and price limits

14 Nov

On the first day of Christmas, Flat Broke Blog gave to me: One name draw and price limit!

Damn you, TV holiday special writers.

We’re already going miss some episodes of “30 Rock”, “The Office”, “Grey’s Anatomy” or whatever our guilty prime-time pleasures are. Instead, we’re treated to “Christmas Miracle” movies. At the end of all of these flicks, we get to see all the happy people rockin’ around the Christmas tree, opening the gifts of their dreams. Everyone waits with bated breath and cheshire-cat smiles as they watch their recipients open that extra special gift.

TV has ruined us, folks. This is, by no means, reality — especially for the flat broke.

Here’s the true meaning of Christmas for so many more people, now that the economy has tanked. Christmas means hanging their heads in shame as they come to family gatherings empty-handed. If they do manage to bring gifts, they always know what they bring will never hold a candle to wealthier relatives’ presents. Maybe they also feel humiliated when receiving a nicer, pricier gift from others, when they know their gift is next to nothing. Perhaps that gift really is that — NOTHING.

But there’s a way to even the stakes and curb your spending.

* * *

Instead of buying gifts for 10 people, how about buying for one? Welcome to the world of drawing names.

The way it works is quite simple. First, decide on which group should do this. In families, those exchanging names should be of the same age and/or generation (i.e. You and your siblings trade in one group, your kid and theirs trade in another, etc.). Make sure all people whose names are going into the hat, jar or whatever else you use are willing to do this. Some may not have the means to get anything at all, even after drawing names.

Once you determine whose names will go into the mix, write them on pieces of paper, fold them and toss them around like lotto balls. Then, everyone draws. I’m sure most people can handle that without instructions, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Thanksgiving gatherings are a good time for this, but you don’t have to assemble everyone at once. At my workplace, we put the folded pieces of paper in a jar and leave it in a common area. We draw at our own conveniences. Someone else can also draw in your place and read it over the phone to you — perhaps leaving a voicemail or text message — if your personal schedule is airtight.

The year my mom’s side of the family drew names, our parents only had to buy for one niece/nephew instead of four or five. This accomplished two things. First, we were able to concentrate on that one person, finding out exactly what he/she liked and wanted. The cousin who drew my name bought me the CD version of The Eagles’ “Hotel California”, one of my all-time favorites. We were able to afford nicer gifts because we didn’t have to budget for several others. And even when we could buy nicer gifts, we all still saved money.

* * *

When you draw names, though, you have to even the field. Price limits must be set.

As a group, decide on a proper ceiling that fits all budgets. You want everyone involved to be able to afford gifts, but it has another purpose. If you don’t set price limits, you have the potential for your Christmas to resemble the Bundys’ or the Osbournes’.

People will dread you, the skid row one, drawing their names. They’ll be relieved when your brother-in-law, who just hit the Lucky Bastard Lotto jackpot, does. Price limits lessen the shame for those who roll pennies for gas, and fewer people feel “obligated” to buy gifts measuring up to Mr. Lucky Bastard Lotto. You may be tempted to call Mr. Lucky Bastard Lotto a, well, bastard. Afterward, you get new guests at your family gathering — the cops.

Coming tomorrow: The Second Day of Flat Broke Christmas!

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14 Responses to “First Day of Flat Broke Christmas: Name draws and price limits”

  1. Jayne November 14, 2009 at 5:22 pm #

    That’s what we do where I work and with a group of friends that I have. It’s a damn good idea for families, too. Or people should make a donation to a friend’s favorite charity. Of course, right now I’M my favorite charity, but still… This is actually what I did for my birthday this year and it felt good because I’ve had to cut back on my donations so it really was a gift for me, too. Anyway, great post. I’m adding you to my blog roll. – Jayne

    • flatbrokegirl November 14, 2009 at 8:24 pm #

      Thank you so much! I’m doing the same thing for you!

      You’re so right about the families. I’m an only child with no kids of my own, but my extended family has basically become the Duggars on crack. My dad came out of a family of four kids, and my mom is the sixth out of seven. Then, take into account all of my aunts’ and uncles’ spouses, all 10 of my first cousins and all eight of my first cousins’ children. One more of the latter is on the way. There’s just no way we can afford presents for everyone. We generally only buy for the children now, but it would be so much easier if we all just drew names again.

  2. Jayne November 14, 2009 at 5:24 pm #

    I see we like the same news shows, too.

    • flatbrokegirl November 14, 2009 at 8:25 pm #

      I adore Keith and Rachel 🙂

  3. Newlywed & Unemployed December 9, 2009 at 10:21 pm #

    I have 5 siblings and every year since childhood, we’ve drawn names. (We grew up with a wise, frugal mother.) This year, my oldest brother (phD educated with 6 children now delivering pizza) is unemployed, so I suggested we draw names for his kids! Go team effort!

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