The Budget Bitch bag of Christmas Cheer

Imagine this scenario – it’s December and you’re away from home, staying in a hotel in Adelaide. Your brother (who lives there) calls, and invites you to join his family for their Christmas celebration. All their family will be together this weekend, so they’re celebrating early. Being part of their family, they’d love you to come. Its 24 hours away.

My brother has five kids who are all grown and have partners; there are some grand-kids plus other ‘family’ members. The total is 20, and there will be an exchange of gifts at some point during the day.

Now this is not part of my Christmas plans and I am totally unprepared to partake in the gift giving ritual. If there had been more time, I would have been able to put some extra money aside throughout the year. I would also have had time to organise something special for each of them.

So here I am, 24 hours to prepare and not only is there a shortage of funds but I am also lacking inspiration in the gift buying department. Let’s face it – even 20 tins of cheap biscuits is going to cost at least $100.

And then (at 2 am) it hit me! The answer came from my subconscious while I slept. I knew exactly what to do.

I couldn’t hit the shopping centre till lunch hour. Into Rundle Mall, and I quickly found a large ‘discount’ shop. So far so good!

Grabbing a shopping basket, I began the next part of my mission – to buy 20 gifts at a cost no more than $2 each. Nothing should be too obviously gender-specific; but to liven the party I chose some purely male and female gifts. (men’s razors, girly soaps; that sort of thing)

I helped myself to the pile of free store catalogues to use as wrapping paper, (they’re colourful and end up in the same place as gift wrap) then spent $2 for a large ‘Christmas’ bag to carry everything. Back at the hotel I borrowed scissors and sticky-tape from the reception desk and soon everything was wrapped.

Family gatherings are great fun and this was no exception. The joy of spending time with people I love, but am separated from by time and distance, was immeasurable. Just to be with them was my own personal Christmas treat.

And then it was “time for the gifts”. My brother took me aside, quietly apologised for the short notice and explained that nobody would be upset that I had nothing for them all. Just being together would be enough.

He was right – it was, but I was ready to surprise them. When all the presents had been opened there remained, under the tree, a large bag that nobody had seen before.

With a flourish I announced that it was time for “Aunty Carmel’s Bag of Christmas Cheer”. Everybody would get a ‘lucky-dip’ and if they didn’t like their gift – too bad. They could always exchange with somebody else later.

What a hoot! We played a trivia game with a dip in the bag being the prize; everybody was a winner. An hour later – we’re still laughing and swapping gifts. Even Grandma got into the spirit, swapping screwdrivers for incense sticks.

It was the best $42 I’ve ever spent and it’s a new tradition; with family members competing to prove that they ‘need’ to be the Christmas Cheer Bag person.

You know – sometimes I think we’ve forgotten that Christmas memories are about people and events – the size and cost of the gifts are insignificant.




Carmel McCartin – Budget Bitch

And don’t forget – (The views expressed in this blog are the personal opinions of the author. Don’t rely on them to make financial decisions, you have to make up your own mind. If you don’t like the content – then either stop reading or send me an email)

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