Christmas doesn’t faze me one bit. Nosirreee.

This is primarily because I don’t subscribe to the notion of giving the perfect gift to everyone you know. It’s just unnecessary stress to add to an already stressful season. It also helps that I grew up with parents who didn’t wax poetic about Christmas being the most magical time of the year.

Since my mom was an OB-Gyne with a very hectic practice, Christmas presents were usually hastily wrapped samples or giveaways from pharmaceutical companies. Vaginal candidiasis and prenatal supplements were common words around our house because they were emblazoned on our pens, mugs, shirts, and all sorts of odds and ends.

My dad was slightly better in the gift-giving department because he would actually buy presents. However, he would usually buy gifts from the grocery so that meant towels, toiletries, and overrun shirts from the aisles of SM Supermarket. My dad’s presents vastly improved when he became the agency head because he received a monthly call card allowance which he would give to us come Christmas, or whenever we made lambing.

The funny thing was that I actually looked forward to these “gifts” because they were so hilarious. It was always a hoot to see what my parents would come up with year after year.

Now that I’m the parent, I’m the one on the giving end and since I’m not a doctor with access to corporate giveaways, I can’t just regift birth control emblazoned doodads (drat!). I also have to work within a budget, and a very tight one at that, because there’s still our consumer and non-consumer debts to be demolished. But Christmas can’t be stopped, so here’s what I do to lessen the impact of merry-making on our budget:

Buy gifts throughout the year

When I’m at the mall and I see something that I know someone will like and at a price that I love, I don’t think twice about buying it for Christmas or that person’s birthday, even if those events are still months away. I just pack the item in a safe spot away from curious eyes and then bring them out to be wrapped when Jose Mari Chan starts polluting the airways with his songs. This way I don’t have to join the Christmas crowd in malls and bazaars, I also end up not killing my budget since the expenses are spread out throughout the year.

Buy during sales

What’s better than buying gifts throughout the year? Buying gifts during the different sale seasons throughout the year.

Sales come with regularity so buy during sale season and give your pocket a break.

Organize a monito-monita or Secret Santa in your office

I’m a big believer in Secret Santas, specially when you have a lot of co-workers. Instead of spending a ton of cash on cheap knick-knacks for 30 officemates, it’s way better to spend a fraction of that on a gift that an officemate will actually like (cue the wishlist). So if your office does not have a Secret Santa, organize one and you can be sure that your co-workers will thank you for it.

Skip the adults and give only to the kiddies

This has been the informal arrangement within my family, but this year, we decided to formalize it. My sibs and I decided to skip the gifts to each other and just give to the kids. As the children of our parents, we pretty much share the same gift-giving philosophy, meaning we have no standards to speak of. So after year after year of lousy gifts to each other (think grocery list notepads), we opted to save ourselves the effort and just give to our kids, who smartly enough came up with wishlists since they are also painfully aware of the tradition they were born into.

Give to a cause

If you want to give more than just material gifts to your friends and loved ones, you may want to share your blessings with these non-profit organizations that help children and families in danger get back on their feet.

Christmas day is less than eight days away and if you’re nowhere near finishing your list, don’t panic, it’s perfectly acceptable to give gifts up to the new year or even up to Three Kings, the official end of the Christmas season in the Philippines.

And if you don’t end up giving gifts, it’s also perfectly ok, because a warm hug and your presence will always trump some store bought, mass-produced present.

Happy holidays everyone!

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