Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Single Santas

On my way home from my first - yes, first - Christmas shopping trip after work this evening, I gave my friend Monique a call.

I knew she would understand the stress I was feeling about the presents I'm only now beginning to buy.

Me: Did you get a present for Zazzi yet?

Monique: No, not yet, I think I'm just going to do a gift card.

Me: OK, so how about Zazzi's baby? And husband?

Monique: Yeah, I'm not sure what to do. I was just going to spend the usual, (like we have since we started exchanging presents in college). But I feel bad because I know she's going to spend a lot more.

Welcome to the world of Single Santas, the prickly position unmarried people end up in around the holidays when you want to be generous with the friends you've had forever -- but then it starts to get a little out of hand.

Take Monique's case for example. One of her closest girlfriends is married with four kids. Another is married with three. Two of her other close girlfriends had babies within the past year.

Monique has remained close to these friends and plays with the kids regularly, so she feels like she should have a little something for everyone at Christmas.

But even if she kept the gifts for the kids really little, say $10 a piece, that still puts her at almost $100 more than she used to spend on just her girlfriends.

Monique's a teacher that waits tables on the side to pay the bills. So that extra $100 is a lot!

I realize talking about this is kind of Scrooge-like around Christmas, and I'm sure some people are going to make the case that Christmas isn't about the gifts. Just give them something from the heart.

Easier said than done when your married/settled down friends are still buying you really nice presents. They have dual income, after all, and can afford to treat you.

So giving them and their kids nothing in return is kind of embarrassing. And besides, this isn't about not wanting to buy them all presents -- it's about not being able to afford to do so.

After two years of buying little presents for all my friends, I decided I had a choice. I could rack up all kinds of credit card debt trying to be Super Aunt Vikki. Or I could buy for just a handful and send everyone else heartfelt cards.

Monique came up with her own practical solution. She buys magazine subscriptions for each of her friends' families. True, she still feels a little sad that she doesn't have the means to get every kid their own gift.

But she's learning to deal with it.

Single Santas can only give so much.


The Real Mr. And Mrs. Smith said...

Hey Vik, it's not just single Santas that feel the pain at Christmas. It's an expensive time of year for everyone and as I get older I am rethinking gifts and making sure we're focusing on time with family and friends as much as presents. I think at this point, it's perfectly acceptable to not get your friends (or your friends' kids) presents. But, here's one "gift" idea if you really want to do something for friends with kids -- give them a "gift card" for a night of
babysitting so they can go out and eat at a restaurant without high chairs!

Meg said...

I was thinking about the same thing as Mr & Mrs, plus one:

Rather than buy the kids something material, if they're old enough, give them a "coupon" for your time. Say it's good for an afternoon at the zoo, a movie (Budget Cinema's tickets are cheap, so the popcorn's not a strain!), sledding and hot cocoa, etc...

My girls have always loved spending time with my friends, especially if it doesn't seem like babysitting. :D (And part of the fun is that my friends can tell them "When you were a baby, I took you to....", so they know it's a bit of tradition.)

I can tell you from experience, kids will remember time spent WAY longer than one of X many toys they get on Christmas day. Even if it's just tagging along on a trip to the mall and being allowed to try "grown up" clothes on.

Anthony said...

You have some awesome friends--I don't get any Christmas presents from mine, single or married! :) It seems to me that any presents you do give to your friends are above and beyond the call of duty.

It's commendable that you want to give in return, but I don't think it's worth breaking the bank to do so. Friends should understand that and not hold it against you...unless you forgot to at least thank them... :)

Danulai said...

Heh, it's not always the married folks that have tons of money. After all, that dual income is supporting two people, plus kids who aren't earning anything. I had more money as a single woman than a married woman, and I'm sure having kids won't improve this any.

I don't remember my parents' friends ever buying us gifts. I don't think it's necessary.