In previous years we've gone to my parent's place for Christmas Eve and had a big turkey dinner there, taking the Christmas presents with us for DS1 to open while visiting. This year my folks were planning to travel back to their farm over the Christmas/New Year period so we had planned on having just a simple Christmas at home. My parent's changed their plans at the last moment as they have to stay in Sydney to take their dog to the vet for a knee operation, but we're not going to bother with a big Christmas dinner - just drop by for the kids to visit and get some presents from Grandma and Grandpa (I know that they've bought a large wooden train play table for DS2, which DS1 will also enjoy playing with, and I'm sure they'll have bought a few other toys for the kids). For Christmas Day we may organise a BBQ around the pool, as it's often 40C (100F) or so on Christmas Day in Sydney.
At home we only have a small $20 artificial tree (with fibre optic lighting built in). It's surprisingly attractive and only takes a couple of minutes to unpack and set up. Due to the built-in fibre optic lights it doesn't even need decorating, although DS1 has added a few of the Christmas decorations he's made at School or at the local church's Kids Club. Such a small tree doesn't take up too much room in the lounge room, and serves the purpose of providing a focal point to accumulate all the wrapped Christmas gifts.
I've decorated the house with a few Christmas lights - each year I buy one or two more boxes of lights for $10-$20, so I'm slowly building up a collection. So far I've spent around $100 on Christmas light over the years. I've strung most of them in the tree house outside the front of the house and along the porch railing, which is easy to setup and remove. Across the street one house has set up dozens of light sets around the garden and on the roof of their house. That would be way to much expense and trouble for me. Some people seem to go overboard with lighting - there was one Sydney house on the news recently where a man had spent hundreds of hours and $12,000 setting up a massive light and sound show of Christmas decorations! I really don't think Christmas decorating should be treated as a competitive sport.
As DS1 already has lots of toys from previous years (some of which we haven't even had time to play with - such as his Lego robotics kit), I've been more modest with the Christmas presents this year. I bought a large multi-colour inflatable swimming pool with see-through "portholes" ($50) which I think DS1 can use as a floating "fort" within our backyard swimming pool. I also bought a couple of large "super soaker" water cannons ($10 each) so he and his friends can play "capture the fort" in the swimming pool during the summer school vacation. I also bought him the latest Harry Potter DVD (ex-rental from the local video hire store, $14) and today I bought a twin-engine, rubber-band powered model biplane which should be fun to assemble and fly (no glue required)for $20. Altogether this adds up to around $100 for DS1's Christmas presents, and DW has bought a couple of toys for DS2 (who recently turned one, so will probably get more fun from unwrapping his presents that playing with them!).
For DW and my parents I've just wrapped up a $50 gift card for each of them. After 45 years I've already given my parents every affordable present that I thought they would like, and it had gotten to the stage of just buying presents for they sake of having something to give them. In DW's case I gave her some diamond earrings last year with the understanding that future birthday and Christmas gifts would be inexpensive. This also means that DW only has to buy my a small "token" present for my Birthdays and Christmas, which suits me as I really can't think of any presents I'd like to receive.
Since we won't be cooking a massive Christmas dinner or attending any Christmas parties (except maybe the local Christmas "street party") our total Christmas expenses this year will be less than $500 all up.
Copyright Enough Wealth 2007