Act 358

A gift is something that is new to you.

We scaled back on Christmas expenses quite a bit this year. My boys asked for a computer. I’d set aside a bit of money to make it happen. When I realized what I’d have to spend to get them what they needed, I realized I didn’t have enough set aside. I called a local computer repair shop to ask if they sold refurbished desktops. I found what I needed for the budget I had. One son got the tower and the cables and mouse, the other the monitor and keyboard. Together, they are assured productive hours of building complex worlds on their favourite game called Minecraft. They are happy. And I made it through the first Christmas ever without putting a major expense on credit. Phew.

I’m relieved. And happy they are happy. Also, a bit frazzled and tired. Grateful for the season. And ready for my long winter’s nap.

Merry Christmas. Your support of this space has added much happiness and meaning to my 2013. Thank you. Sweet dreams.

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Act 352

Thank goodness for small miracles

I’m not gonna lie. Today was not the easiest day. When you own a small business, especially in December, you have to do something most business owners hate doing. You have to chase money.

I hate chasing money. But if you own a business and you’re loyal to the people with whom you work, it needs to be done. Especially in December when most offices close a full week before the end of the month.

I spent the morning making polite but persuasive calls about invoices due. Not fun. But necessary. And I’m grateful for those who went out of their way to get the cheques signed. Even if there are nicer conversations I wish I could have had with them.

And then I went to my son’s Christmas concert and looked around the standing room only crowd. Clerks, cashiers, doctors, lawyers, brokers. Half the town was packed into the little gym. And nothing matters more to most than seeing your child sing  a  Christmas carol. Not even money. Two hundred kids on stage singing “Do they know it’s Christmas at all” will do that.

The look on my son’s face when he saw that I was there. He knows I work hard, he knows that I want what’s best for him, he knows that I missed work to be there. He knows that I love him.

Thanks goodness for small miracles. Never stop being thankful. Even if it can be a challenge. I’m not sure it’ll all come together this Christmas. And I think of my parents who must have had the same thought. And I think of my grandparents who had fourteen kids. And still, somehow, it’s life illusions I recall.

Look at life from both sides. And pick the side that’s happiest. And help me do the same. After the day I’ve had, I could use the help.

Act 347

Look for authenticity

Today was a contrast in thanks.

This morning I helped run the annual Breakfast with Santa event. The kids were delighted and delightful. The mood was festive, calm and appreciative. The volunteers were amazing. Santa worked his usual magic. The food was yummy. The event was open and free to all who wished to attend.

This evening, I attended a corporate Christmas party (an oxymoron if you ask me). The mood wasn’t nearly as festive. Could have been the fake Christmas trees, smoke machine or flashy dance lights. Might have been the loud PA system that blared through dinner. I don’t know. I felt overwhelmed at what I can only call the artificialness of it all, as rude as it is of me to say. The food was ordinary, the drinks overpriced, the conversation impeded by all the extra noise.

Once upon a time, I would have fallen under the spell of a fancy dress up night, a big ballroom and a shiny roast beef buffet but I see now that it’s all manufactured meaning.

This morning’s event was a lot of work. But I felt the appreciation and gratitude of it. This evening’s event was genuinely intended to be a thank you for another year of hard work but, to be quite honest, I didn’t feel thanks, I felt taken, even trapped by the fakeness of it all.

I’m happy to be back in the most authentic place of all for me; my house, my  jammies, my tree, my kids.

Act 344

Start a new tradition

The excitement of the holidays is all about tradition and rituals. If you want to jazz things up a bit without spending a ton of money, try a new tradition.

My young friend and I (I tutor her “en francais” once a week) decided to make sugar cookies. Cooking is a great way to practice a language. Last week we made the “buiscuits” and this week we put on “les decors”.  Our cookies are in the shape of a “sapin de noel”.

I think it’s the beginning of a lovely tradition and what it cost me in ingredients doesn’t compare to what it gained me in yummy fun.

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Act 324

Let your custom be appreciated

Today was customer appreciation day at my local grocers. Free cake and coffee (which I missed) and some great specials ($1.00 off 4 litres of milk).

Telus has also been doing some impressive customer appreciation hosting two nights of free movies at the local theatre. Sold out unfortunately but they promise to do it again soon.

You have value as a customer (we’ve talked about this before) – so let them spoil you a bit. The holiday season is full of opportunities like these so keep an eye out and make the best of it.

If you have customers of your own, find a way to let them know they matter to you too. It’s called reciprocity and it keeps us human.

But recognize the difference between having your patronage appreciated and being patronized. My credit union recently launched a “free” video game for kids to help them “learn” financial literacy. If they sign up (mine won’t be), their name, age and location will be shared with the third party provider. That’s not appreciation. That’s creepy. And, let’s face it, pretty dull.

I’d rather have coffee and cake.

Act 319

Read the flyers

I’m amazed at the newspaper to flyer ratio this time of year. Seems everyone, and I mean everyone, is getting a jump on the Christmas sales. Of the publications dropped off at my house, 60% is flyer, 40% is news.

I am, by no means, an extreme couponer and I won’t drive all over town to save a few pennies but I do like a good deal. And there are many to be had if you’re prepared to do a bit of research like reading the flyers.

It’s also a great way to get a jump on the small things that you need at Christmas for stuffing stockings or welcoming visitors. Toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, shampoo, little things you don’t need to rush out for at the last minute. It’s also good for hostess and teacher gifts, if you’re into that sort of thing. A little something to say thanks for going the extra mile. These miscellaneous expenses can put a dent in your Christmas budget so if you see a deal that works and you can afford an extra $20 or $40 in your budget, start a little stash of things you might need come December. Then dig out your extra wrapping paper (I bet you have your fair share, I certainly do) and you have a simple, inexpensive way to let the people you appreciate know that you appreciate them.

Happy saving!