Frugal Confessions — Live a VIP Life on an Average Paycheck

One of those Facebook pops of wisdom (via someecards.com) showed up on my wall the other day. Normally these are quirky and satirical observations that most of us can relate to, but this one spoke to me in a different way.

It stated, “Black Friday: Because only in America, people trample others for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have.”

The crazy consumerism that tends to wrap itself around Christmas season is overpowering not only the magical and beautiful parts of the season, but now it is overpowering Thanksgiving and even Halloween. Stores and manufacturers have had to deal with a significant decline in sales over the last several years due to the recession, and in an effort to curtail the losses, they are rolling out the Christmas shopping season earlier and earlier. This year ribbons and bows showed up in commercials as far back as late September, Christmas music sporadically plugged up the airwaves since early November, and holiday displays sat side-by-side with 75%-off Halloween products.

It’s sickening.

And the day that usually sounds the sirens for the Christmas season to begin—Black Friday—has now bled into Thanksgiving Day as stores tested our tolerance three years ago by opening on midnight on Thanksgiving Day. This must have been successful, as two years ago several stores were advertising insanely great deals beginning on Thanksgiving evening, as in 8:00 p.m. on turkey night.

Santa Radar

There are a growing number of people who are fed up with this over-commercialization of the holidays. I have shopped once on Black Friday back in college with my mother, and admittedly had a great time. But now that we might start seeing Santa and elf costumes (the jolly kind, not the kind that have come back from the dead) during Halloween, I feel the need to reclaim the season for what it actually is and for what it means to me. Here are some ways we can all do this:

Share What We are Thankful For

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful. A nice tradition is to take a few minutes to go around the table or the room and have each person share something they are thankful for. These could also be written down on paper, put into a container, and read one-by-one at a gathering.

Teach the Next Generation How to Cook a Family Dish

There may not always be time to cook with children and teenagers during the work week, so why not carve out some time on the one day a year that is centered on food and family. While you are making the meal, choose a family recipe or any recipe and teach it to the next generation. If you have time, photocopy or handwrite the recipe and take this opportunity to pass it on.

Make a Wish

If you like the tradition of breaking the wishbone to see who gets the “lucky break”, perhaps alternate year to year of who gets to play the game.

Play a Game Together

For many of us, Thanksgiving is one of the few opportunities per year that a lot of our family is under the same roof. We might as well take advantage of it! Why not play an indoor or an outdoor game? With a yard and enough players, someone can bring a football to start a casual game. Later at night when everyone is stuffed and feeling good, starting a board game can be a lot of fun. My favorites are Monopoly, Uno, and Jenga.

Watch Something Together

The Macy’s Day Parade and football games are popular things to watch together throughout the day. My own personal tradition is to watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation sometime during Thanksgiving weekend.

Gather for a Great Leftover Meal/Snack

The main cook may not wish to cook again for the rest of the day, or the next several days for that matter. But it could be fun to have someone else assemble some leftovers to gather for a second, more casual meal or snack. These could be turkey sandwiches (try ‘The Moistmaker’ that Monica makes Ross on the television series Friends or cranberry chipotle turkey sliders), turkey chili, turkey enchiladas…or just seconds!

I would love to hear about your personal traditions that make this holiday special and grounded in what means the most to you. Let’s share with everyone so we can help keep these sentiments alive!

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