Sunday, December 13

12 Days of Christmas ... Sort of

Sometime in my twenties, I stopped participating in the commercialized madness also known as Christmas. Removing oneself from the Hallmark conveyor belt may sound like an easy way out. But it is not. As is true with expired eggnog, the guilt associated with boycotting the system slowly deteriorates your endoskeleton. Holiday parties and their designated Santas destroy empty-handed contentment. You don’t even have to unwrap the shiny box they perched in your lap to know what it contains: one hundred invitations to scold yourself: “Your ass so cheap, a stiff wind would rub its image right off.”

I never wanted to be a Scrooge. But as my tactics began to fail, it just happened. Excluding myself from the gift exchange doesn't work when no one else honors it. Being a two-time recipient of a gift I've regifted makes me feel all the more inferior. So, instead of avoiding the season entirely, why not celebrate the true spirit of Christmas? Besides, the invaluable gifts don't cost a cent. Try giving without spending, they say. Give of yourself, your time, your expertise.

If you are feeling financially overwhelmed this year, I challenge you to join me in giving—or creating a gift to give later—without spending, every day until Christmas. We’ll call it the “12 days of Christmas” (technically, the twelve days don't begin until the 25th, but that seems a little late for our intent).

The only guidelines are to gift thoughtfully and spend frugally—if at all. The gift should be something you think the receiver would appreciate like a voucher for a massage, babysitting, dog walking, cooking a homemade dinner, cookies, volunteering, or writing a personal letter. You can get more ideas from pros on the Web. Cami Walker has made giving her business. She has some great ideas on her Web site .

As I partake in the 12 Days of Christmas, I will share some of the gift ideas I wrap up. Today, for example, I answered one Bow Wow trivia question in exchange for kibbles. You don’t even have to answer correctly. For every answer, gifts 10 kibbles to an animal shelter to help feed homeless dogs and cats. You can also send a Freekibble e-card to friends and family to help increase the kibble count.

Please share your own gift ideas and/or progress—should you choose to accept the challenge.

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