In these financially strained times, it is important to make a holiday plan. If you're like me, you have a number of responsibilities: family, friends, work, gifts, parties. Times are tough and funds are limited, but if you follow each of my simple holiday steps, I guarantee you will be flush come January.
Family Admittedly the toughest nut, but if you start early, a little seed-planting can go a long way. I like to begin the holidays by really offending the relatives at Thanksgiving. Usually, I get drunk and say embarrassing and offensive things like, "Christ, you've gotten fat" or "Remember when _____ used to be at the table? Too bad your anger problem drove him away." These insults serve two purposes. One, to offend the relatives who might be thinking about inviting you to Christmas, and two, to make your wife embarrassed to be with you (which comes in handy later). Remember, Thanksgiving is the time to relive all that childhood ugliness with the original cast.
As far as your own kids go, being the offensive relative and picking fights with their mom casts them in the role of pleaser, something they will never outgrow. And when it comes to Christmas gifts, their expectations will be small. "Gee Dad, thanks for the pencil." Also, ramping up the drinking problem will help them understand that it's impossible to go anywhere. "No, Dad, we don't want to go see Wicked in San Francisco! Renting a movie for home would be great."
The wife is a little tougher to manipulate, but if you're like me, you've already established a pattern of false promises and disappointments. Gift certificates for building projects work great. Retile the bathroom, install new cabinets, build a writing studio—these are all perfect "gifts" because you don't actually have to do anything.
It's also smart to give gifts that are really for yourself. "I know you didn't ask for a new snowboard, but I got it in a larger size so I can use it when you're not." And always remember to include a really hot negligee under the tree. It tends to work sort of the same way.
Friends Gifts for friends can really break the bank, but they don't have to. This year, I'm giving the Recession Basket to all my friends: used wicker containers from the thrift store filled with a bottle of Two Buck Chuck, a gift certificate for some false promise (see above), a box of saltines, a can of squeeze cheese and a Snickers bar. Five bucks can go a long way if you're careful. Again, if you're like me, you've been offending your friends for years, so they'll be shocked to get anything at all.
Work If you're lucky enough to have a job, congrats. The perfect gift for that office party gift exchange? One word: re-gift. Most of us have a stash of weird shit we've saved because the items are too crappy to be returned for anything decent but tough to throw away because they're new.
The office Christmas party is also a great place to really let your freak flag fly. Go a little insane the Friday before the holidays, and by the time you get back to work, most people will have forgotten your shenanigans. I always like flashing my train tattoo, which rides a rail across my left butt cheek (long story). You've never seen a party get weirder or end faster than when someone drops trou and shows his hairy ass to strangers.
Gifts Still can't find that special something for Uncle Gene? Nothing says holiday joy like handmade crafts. Since I always seem to have a number of empty wine bottles around the house, craftwork is easy. There's "Beach in a Bottle" (fill with sand, draw ocean scene on label) or "Spa in a Bottle" (fill with liquid detergent, draw bathtub and flowers on label). My favorite, "Jenkum™ in a Bottle," is a gift that will never be forgotten. Guaranteed.
Parties First, never host a party. Why shell out for anyone else's booze? Second, when attending other peoples' parties, always front-load at home and arrive by yourself. If it looks like the wife is actually planning to go, I prefer the surefire method: "They say women gain an average of seven to 10 pounds during the holidays." She'll take the bait, and I'll be flying solo.
When you arrive, the hostess will see you're drunk and alone and not expect much from you. Plus, you'll provide some necessary scandal and drama, which all parties need. "But who will drive John home? Do you think he and Kathy are divorcing? Is there anything we can do?"
This time of year is tough, but with the right plan and a completely irresponsible attitude, you too can survive unscathed. Good luck and happy holidays.
John Moss, once a happy and productive member of society, has been transformed into a dull and weary cynic after 15 years teaching high school in California.
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