Running Out Of Time? Try This Brilliant Christmas Shopping Idea

It’s getting close to crunch time. If you haven’t gotten your remaining holiday gifts for the people you buy for, you’re running out of days and minutes.

For many, panic mode is soon to set in.

My wife was feeling the pressure. With the nephews and other relatives still on the list, I saw her mind starting to race, and her actions becoming harried. I’ve already had to tell her to go slower.

Women especially feel obligated to purchase gifts for everyone, as an expression of love. Even though most of us have everything we need, the ladies (and a lot of men) have hit the malls in record numbers.

I am of the opinion that if you’re becoming short on time, maybe gift cards are your solution. But my wife won’t have it. “What seven year old wants to open a gift card?”

She’s right about that.

But, what seven year old (or person of any age) would not like to open an envelope with some cold, hard cash in it?

If you’ve read this far, some of you may be thinking, “What an unthoughtful gift!” And to that I say, keep an open mind. When I was younger, I was privy to the Christmas shopping genius that was my Grandmother.

Her shopping method? Order her grandson to get in his car, and take a trip downtown to the bank. When there, grab a couple dozen fancy bank Christmas envelopes, go to the teller, and make a withdrawal of varied denominations of dead presidents.

Boom. Christmas shopping completed.

Now, while it may not seem thoughtful to you to give cash gifts I, like Jimmy Fallon, can’t think of anyone who doesn’t like money. Aside from the fact that practically no one will say “You gave me money??” with a disdainful look on their face, there are other advantages to the glorious gift of cash:

There is no stress involved – The process for cash gifts is one stop shopping. The bank is your store, and the teller your retail clerk. “Can I help you?” “Why, yes, I’d like a pound of twenties, please.” And you’re done. No running from store to store. No jostling with others to be first in line.

And no pepper spray. Easy breezy.

You take away the possibility of overspending – At the bank, you can’t buy another toy other than what was on your list, and there’s no sneaking a little something for yourself there, while you’re buying for others. Even if you really deserve it.

If you’re gift giving budget is $300 or $500, there’s no overspending. That’s what you get.

You can focus on family and fun – Gram had no time to go to stores, unless it was to the import store for cheese and mortadella (I drove there, also). She had people to make happy, and mountains of food to prep and cook. And she had to go to church, too. Because that’s what the holiday is about anyway.

You help the economy! – Yes, you do help the economy when you shop at Macy’s or J.C. Penney’s. I’m aware of that. But why not help the economy and your mental state? Instead of going on expeditions through shopping mall jungles looking for hidden treasure, admit to yourself that cash is the perfect gift! It’s a win win! The economy gets a little boost, and you don’t feel like strangling your fellow shoppers!

My Grandmother handed out envelopes like she was the Queen handing out royal appointments. She gave gifts to her favorite people, and every single one of them appreciated the gesture. She would be met every once in a while by an “Oh, you shouldn’t have!”, but every gift was accepted.

I even tried to tell her on a couple of occasions, “Gram, I don’t want your money. You do enough for me.” Remember, I ate meals at her house 300 days out of the year. Or more.

“Oh, come on!!” was the response I would hear. And my hand would extend to take the envelope.

This week, don’t wrack your brain trying to buy yet another gift. Use a gift from an old Sicilian lady instead. Stick a greenback in an envelope, relax, and enjoy the sights, sounds, food, and events of the holiday with those people closest to you. That’s the true spirit of Christmas…

Buon Natale!

Not So Smart About Smart Phones

Presently, I don’t have a cell phone. That’s right, no cell phone. When I look around at my little world when I’m out and about, I feel like the only person without one. When people find out I don’t have a cell phone, they stare at me with that quizzical look as if to say “How do you get along without one?” Or the less likely “No cell phone? What…are you homeless?”

I get along just fine without a mobile phone. I work in an office, and there’s a phone right next to me on my desk. There’s a landline in my house when I get home from work. My wife has a cell phone, and my daughter does as well. I will, at times, use my wife’s phone to communicate. You can text on it very easily, and you can also make a call and actually talk to someone.

I’m currently convinced there is a wealth of phone power always within my general vicinity. Why be redundant and add one more?

I was sitting with a friend recently who was showing me the wide range of things his phone could do for him. He has a new breed of SmartPhone that could instantly grab some NCAA basketball scores, look at the weather report, update his Facebook status, and play some on-line games. I was thoroughly confused.

As I’ve stated before, I love some forms of technology and how much easier they can make our lives. My wife and I just joined the flat screen TV revolution, and we’re very happy we’ve been finally able to join this exclusive club. Of course, we had to join because our current television had finally kicked the bucket. It was a wedding gift from my sister and my brother in law, meaning it was just about 18 years old. I think that’s much older in “TV years”, however.

As I enjoy baseball and basketball games in all their high definition brilliance with our new television, and my appreciation of all things new increases, I have to ask myself: Well, what do you think? How about getting a cell phone?

I just can’t pull that trigger. I do love talking to people, and I love new toys as well. But for me, a cell phone is akin to a colossal waste of my dollars. I know I could probably use such a phone in an emergency situation…but everybody else has a cell phone. And I’m a sociable and brazen individual at times.

If my car ever breaks down, the conversation could go like this:

“Hey buddy…can I borrow your phone?”

That’s not all there is to it. Phones aren’t just phones now, they are status symbols. If you’re caught outside of your residence without the right phone…well, what’s a neighbor to say? What, no IPhone? No Android? You just make calls from your phone? Really? That question would come up again. How do you get along without one?

You know the answer. Just fine, thank you.

Kids, just remember: The “Old School” principles aren’t just about paying homage to the previous generations. No, it’s also about realizing what’s necessary in your life, focusing on that, and doing away with (or not even bothering with) the rest of the crap that everybody else is doing.

Saying “No” To Holiday Stress

Here it is. That time of year again.

The time where it seems everyone is stressed out about the big holiday. Christmas. Many of us are still searching for an appropriate gift for someone, or making last minute Christmas dinner or holiday party plans. A lot of people say they are stressed. My wife has said it. My co-workers have said it. I overhear strangers in the stores say it.

The pressure is on. They feel the stress of so much to do, coming down to the wire.

Why bother with all this stress? Stop. It’s not that hard, really. Your kids will not be disappointed if you stop. The adult who you absolutely have to buy that gift for will not be disappointed. If you stop the stress and remember the real reasons for this holiday, you will feel better about it.

This holiday is not about Target, WalMart, or Toys R Us, no matter how much you are persuaded to believe. It is not about the commercials and advertising bombarding you with the idea that this upcoming day will be perfect if you buy that one last present, or go overboard and put yourself into extreme levels of debt for the next year.

It is not about the gift of a Lexus with a big red bow on it (who does this anyway?).

It is about watching Rudolph again. It is about the excitement of your kids finding that one special present under the tree. It is about creating memories with your family and friends, and dropping some money into the Salvation Army kettle when you see one, to help those who might not have much of a Christmas at all.

Remember the birth of Jesus Christ? If memory serves me right, this is the original reason we celebrate this holiday.

It’s not necessary to get all religious on you here. But if we can reflect on why we hold this holiday in such reverence in the first place, it just might lower that stress level. You may be able to breathe a little easier. You might just think…”there’s no reason to be stressed at all, and plenty to celebrate.”

Especially in a year like this one. If you’re lucky enough where your only concern is what to buy your friends and family (and not how you’re going to pay for it) and if you’ll have enough time to do it, you’re doing just fine. No stress necessary.

So, relax, have some egg nog, and have a good time. That’s what the season is all about.

Buon Natale! (Otherwise known as “Merry Christmas”!)

3 Rock Solid Simplicity Tips From The Old School

There are many simplicity mantras one can follow these days. Whether on the internet, in magazines, or an early morning talk show, you can find tips on simplifying your life and the world around you.

Want “simplicity” choices? There are plenty. Hope you don’t get overwhelmed by them.

Within all the blogs I read, there can be hundreds upon hundreds of tips, some of them conflicting with others, maybe pointing you in one direction when you should be going in another.

If you are among those who have grown weary of all the simplicity content that is so prevalent now, I offer a solution. You can simplify this as well. All the “tips” that you read about, sometimes in great numbers, can be drilled down to a couple that are really important.

Life can be complicated. Technology complicates it even further. I also understand there may be a generational cut off of younger people that have not been guided by the hand of relatives or mentors that practiced and preached a simple approach to life.

I was very fortunate to have a grandmother and grandfather that showed me on a daily basis that your days on this earth do not have to seem complicated or confusing. You can make things easier on yourself, and in the process, make life easier for others.

My grandmother, in particular, had a couple of different mantras that she would repeat over and over again. These lessons could be thought of as simplicity tips that she lived, and tried to pass along. The first is one I’ve written about before, but it’s important enough to bear repeating:

“Life is precious.”

Or, life is a gift that should be spent wisely because we know not how much of this gift we will receive. She thought it a privilege as well, without having a sense of entitlement for anything. Everything had to be earned. She rarely took anything for granted.

This is an important thing to remember, every day. I think of it almost as a mission statement of sorts, instead of a “simplicity tip”.

“Food is everything.”

My grandmother knew the importance of a vegetarian diet before it was in vogue. Now, she was not a complete vegetarian. She loved a nice Porterhouse as much as any carnivore, and she made more meatballs in her life than anyone I’ll ever know. But, more times than not, she was cooking spinach, escarole, broccoli, and green beans, to toss the vegetables with either rice or pasta.

I ate a lot of rice and broccoli in my 47 years. A lot of pasta fagioli. And I drank a lot of spinach juice (she thought the cooked juice helped keep you regular). I ate a lot of simple, healthy dishes that were heavy on the vegetables. My grandparents (and other family members) knew the importance of the quality of the foods you ate, and the long term impact it may have on longevity.

“Life is worth living.”

This is along the lines of “Life is precious”, but deserves its own bullet. Once you realize that life is in fact the best present ever, you have to do your best to enjoy it, do important things, and live it with the people that mean the most to you. The members of this generation spent most of their adult lives on the job to support their families, but they also knew the meaning of their down time and how they could use it to create special memories.

The traditional Sunday Dinner comes to mind. There was rarely a Sunday when parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were not gathered around the dining room table to eat, drink, and have a mini celebration of life. Making it worth living.

That’s it. Three things. Simple, huh? See life as the equivalent of a gift that should be opened, and that we have fun with. Fuel your body with the right foods to have the abilty to fully appreciate this life. Spend your life wisely. Remember your obligations, but also remember to relax and know how to have a good time.

“Life is not complicated. We just make it so”