Sound stringent? Not really in the true spirit of Christmas? Not so.One of the best Christmases my family ever had was when we decided on a $30 limit per person. My son and his wife initiated the idea (they'd had a lot of expenses that year) and it turned out the rest of us were only too thrilled to comply. The presents were more fun that year. And gone was the great Christmas morning anxiety: Will my gifts be good enough? Will they fit? Will she think I'm slighting her?
Finally, there's ''The Stocking.'' Using this technique, you only buy what fits into the Christmas stocking. This can be the main Christmas activity or a bountiful opener of the festivities that makes smaller presents later feel quite satisfying. Even my grandson likes it best.
Good gifts for the stocking include soaps, scents, candles, a favorite chocolate, funny little toys, gloves, whatever fits. Somebody in our family even got a turbocharged nose hair clipper from The Sharper Image.
The idea is to be witty, have fun and enjoy small luxuries. I'd rather have one Godiva chocolate, anyhow, than ten thousand Hershey's Kisses and spice drops.
Sure, it takes guts to deconstruct Christmas and make it work for you, but the payoff is fabulous. You are with loved ones. It is warm and the candles are glowing. Someone reads a poem. An old family photograph has been re-mounted and given with love. There are puzzles to work on and popcorn chains to wrap around the tree. You be the judge. When you have a Christmas created with thoughtfulness and affection, as well as within budgetary constraints, January looks a whole lot brighter.