Christmas Spirit; It’s Free

Christmas can be a tough time of year. I know this from experience. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the demands on our time, bank accounts, sanity. For many years, I have struggled to hold onto any kind of genuine Christmas spirit, and then I beat myself up for not feeling the way I should feel. So helpful. I am learning that it doesn’t have to be this way. The joy of Christmas is free.

Here’s what’s working for me:

1) Let someone in line in front of you. Be it at the grocery store, or merging in traffic. Wave someone in and let them take your spot. Do it graciously. With a smile. It’s a little thing, but it’ll make you feel great, and it’s free.

2) Withhold judgment. That toddler who is face down on the ground screaming his head off? Instead of thinking “Ack! What a brat!” think instead that maybe the poor kid has just been dragged to 15 stores and is over this whole Christmas shopping deal. Or perhaps they are developing an ear infection and Mom is killing time in the toy aisle while their prescription is filled. Grace is free.

3) Take a little kid to a Christmas parade. If you don’t have one, borrow one. There’s magic in seeing the season through the eyes of a child.

I see Santa! And I just ate a doughnut.

I see Santa! And I just ate a doughnut.

 

4) Do some cleaning. It doesn’t have to be a big project. Tackle a drawer, a cabinet, even a closet if you’re brave. Find five things to donate to a charity (did you know animal shelters would LOVE your old towels?). Not only does it feel great to straighten things up a bit, it’s sometimes helpful to realize how much we already have. Straightening my family room and seeing the embarrassment of riches reaffirmed our decision to limit what the kids are getting this year.

5) Simplify. The calendar, the gift list. Trim what isn’t necessary. I bow out of any evening meetings that pop up   toward the end of the month, and we only agree to the activities that will add to the feeling of joy. The gift list is at a minimum, partly because we’re on a budget, but mostly because running around like chickens with our heads cut off to complete a gift list detracts from the meaning of the season.

5) Pour a cup of hot chocolate and watch a Christmas movie. And any good movie will do, as long as it says Christmas to you. I recommend The Nativity Story, which is a beautiful interpretation of the Christmas story. Amadeus is on my Christmas movie list, too, because it always played on television at Christmas time. Whether it’s a Griswald Christmas something Dickens-ish, many libraries offer movies as free loans. Check out their selection.

6) Share your memories. I love to talk about favorite Christmas memories. Bringing back the magic of my childhood warms my heart. Find someone to share your stories with, and listen to theirs. In fact, what I want most for Christmas is for my friends and loved ones to write out their favorite memories for me.

7) Listen to Christmas music. NOT these songs, unless that’s what does it for you. I say go for the good stuff. A little Tchaikovsky, some Handel, stuff without lyrics that get stuck in your head. Again, these are often a free loan from the library.

8) Put some money in the bucket. Okay, this one isn’t free, but it doesn’t have to cost a lot. I keep a pocket full of change to drop in the Salvation Army buckets. Our tradition is to drop change into every bucket we pass. We don’t have a ton of money to spare, but it’s a constant reminder that we are already so blessed; having a little something to give is just a bonus. And it’s a good opportunity to teach the kids about giving.

9) If you don’t feel it today, try again tomorrow. That’s the thing about depression. It is a sneaky-snake of a voice that tells us we’re never going to get it right. And it’s a lie. If today was not a great day, get up tomorrow and try it again. My commitment to myself this season is to not let yesterday’s mistakes spill over into today. It’s a new day, friends. And it can be glorious!

 

How do you add joy to a holiday season?

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In Conclusion

I have heard from many people who use their debit card to purchase Amazon Prime. That is as it should be, in my opinion. Debit should be accepted like a credit card.

I didn’t jump to conclusions when I wrote my post. I spent over an hour with customer service trying to get it figured out. Two reps gave me the same information, telling me they do not accept debit for Prime. One was finally able to produce a link. Unfortunately, I can no longer find it. I don’t know if it has been removed or if I am looking on the wrong page. And that’s part of the problem. The information that I need is not readily available, nor is it always available to customer service.

It is too frustrating to deal with a website and wonder if there is a clause hidden on a page somewhere that is designed to take advantage of me. Just because I haven’t found it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. I bet I am not the only person who is uncomfortable with that thought.

For example, the bit about gift cards not being accepted for Prime is not available here. Nor is it available here. And if you, like my husband, went straight to the page to purchase a Kindle gift card,  you could even click the terms and conditions there and not see that information.

So this is why I am done. It’s not possible to know the fine print. It’s not possible to know which of the fine print they actually enforce. And it’s not as easy as contacting a customer service rep. They often don’t know. It’s big business. It’s bad business. And it’s not for me.

.And I’m not the only one who has had issues. Read here for story that may actually end up worse than mine.

For my regular readers, thanks for hanging in there with me! I’ll be back to my regularly scheduled silliness on Monday. I am hard at work on Volume II by popular demand. It should be finished later in the week.

Attention Impulse Shoppers (and kids!), Amazon Wants YOU!

If you received a Kindle Fire that was purchased for the holidays, you may have until January 31 to return it. If you know someone who purchased one, especially if it was for a child, be sure to share this information with them, as there is a new policy that may be a deal breaker. I posted about my frustration about Amazon’s credit-card only policy. It stinks. But this one is scarier.

Now that lots of people have brought home that awesome Kindle Fire for the holidays, a brand new policy has been implemented. Downloading free apps now requires that users enter some form of payment. Of course, your account won’t be charge for the free stuff.  And it can even be a gift card, so long as it has a balance of at least $.01. But here’s the problem. This new policy means that users who would like to download free apps must activate 1-click payment.

What this means for parents is that the device you put in your kid’s hands would now be connected directly to a payment method without the added step of password protection. They click it, they buy it. And it bothers me.

The timing of this policy is interesting, I think. It wasn’t on their site three weeks ago when I was first considering returning my Fire. But with only two weeks left for holiday shoppers to return the goods, it has made its magical appearance. And I’m not okay with it. Yes, you can usually return the things that were bought on impulse or by accident, but dealing with customer service can sometimes take hours. And it can take several days for the money to be credited to your account again.

One of the concerns I initially had with the Fire was the 1-click payment. If you check reviews, some users experienced what amounted to identity theft when their device fell into the wrong hands and someone simply changed the shipping address and had a nice spree. Amazon did respond and create a way to disable 1-click. But now users will have to reactivate it if they would like to take advantage of free apps.

The important thing is for users to decide if this new policy is a deal-breaker. There are workarounds.  If you choose to keep the device, you can:

Purchase an Amazon gift card to connect to the account. I contacted Customer Service because the smallest increment I could find was $50. You can purchase cards for as little as $1, but you may have to contact customer service in order to do it. I couldn’t find a way through the normal links.

Disable 1-Click after you download the free apps you want.  This may be a hassle. You’ll have to reactivate it each time you find new apps you want to download.

But there’s not a lot of time to decide. There are only a couple of weeks left for holiday returns. Good luck.

And You Can Take It To The Bank

I try to avoid the news whenever possible. We don’t have cable television, so that is usually not an issue. But I do listen to the radio, and recently there has been an air of gloom and economic doom. It’s enough to make us all want to stockpile canned goods and hide our money under our mattresses. Or at least turn off the radio. But there is hope on the horizon. In these harrowing economic times, it’s very important to get sound advice regarding your investments. And that’s where I come in.

I have a fantastic financial adviser, and she also happens to be my best friend. Not only can she pick my stocks, she also keeps my feet warm. That’s right, I’m talking about my dog, Phoebe.

She’s a genius, this dog. When we’re looking to purchase single stocks, she lets us know if we’re on the right track. All we have to do is read the name aloud to her, and we can tell by a tail wag if it’s a keeper. Our portfolio tends to be a bit heavy on companies with the word “cookie” in them, and we’re a little light on anything with “vet” or “crate” (sorry, Crate and Barrel), but she knows what she likes. And I’m here to share her thoughts with you free of charge.

When choosing where to put your money, forget gold. It’s a lousy investment. In a true crisis, gold is pretty much worthless. Do you think post-apocalyptic society will be all that concerned with their bling? Um, no. Gold might regain its value a generation or two later, when we’ve re-established a feudal system and the princesses want to feel pretty again. But for your immediate needs when the big one hits, Phoebe recommends investing in Alpo. In the can. You might be crawling out of a pit with the cockroaches, but you’ll want to know your best pal is taken care of, and in a pinch it makes a decent meatloaf.

Phoebe also says that economists are taking the wrong approach to the stock market and its current volatility. All we hear is that the market is “bad.” Take it from Phoebe. Those analysts are hurting the market’s feelings. If I tell Phoebe she is bad, where does that fuzzy little economic indicator known as her tail go? DOWN. And when I say “Good dog!” where do you think that tail goes? If we ever want the market to fetch our slippers again, we need to tell the market that it’s good. Very, very good. And the occasional belly-rub isn’t a bad idea, either.

And finally, there is this whole issue of debt. Phoebe says debt is bad. Debt means that that bone we’re chewing on doesn’t really belong to us at all, and someone could just come up and take it. The very notion makes my financial adviser growl and bury said bone in the yard. It is important to only buy those chew toys you can actually pay for, lest some slobbery St Bernard come and swipe it. Let what is yours stay yours. Stay. Stay. Good.

That’s it in a nutshell. Sage advice from one of the finest minds of our time. Now, who wants a cookie?