Holiday mantras to get your through the season when you are still figuring things out

If there’s one thing I learned from my pre-teen years is that you should treat holidays like a rite of passage.

I loved receiving gifts until I was old enough to bargain with my ninangs and explain to them the glistening idea of cold, hard aguinaldos instead of plushies. Just kidding. I had no influence whatsoever on what I would receive. But in that transitory period, with three new dream shoes in mind, I realized it was 10 times better to receive cash for Christmas.

I saw myself as “the Girl in the Green Scarf” (any Sophie Kinsella fans out there?), except I wasn’t working to fund my shopping–I was 10 years old.

But by the time I was 12, one year shy of being in my teens, I feared I wouldn’t be able to get the same amount of aguinaldos. As I grew older, the money seemed to waver. This went on and on until I found myself stuck in a financial holiday rut. Nothing but uncrossed items on my wish list. Of course I would receive gifts from my family and my friends who I love dearly, but buying things in a store on my own had a therapeutic value.

The timeline of Christmas financial distraught over the years dawned on me for one reason: I constantly fall for all the grand “treat-yo-self” schemes. Blame it on holiday capitalistic tyranny.

Holiday shopping reprieves the monotony of my lacklustre days. As a child, I was riding an annual consumerism train with someone else’s money and I didn’t want to get off.

When I began working fresh out of college, clocking in that nine-to-five proofreading job, the first thing that came to mind was my Christmas list from the previous year. I didn’t need to dig any deeper than my Notes app to find mention of a pink Kanken, which I immediately bought with my first ever paycheck. As I crossed it off the list with the rest of the things I realized I could do without, there was a slight handwringing. The waiting game was familiar, but for the first time, I felt like I earned it.

At 20, I felt obliged to buy my family and friends gifts with the money I had started to make. I have given a lot of gifts in my teens, but I was lead to believe that I had to give more than some random plastic with inanimate sentimental value. The gifts either had to be super practical or crazy expensive, otherwise they are just bad.

As a broke™️ working youth, I tried to aim for the practical gifts that benefit both giver and receiver: they get the gift, I spend less, and we all live happily ever after. Although I shell out to buy some special trinkets for the important people in my left, the rest turned out to be great gifts for less.

Here are my few gift-giving mantras as a young and broke™️ working kid:

  1. Not giving physical gifts is a skill. Master it by offering time.
  2. Quantity over quality can work sometimes. Buy in bulk, and even wholesale, if you have to.
  3. Don’t get swayed by the influx of holiday discounts. Getting ₱1,000 off on a ₱7,000 bag? Sound likes a great deal! Until you have to hand over ₱6,000 to the cashier…
  4. Because I have no craft bone in my body, I can’t wrap gifts well. But this has lead me to wrap gifts with reusable paper bags instead, downscaling on Christmas waste.
  5. Try writing Internet letters through collages, or make a zine.
  6. Remember: Capitalism doesn’t own you.

The holidays can be such a chore if you’re still on the verge of figuring things out for yourself, slightly shattered by the shift of the Christmas spirit. But looking at my past Christmas in retrospect, I have learned that there are definitely more upsides to being a grown-up (so I am told I am) during the holidays.

By all means, mamaska ka pa rin!

Source: Manila Bulletin (