Christmas cutbacks: Families reducing holiday expenses

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Pedro Oliveira Jr.
Monday, December 7, 2009

Some Walworth County residents are less worried about naughty or nice in picking gifts this holiday season.

Instead, they are looking at affordability, practicality and creativity.

Shelli Allen, a sales associate at a big retailer in Delavan, said customers are being smart this season. Instead of going for expensive and flashy, they’re going for affordable and useful.

“We’ve had people buying tires for their kids’ cars or investing in things that the whole family can enjoy,” she said. “They’re trying to be practical.”

Vicki Monroe of Williams Bay was buying holiday presents with 4-year-old Hailee last week. It’s important to have a budget and stick to it, she said.

Hailee wants dolls and simpler gifts, and her mother isn’t complaining, she said. But older kids, like Monroe, tend to want bigger and more expensive gifts.

“I hope Santa brings me a laptop,” she said.

Amy Los of Elkhorn has a solution.

“My son is a big gamer,” Los said, “so we’re taking all of his old video games and taking them to Game Stop to sell, get credits and buy a new game.”

Creativity is the word of the season for Los.

“Recycle and reuse; that’s what I do,” she said.

And when gift requests are bigger than the family’s budget can hold, Los recommends being honest.

“There are limits to gifts,” she said. “They shouldn’t just come from your bank account, they should come from your heart.”

Don’t just take her word. Listen to a man who has had plenty of experience dealing with gift requests from children of all ages.

Elkhorn’s Gary Wallem has portrayed Santa Claus for about 40 years at malls and in the Elkhorn parade. The secret is to tell children Santa does the best he can but also warn children that you can’t always have what you want, he said.

“You’ve got to be careful keeping promises to children,” Wallem said. “It’s very important to them. So I tell them Santa will do the best he can.”

As Santa, Wallem has heard children asking for everything from Corvettes to bringing relatives back from war.

Children care less about prices and more about what gifts mean to them, he said.

“I had one cute little girl who said, ‘Santa, would you find a husband for my mommy?’” he said. “And there was a kid who asked me for a brother or a sister. I ran into the mom a few months later, and she was pregnant.”

Los is scaling back and having one big family gift and smaller ones. Sometimes, she said, it’s important to remember gifts aren’t always tangible and material.

“Even with the economy being bad, surprisingly enough, we’re doing fine in that area because we’re lucky enough to have our jobs.”

Last updated: 12:14 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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