Every year, my wife and I make the same promise.

This Christmas, we’re going to downsize, spend less, cut down on the number of gifts.

It always seems like a good idea going in. We’re both grown adults, we don’t need much, and what we do need, we usually buy for ourselves.

When the holiday shopping season arrives, we remind each other that we don’t really “need” anything — and to a large extent, that’s true.

But then Christmas gets closer, and the idea of a downsized gift exchange seems to lose a bit of its luster.

Earlier this week, I hadn’t started shopping for my wife yet, and as the days counted down toward Christmas, I started to get antsy. Oh, sure, I had picked up a couple of small items, but I hadn’t located the “it” gift yet.

Everyone knows what the “it” gift is. It’s the one item that would win the day, even if you didn’t give anything else. Trouble is, you don’t always know when or if you’re going to find such a present.

In my case, I usually start impulse buying — picking up some small items I know my wife will like, all the while searching for the “it” gift to put the cherry on the sundae, as it were.

Needless to say, this strategy can be problematic if the “it” gift doesn’t come along until after I’ve purchased quite a few of the smaller items. And of course, if that happens, I’m certainly not going to take the smaller ones back. My wife will just have to deal with getting more gifts than she expected.

As a husband, I can attest that this strategy has both an upside and a downside.

I mean, what woman doesn’t want to be showered with a few extra gifts at Christmas — or any other time, for that matter? And it always makes me happy to see her enjoy the things I’ve gotten her.

On the flip side, each time I overdo it, I get a lecture about how we were supposed to downsize this year, and whatever happened to our promise?

Oops. My bad.

I guess I should feel fortunate that my wife is pretty good at giving me hints about what she wants. She points things out as we walk through stores, circles items in catalogs and drops little comments while we’re watching TV. I’m sure a lot of guys would be happy to have that kind of input on their Christmas gift search.

On the other hand, I’m pretty bad about telling my wife what I’d like. I rarely spot something I really want, so I usually just give her general categories, and she’s forced to improvise. That said, I’ve always trusted my wife’s instincts and her style sense, so I’m never disappointed by her choices.

Anyway, it’s time for me to get into full Christmas-shopping mode, which means getting up early and poking around stores before work, as well as using my lunch hour to search for gifts.

By the time Christmas Eve rolls around, I always try to have almost everything done, except for a few stocking stuffers.

Years ago, I had a boss who never did any of his Christmas shopping until Christmas Eve. He’d get off work in the early afternoon and hit the malls, always without a worry in the world.

I had to wonder what kind of gifts he bought, especially for his wife. I always imagined him looking at picked-over racks of sweaters, having to choose between a size 2 and a size 26, both in chartreuse.

Yet every year, he’d come back to work talking about what a great Christmas he and his family had and how everyone was happy with their presents. But then again, they knew that being together at Christmas was what mattered most.

 I’ll have to remember that as I’m out shopping this season. I’ve already got my “it” gift, and I don’t even need to wrap it. How great is that?

Merry Christmas.

Dave Miller is deputy managing editor of the Killeen Daily Herald. Contact him at dmiller@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7543.

Contact Dave Miller at dmiller@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7543

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