How To

The Making of an Anti-Consumer

My first child has yet to be born and I’ve already broken the primal sin of motherhood: Thou shalt not raise your child differently than how your mother raised you.

It happened on the way to the library. I was talking to my Mom about her holiday shopping when she shared the latest family gossip.

“I’m so upset. Your sister is only buying one Christmas present for Sam,” she said. ”Only one?” I confirmed. She replied, ”So I bought him three. He’s a little boy, he needs presents at Christmas.”

I could have kept quiet. I could have let her chatter on about the gifts she bought for Sam and then wrapped it with a bow by praising her generosity.

Instead, I told the truth.

“We’re not planning on buying any presents for our baby,” I said. “For Christmas or her birthday.”

Silence.

“We figure she’ll get plenty of presents from friends and family. We don’t want to go overboard.”

Overboard is exactly what my mother did every Christmas, despite solemn warnings that “this year was going to be different.” No matter how cash strapped my parents were, my mother found a way to choke the living room with presents. Up to the waist. Literally. Not exactly a simple Christmas, if you ask me.

My no-present policy was a sharp rebuke to her over generosity.

“I think you’ll change your mind after she’s born,” she said.

I changed the conversation.

Chief, among all the things I don’t want my child to be, is a vapid consumer: A gal who gets high from the uniquely overpriced items in SkyMall and who opens store credit cards to save a measly 10 percent off.

Not that my mother is any of these things. In fact, I learned to be frugal from her. But my own savvy-spending sense dictates that an infant who cannot recognize its own thumb has no need for presents. Unless you count an empty box or a wooden spoon as a present.

Beyond infancy, I still don’t plan to buy my kid more than one or two presents at holidays. Instead, I’ll teach her to be a cautious consumer by shopping year round when there is a sale or we have a coupon, by bringing her along for garage sales forages, and by explaining why we wait at least 24 hours on big purchases.

Santa may not unload much of his sack at my house, but my little girl will have everything she needs, any nothing that our consumerist society says she wants.

Julia Scott writes the money-saving blog BargainBabe.com. She is due in January.