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Let's leave getting gifts to the children

Though decorations still hang in far too many places and you can still hear the faint echo of "Little Drummer Boy" playing on endless loop, the Christmas season has finally ended. For most adults, especially those with children or young relatives, this means that the party stops and the reality of just how much money you have spent kicks in.

As I get older I find less joy and more obligation in nearly every aspect of celebrating the holiday season. Gift giving has become a chore undertaken simply to meet expectations rather than for any heartfelt reason. While I certainly care about the many people on my gift list, the actual exchange of presents seems in no way related to that affection.

Even getting gifts no longer offers the excitement it did when as a child Christmas (or in my case, Chanukah) meant receiving long sought items. There's simply no adult equivalent to unwrapping the Lego Castle, an Atari 2600 or whatever else my parents surprised me with.

Now that I'm a grownup, my holiday wish list consisted entirely of gifts that would have angered me had I received them as a child. Whereas I used to ask for toys, electronic gadgets and other fun stuff, I'm now requesting practical items like kitchen accessories, underwear and gift certificates to places that sell dress shirts.

My wife asked me what I wanted her to tell people to get me and I actually answered "gift certificates to La-Z-Boy" because I want to buy a chair. She might have had people get me a PlayStation 3 or perhaps a flat screen TV and instead, I asked for money to buy a comfortable place to sit.

In general, buying presents for any adults - not just me - has become considerably harder. This leads to my mostly giving people gift cards, the gift that says all I can think of is giving you some money at a store you might like to shop at.

For our teenage relatives this year we actually completely caved in and just gave them money. While an envelope full of cash lacks creativity, at least you know the person receiving it will like it, won't take it back and that it is the right size.

When gift giving and gift receiving becomes a tedious chore, it's time to stop the practice. My wife and I have largely done this with each other generally exchanging token gifts.

Since all of our money comes from a shared bank account, we have long thought it foolish to feel pressured to give each other elaborate presents. If she wants a new car or I want a flat screen TV, we discuss the purchase and make it if it makes fiscal sense for us.

That may lack the romance of one of us walking outside and finding a BMW with a bow on it, but it also makes it less likely that creditors will show up in a few months to repossess any of our possessions. Giving each other little gifts like books and CDs might not make for good stories, but it's a lot harder to buy a small thoughtful gift than to simply purchase something expensive that anyone would love.

Of course, anyone reading this column who buys me presents could consider it a justification to stop the practice. While that's one way to go, I also suggest that buying me a Porsche, a helicopter or a tropical island might help return some of my missing childhood excitement. Barring that, I'm still saving up to buy someplace comfortable to sit.

Daniel B. Kline's book, "50 Things Every Guy Should Know How to Do," is available in bookstores everywhere. He can be reached at dan@notastep.com.

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