Money I Burned and What I Learned


I didn’t see it coming. I should have, but I didn’t. I had been on such a good roll while holiday shopping…avoiding buying any new clothing that I didn’t need. I was actually impressed with how smooth the gifting was going. In fact, with so much of my shopping completed already, I had time to experience some real holiday fun.


As I mentioned last week, I took my son to see Santa at a local garden nursery which was so festively embellished that it felt like we had stepped into the North Pole. Holiday music played all around us as other parents, grandparents and children flocked into the simulated Winter Wonderland.


We took our time exploring the store and admiring all the decorations and animated displays. Feeling extra jolly, I mentioned to my son that he could pick out one new Christmas decoration for our home.


Just one.


Secretly, I had been hoping to convince him to pick out a lighted door wreath as I needed one (since I couldn’t locate mine in our overly cluttered basement). There were many, many beautiful wreaths in all sizes and colors making it difficult to choose, so we kept moseying around. Then we wandered into the section of the store where a magnificent Department 56 Christmas Village was on display (protected by clear thick plastic walls). The lights in the town flickered, little miniature people skated on the ice, Santa and his reindeer spun around in the sky, and blankets of sparkling faux snow blended one themed village into the next. We both stood there, eyes wide, in awe. I especially loved the frozen pond where Santa and Mrs. Claus skated the waltz, while Luke kept commenting on the two tall sky scrapers.


I have always loved miniature Christmas villages since I was very young. My Aunt had the biggest, most beautiful village displayed under her Christmas tree every year. As a child, I’d sit cross-legged in front of her tree, imagining the ceramic town coming alive and all the people bustling about the various buildings, getting ready for a happy holiday. Imaginary people in an imaginary town living an imaginary perfect Christmas.


Naturally when I had a house and family of my own I began to collect villages. I have the “Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer” village, the ”It’s a Wonderful Life” village, The NY Yankees town, a mountain lodge ski town, and also various assorted ceramic Victorian houses adorned with lights and decorations. Besides all of those villages, I also own many pieces from the Mr. Christmas World’s Fair collection. The Worlds Fair collection was my older kids favorite, so it has been what I displayed on my sofa table for probably the past ten years. The other villages have been in storage except for a few years when I outdid myself and set up two separate Christmas displays!


Anyhow, as Luke and I circled around the store’s mesmerizing miniature village, he said “Mom, that’s the decoration I want to get. I want a sky scraper!”. I hesitated as I pondered where I would put this skyscraper, then said “Are you sure Luke? Maybe you would like this cute house decorated in lighted snowflakes…or this pond with the swans swimming around on it?”. He looked at me and said “I really love this building. It’s awesome!”. From the time he was four years old, I’ve guessed that Luke will grow up to be either an architect or engineer. He loves to build things and he especially loves tall buildings (and big ships). Maybe a skyscraper wouldn’t be such a bad idea…after all it was unique and actually quite striking.


I said “okay, we can get the skyscraper.” I explained to him how we would build our own Christmas town using some of the village pieces I already had, and then each year we could pick out another new “city” building to add, eventually creating an actual Christmas City display. He happily agreed and had it ended right there this would have been a completely successful day.


Instead, once we got home I ventured into the basement to rummage through what I had that might look okay with the skyscraper. My Rudolph set would be a complete mismatch so I didn’t open that bin. I could use some of my Yankee buildings, but I could not locate Yankee stadium. Where was it? What happened to it? I couldn’t use any Yankee pieces without the stadium! I moved on to the “It’s a Wonderful life” plastic bins. If I used these pieces then it would be Bedford Falls with the tall Chrysler building smack In the middle. Uh-Uh, no good. I also couldn’t mix it with my ski lodge set as how could I put a log cabin next to a towering office building? I was stumped and here is where things began to unwind.


Right then and there I decided I “needed” to purchase a few more Department 56 Christmas in the City pieces…maybe just two and then I could add in a few of my already owned buildings. In fact, to be symmetric (I’m a stickler for symmetry), I should start with purchasing the other skyscraper they had on display (the Singer building). So I poured a cup of tea, relaxed on my favorite chair, opened up my laptop and clicked over to eBay. In the end, I purchased the Singer building along with another eight various Christmas in the City collection buildings plus other accessories. It was like being in a trance. My OCD, perfectionism and compulsiveness took over and I didn’t notice it…at least not until the next day when it hit me and I realized what I had done.


The Compulsive Christmas City

I did not need an entire new Christmas village. My son was content with the one skyscraper and the promise of adding a new piece to the city each year. I had no excuses and became angry with myself because I had not been mindful…whatsoever. I never thought to use my urge strike app because I wasn’t in Nordstroms or Saks buying a dress, sweater, shoes or a handbag. Since I wasn’t shopping for clothing I didn’t pay close attention to my actions or my emotions. Had I noticed, I would have recognized sooner the child in me longing to build my imaginary perfect Christmas world. My eBay purchases could not be returned. I could not undo this. I had to learn from my mistake and move forward.


So what did I learn? What could I have done differently?


First, I realize that I need to be more attentive with any type of shopping I am doing. Sure, fashion is my number one weakness, but I can become compulsive about anything if I am not careful. I need to be more diligent in not lowering my guard and pay closer attention to each and every purchase I am making. Whenever I hear that little voice in my head say “I need…” I must stop and evaluate what is happening and use my urge strikes app for all purchases that are unplanned..not just clothing. I had convinced myself that since I was purchasing “used” village pieces that I was being economical and saving money. But I’m not saving anything if I’m spending money on something that I didn’t plan on buying and don’t need.


As much as I am disappointed with myself, I ultimately learned from this “trip up”, and will pay closer attention going forward to all my shopping urges. Just because my urges are usually only related to clothing, does mean I can let my guard down when making other purchases. I can easily get caught up in the moment for any type of shopping desire. I am certainly clear on this now! So I am picking myself up…dusting myself off…today is a new day.

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