Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All

The Proprietor of This Blog takes the opportunity of wishing everyone a Merry Christmas or, in the alternative, Happy Holidays and Best Wishes in the Year.

(Mostly you can find me over at Opinio Juris, but I occasionally put up stuff here that is unrelated to OJ or written stuff that is too long for an OJ post.)

We have finished opening gifts here at our house - JM and I drove to Chapel Hill, NC on Tuesday and picked up JM’s parents from their retirement community to spend xmas with us here in DC. It was a long drive, especially there and back again in one day, but it was nice to have some time with JM in the car, no other distractions. The plan was to reduce the Christmas materialism and gifts and all that in keeping with a recession year, and although I think we did that in dollar terms pretty well (and also that things were very Practical and Utilitarian rather than Frivolous and Fripper), it still looked like an awful lot of Materialism, spread out as packages on the floor.

Did the Kid learn any lessons in frugality this year? She heard her mother and me express so many concerns about the importance of being frugal this year that, she said, she came to regret every time the mail person brought another Amazon package - it made her feel guilty. This does not strike me as a good thing - ideally one learns to take a certain pride in being frugal, rather than guilty for not.

But I managed to go the entire season with one brief and mostly unnecessary trip to the mall, because I bought everything on Amazon or ... Ebay. I learned to use Ebay, and did extremely well with it this season. It seems that there is a vast amount of overstock out there - presumably supply will drop this upcoming year to meet reduced demand, but at the moment, at least in things like apparel, the left over supply from the last year or two amounted to excellent bargains.

I also proposed to the Kid that money that would have been spent on apparel for her could be exchanged for money in her brand-new, baby sitting funded brokerage account on etrade. In effect, I said, would you rather own the Abercrombie skirt or the equivalent Abercrombie shares, with a little multiplier supplied by Daddy as extra incentive? (Tradeoffs, tradeoffs, as Greg Mankiw points out here.) Wife and Kid both said that this was the wrong time and place for Such Tradeoffs, even with a Subsidy from Santa, and that these should be separate discussions and arrangements. One should not barter with Santa Claus.

The Kid, to her credit, has set up her checking account with an automatic monthly payment to several charities of her choice - not a lot, but it adds up over time, both for her and for the charities, and the transaction costs are very low - in this case USO and a charity that does cleft palate surgeries in poor countries. She recited last night after Mass the King James Version of the Nativity, not the literarily horrible one in the modern Bibles, “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night...” She learned it when she was three or four years old, back in the days when she was made to memorize verses from the Bible. (Actually, she still remembered a bunch of them, including “How beautiful upon the mountains,” from Isaiah.)

Possibly we’ll keep her.

For my part, I forewent the new Apple laptop I really wanted. Hooray for me. But Santa brought me something that was expensive, hard to find, out of production, and very valuable to me personally - a DVD of the film version of Nineteen Eighty-Four, the version that appeared in 1984. And a whole bunch of books. And reading glasses ... I have concluded that the Time Has Come for reading glasses, the 1.25 version. I’ve never worn glasses of any kind before, so this is a kind of big deal.

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