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Bad economy a good thing for thrifty parents
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There's good and bad news about the economy. The bad news is that it still stinks. The good news is that it still stinks. While this creates challenge for retailers, it could be a boom for parents this holiday season. Major economic indicators tell us we're on our way up, yet consumers - especially this mama - continue parceling our dollars judiciously. This doesn't mean my boys are on board. While my girlfriend is faced with the dilemma of children who won't specify their Christmas wants, I'm dealing with roughnecks whose wish list changes every couple of hours. It's a dizzying experience; first, searching for my pad and then crossing out one request to add another. Obviously, I believe in the gift of giving; yet I'm a strong proponent of frugality and modesty and holiday presents that last long after the lights have been taken down and the trees tucked away for another year. Even my dear mother suddenly seems to share these sentiments. She's usually not one for turning down a shopping trip. Going to the mall? Mom's in. Yet, her still-recovering retirement fund has cut down her conspicuous consumption considerably.

During a recent visit for the holidays, she left behind her Christmas gifts for the kids, my husband and me. She insisted I open mine right away. As I tore into the package, she remarked how she had spent joyous hours scanning an Internet music library to mine her favorite gospel tunes. She then lovingly downloaded them and created a double CD as a gift for me. Oh my! "Is this really my mom?" I questioned silently. In the past, my mother has gifted me with diamonds, designer purses and even a 40th birthday trip to Vegas. But, this year is different. My eyes grew teary, as I flung my arms around her as a sign of appreciation - not only for the CDs, but for our tough economic times.

Now, I am not grateful that this season of economic distress has forced families from their homes and led others to losing all they owned and into bankruptcy. Neither am I comfortable knowing some families are struggling simply to put food on their tables. Yet, I do think our tightened dollar supply has served as a needed redirect for the rest of us who, in the past, gleefully financed holiday gifts and other egregious excesses. For most of us, the economy has taught us that less can be more and that even with our lack, our blessings abound. Even so, I'm not sure the simplicity of a hand-selected CD will do for my boys. So, I'll settle for giving them one - or two - items from ‘the list' and a good 'ole fashioned talk about the "real reason for the season."

Kysa Daniels is a journalist, non-profit professional and mother of three boys. For more Adventures in Parenting and parenting tips, e-mail