The Holidays on a Budget|
Some Ideas About How to Afford to Buy Gifts and
Tickets to a Show
By Anna Collins
Terrell Hardcastle, Stacy Schwartz, Jody Madaras and Julie
Kleiner, now appearing at the Actor’s Playhouse in White Christmas
Here they come.
Like a tsunami rolling towards us from the distance,
wearing tap dancing shoes and carrying a stopwatch it’s… THE HOLIDAYS! Wake up
people! Start revving up the credit cards and chucking those diets – it’s the
hap-happiest time of the year.
“Can you believe it?” I hear people saying, “The holidays
are almost here!” Yeah, I can believe it, especially when I saw Christmas and
Hanukkah decorations out in September.
But don’t get me wrong – I adore the holidays. I don’t let the inflated
prices and tempting gift baskets with all the stuff I love in them and want to
keep for myself, get to me. Nor, as a once moneymaking realtor, do I let my 75
percent decrease in income since the real estate market tanked, dampen my
holiday spirit. And I am certainly not upset that I was forced to look for work
elsewhere, in a totally unrelated field selling laboratory casework and fume
hoods (don’t ask) for a distributor an hour drive from where I live. Ditto for
the fact that I also decided to go to yoga school earning myself a yoga teacher
certification, which entitles me to further reap a fraction of my former income,
albeit wearing cute form-fitting outfits.
Nothing is getting me down this helliday, I mean holiday
season. I am a positive thinker – and I have all the Wayne Dyer, Jerry and
Esther Hicks and Deepak Chopra CDs to prove it. I listen to them every day on my
two-hour commute to and from my job while dodging gravel trucks, 18-wheelers and
various speed demons on Florida’s turnpike.
Listen, like many of you, I’ve thought about just quitting
my jobs and finding some other way to get money – like robbing a bank. Dumber
people than me have done it. Trouble is, I don’t have a good getaway car. I
drive a Volkswagen Beetle. It’s yellow with a gray convertible top and has a
license plate that says ‘Buttercup.’ What loser would rob a bank using a Beetle
called Buttercup as the get away car? I’d make better time driving an eggbeater
named Ernie. And how much dough can I shove in a Beetle? Two, maybe three grand
tops? I can see myself in the bank pointing my fake gun at the teller and
shouting, “Big bills only! I don’t have any room damn it!” Pathetic. So I keep
But back to the holidays and my positive thinking. So, even
though I may be a little short on cash, I can still do my Holiday Theater Night
in style – I just have to make a few modifications in my budget, that’s all. You
see, every year my friend Bounsa J and I get together and see the theater
production of our choice as a keen holiday present to ourselves. And, not
surprisingly, this year there are so many wonderful holiday productions to
choose from: White Christmas at The Actor’s Playhouse in Coral Gables, or
Handel’s Messiah at the Gusman or a trip to the Jackie Gleason to see
The Nutcracker (a loving term my dad would call my mom when she would, for
the hundredth time, ask him when he was going to put up the darn Christmas
Back to the budget. Bounsa J and I decided we cannot, must
not, give up our theater night, so we found a few ways to cut costs while still
enjoying glad tidings. Let’s discuss gifts.
Many of my female friends and family members love expensive
perfumes, and I would greatly enjoy bestowing them with these aromatic
treasures, but since they cost as much as my cable bill, I needed to find an
alternative. Much to my delight I did! At The Dollar Store! Or The DS as I call
it --- the Mecca for misers, the promised land for penny pinchers where one can
purchase scads of cheaply made ceramic statues, generic greeting cards and
obscure brands of food that appear to be labeled in hieroglyphs. “It’s a dollar!
How can you go wrong?” is the commonly heard war cry.
One of the best and I’m sure most popular items The DS
sells are the ‘imposter brand’ perfumes and colognes. These little beauties
mimic the designer names and are purported to smell exactly (if you don’t
actually inhale) the same. And hello, at a fraction of the cost!
The marketing is brilliant. The display says stuff like,
“If you love ‘Beautiful’, you’ll like…Slightly Attractive. If you love
‘Eternity’, you’ll like…A Long Ass Time. If you love ‘White Diamonds’,
you’ll like…Marginally Yellowed Rhinestones. If you love ‘Burberry’,
you’ll like…Bluberry. If you love ‘Safari’ you’ll like…I’m being
Chased by Hungry Lions. And if you love ‘Opium’, you’ll like Craque.
Or something like that. How can you go wrong? Cha-ching stays in my
Another clever ruse is to collect boxes and bags from
upscale stores and fill them with merchandise purchased at The DS. With
enough tissue paper around it, nobody’s really going to notice that the ceramic
elf with the one eyeball painted a little too big, didn’t actually come
from Saks. Just mention it’s ‘hand painted’ and no two are alike. People enjoy
one-of-a-kind items. (Just make sure you take the little oval ‘Made in China’
sticker off the bottom).
The DS is a great place for stocking stuffers, too. I was
fortunate enough to find a dozen watches with Jesus’ face on them. Now every
time one of my friends asks, “Jesus! What time is it?” they’ll know.
Also, since I don’t have a lying, cheating,
hitting-on-my-friends significant other to buy for this year, I’m saving another
ton of moolah. No more extravagant gifts from Ace Hardware. Cha-ching in my
pocket again. All these savings will allow me to treat myself to the coveted
‘Holiday Theater Night’.
We haven’t made a concrete decision on which production to
see yet, although we seem to be leaning towards The Nutcracker. (Ever
since I told Bounsa J about my dad’s remark she’s been walking around going,
“See The Nutcracker? I am The Nutcracker!” She has such a fine
So in the meantime, as an extra treat and a prelude to our
big night out, we’ve decided to rent It’s a Wonderful Life and watch it
with the sound turned off making up our own dialogue in the voices of Snoop Dog
and Missy Elliot. I can’t wait for the part where James Stewart gets to say ‘for
shnizzle-toe the mizzle-toe’ and Donna Reed tells him to ‘getch ur freak on’.
All for under $5.
And there you have it – money saving tips that will allow
you a wonderful night at the theater. No matter what your budget, never give up
entertainment and a good time – it’s what keeps us alive and hopeful. Now if
you’ll excuse me, I need to find a new outfit for my big night and I hear Publix
just started selling cute tops – right near the Cheez-its. Buying clothes in
Publix – just when you thought it couldn’t get any better.