Dec 08, 2008, 05:16AM

Holiday Shopping on a Budget

A few useful gift ideas for "uncertain economic times."

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Photo by jetheriot.

I’m like totally poor right now because my computer crapped out and I had to up and buy a new one. Guess what that means? Ain’t nobody gon’ be gettin’ no holiday presents from me!

Some people are all, “Oh, you don’t have to get me anything!” Shut the fuck up.  Everybody loves a free gift. Matta-fact, saying no to a free gift is like walking past a $100 bill on the sidewalk and not picking it up. Nothing is more American than the free gift. Sales people be knockin’ up on your door, talkin’ bout “If you buy this set of Swiss army knives, we’ll give you a limited edition, once-in-a-lifetime, only-available-through-us-for-the-next-10-minutes             Free Gift!” I can’t tell you how often Chase Bank tries to give me a free $100 for opening a checking account.

But this holiday season, when everybody you know is on unemployment or has a secret second job at the local Wal-Mart, what do you do if you don’t have the money to get gifts for your loved ones?

If you didn’t already know, layaway is back. Do ya’ll remember layaway? If you black, I know you remember! Mmmmhm. Better than credit, layaway is the chance for you to buy what you think you want without splurging and carving yourself into a black vortex of debt. Whenever my grandmother couldn’t afford something we wanted but didn’t really need—like a huge love seat—she would put that shit on layaway quick, fast and in a hurry. There’s something about putting something on layaway that makes you really proud to own it when you can finally pay to get it out. And you better believe that when that couch we had came out of layaway, my grandmother made sure it stayed in the original plastic!

So what if instead of offering your friends and loved ones real gifts you put a down payment on something in the layaway? Pick out a $20 shirt, put down a 10 percent deposit. Then wrap the receipt and tell ‘em, “I got you this shirt. If you want it, here’s the layaway receipt! Get it out ya damn self!”

People place too much emphasis on consumerism this time of year. Black Friday. Walking all over people at Wal-Mart. Long lines at Circuit City. Waiting on line for a sale at the ass crack of dawn and pulling out other people’s weave to get to that last HDTV. I mean, consumerism can be good and stuff. But excessive consumerism and living ridiculously outside of our means or waiting forever for a commodity is partly what put our financial situation in the shitter in the first place.

But what if you’re just not that into the layaway thing? So onto option number two.

My boyfriend’s boss once took back some furniture she bought at a K-Mart in Manhattan.

She stands there, cheesing, boobs in full view. All perky like.

“But ma’am...when you bought this furniture it was white. You...painted it lime green,”               the cashier goes.

Boyfriend’s boss: “Yep, I’m just gonna return it.”

And they actually took it back!

My boyfriend works in film set design, where bitches are constantly buying stuff and then taking it back for a full refund when the movie is done. Isn’t that a novel way to shop? Because really, all we want with consumer products is an experience.

Next idea. You know how you usually get a gift receipt with your present so the person can exchange the thing for something they really want, or for like a different size or whatever? Well, what if you went to the mall and racked-up on gifts. You package them and everything and you’re ready for the Secret Santa holiday party.

“Qweeta, girl I got you this fabulous cashmere scarf!” you say.

Qweeta. “Really? WOW! Thanks!”  

“Yep! Oh, but...um...I’m gonna need it back, with the receipt, in 14 days. Oh, and try not to get any stains on it. Take a lot of pictures in it so you remember the thing!”  
No matter what type of gift you give, it’s just going to be taken for granted anyway. Not because the person is ungrateful or anything, but because that’s just how consumerism works. Something’s only sexy when you don’t have it. You buy something new and it’s only sexy until you leave the cash register. After you unwrap the thing, it totally loses its aura. The kids are so over the Batman figurines and Batman’s head is already on the floor for the dog to eat; your new pair of jeans is faded so you need a new pair.

Artist Jeff Koons identifies the traps of newness and consumerism in his 1980 series called The New, which features different configurations of Hoover vacuums on a field of fluorescent lighting, encased in plexiglass. The fluorescent lighting suggests the artificial, temporary aura that illuminates a consumer product. Though they’re already 28 years old, these vacuums will always be new because, well, they’ll never get used.

So take a cue from Koons this holiday season. Don’t overspend, just give your mates a vacuum cleaner and some fluorescent lights.

  • "If you black, I know you remember!" I'm not politically correct by any means, but what is this all about? It seems kind of racist to me, but maybe I don't get the joke, if there is one.

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