by Kiernan Kelly
Why is it during the month of December – in my house, anyway – money ceases to have meaning? It becomes nothing but a series of numbers randomly flashing across register and ATM LCD screens, a flurry of random, theoretical symbols generated by sliding a thin piece of plastic through a reader, holding no connection whatsoever to the real world.
Come January, though, the blindness caused by all the twinkling lights fades away, and I realize that while I've been staring like a slack-jawed idiot at the tinsel-covered trees, distracted by all the sparkly ornaments and red-nosed reindeer, the elves have been sacking my bank account. Those theoretical numbers actually do have meaning, and what's more, they represent a gaggle of businesses who fully expect me to send them the money represented by those numbers.
Which is way more than I thought I was spending at the time. I call it the Kris Kringle Paradigm – during the holiday season, objects cost more collectively than originally calculated. In other words, when the holiday shopper is running solely on Venti cups of Starbuck's Peppermint Mocha and toothpick samples of food court cuisine while navigating crowds, dodging perfume counter salespeople armed with atomizers, elbowing their way through sales racks, and juggling fifty shopping bags, while trying to figure out what the hell to buy Aunt Sally because the woman has freaking everything, keeping a mental tally of how much the shopper is actually spending can result in dire miscalculations.
In other words, I spent too damned much.
What's worse, I make the same mistake every freaking year.
You'd think I'd learn to pay in cash. Cold, hard cash isn’t theoretical; it has a physical presence. If I have to fork it over at the register, bill by bill, watching my small stack of hard-earned twenties dwindle with every purchase, I'd be more likely to reconsider whether Uncle Filbert really needs the $100 sterling silver remote control caddy, or if he'd be just as happy getting "True Grit" on Blue-ray for $25. Heck, does he even need the Blue-ray version? Make that the regular DVD, $12, tops.
...ooh, look! True Grit in paperback is only $7.99. We have a winner.
And therein, folks, lies the solution to the After Holiday Credit Card Crunch – books. If everyone bought everyone else a book for the holidays (and I have several I'd like to recommend, wink, wink, nudge, nudge), then the shock generated by our credit card bills come January would be considerably less. Just think! No more emergency room visits, feebly waving our credit card statements and gasping for air. Why, our savings in Mylanta and Tums alone might just be enough to balance the U.S. budget and save the economy.
Think about it. Books are the ideal gift. There's one for every taste, every age, every...everything. They provide hours upon hours of undiluted, commercial-free entertainment, and you can use them over and over again without any additional charge. There are romance novels to feed our souls, cooking books to delight our palates, nonfiction to broaden our horizons, mysteries to boggle our minds, horror to still our hearts, fantasy to fuel our imaginations, westerns, historical, contemporaries, children's, young adult....well, the list is as wide and diverse as the human experience.
The good news is that people seem to be catching on to this idea, and in record numbers. Retailers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble report that sales of ebook readers (more affordable this year than ever before!) and ebooks have skyrocketed again this season, boosting their sales exponentially. Paperless reading is making headway into the traditional print market, but whether you read physical books or ebooks or some mix of the two is really a moot point – the fact that you're reading is what's important, as well as the idea of people buying ebook readers and books as holiday gifts.
My New Year's Resolution this year is to avoid the Kris Kringle Paradigm next holiday season by writing "e-reader" or "book" next to every name on my shopping list.
With the money I'll save, I just might treat myself to that sterling silver remote control caddy I've had my eye on.
Kiernan Kelly lives in the wilds of the alligator-infested U.S. Southeast, slathered in SPF 45, drinking tropical, hi-octane concoctions served by thong-clad cabana boys.
Actually, the truth is she spends her time locked in the dark recesses of her office, writing gay erotic romance while chained to a temperamental laptop, drinking coffee, and dreaming about thong-clad cabana boys.
You can find links to the full body of Kiernan’s works in both print and ebook at her website,