santa-claus-for-christmas_w128A reader responded to “I’m dreaming of a stripped-down Christmas” with a description of her 7-year-old’s Yuletide experience:

“There are so many gifts from extended family, it actually stresses him out to open them – usually there’s a good one in the first two or three and he wants to stop and play with it, not have it taken away and have to open 10 more things.

“It looks like ingratitude, and that’s a little of it – we’re lucky to already have everything we need and most of what we want, so he’s not that into new stuff – but it’s mostly sheer overwhelm at being the center of attention and having so many people around and then having to switch focus every moment.”

I saw a bit of that myself on Tuesday as I watched a young child open a massive pile of presents. He was a little stressed and cranky by the time he was through. In fact, he had to be coaxed into opening the last few packages.

When my oldest great-nephew was a toddler he was well-nigh buried in loot on Christmas morning. At one point he was nearly in tears, saying “No more!”

No more. Would that have happened when you were small?

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9780399160295L-1Amy Allen Clark knows a thing or two about frugality. She and her husband found themselves in financial trouble before the first of their two children was born. It was sink or swim, and she chose to swim: She championed the cause of cutting back expenses and paying off debts.

But that was just the start. Clark founded the MomAdvice.com website. She became a spokeswoman for brands like Kenmore, Kelloggs and Minute Maid. Now she’s written a book called “The Good Life For Less: Giving Your Family Great Meals, Good Times and a Happy Home on a Budget.”

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thWhen I was in elementary school we heard the story of a brave Revolutionary War-era woman who carried water to the troops during the Battle of Monmouth. “Molly, Molly, bring us your pitcher,” the men would call on that hot July day. That’s how she became known as “Molly Pitcher,” we were told.

Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley did follow her husband, a barber who enlisted in the Revolutionary Army, and apparently helped him load cannons. But “Molly Pitcher” seems to have been just a generic nickname for women who carried water to the colonial troops.

The truth is so limiting. I like the legend better, especially after what happened to me yesterday.

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Flying south, then east.

thI’m writing this from Seattle Tacoma International Airport, after a super-fast flight from Anchorage: 2 hours, 54 minutes — the wind was certainly beneath our wings on this trip.

I leave here at 11:45 p.m. and journey on to Dallas/Fort Worth, and from thence to Philadelphia, landing at 10:30 a.m. Sunday unless the Anti-Destination League hears that I’m out loose.

I’m spending part of that day with an old friend and then trying to write the MSN Money Frugal Nation post for Tuesday. That’s because on Monday I’m taking the Megasbus to New York City, where I’ll meet with a couple of editor types, have dinner with a blogger friend and get in line for the “Book of Mormon” ticket lottery.

Getting a ticket would be a Christmas miracle. I am not holding my breath.

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9781595553416-2The subtitle of Lorilee Craker’s book kind of gives the secret away: “Finding True Abundance in Simplicity, Sharing and Saving.”

Sure, we already know we should throttle back, give to others and sock away some dollars. But sometimes we need an example of how that works in real life.

True, the Amish way of living isn’t “real life” for most of us. We’re too wedded to niceties like cell phones, slow cookers and indoor plumbing. But it’s plenty real to them, and a very satisfying way of life.

Herself a Mennonite (albeit a “worldly” one), the author was intrigued by the group’s ability to thrive no matter how the rest of the world is doing.

She admits she hoped for “pearls of wisdom,” i.e., quick fixes. What she got was a series of timeless, common-sense tips that might feel easier said than done. Glimpsed up close, she saw how maxims like “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” can translate into a creative and, yes, abundant lifestyle.

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