There are so many blessings from our economic downturn; I’m discovering new ones every day. This Christmas for example, we don’t have the extra money to buy bad presents.

What is a bad present? Well, it’s something the person didn’t want, didn’t need, or never used. Some of these are so bad they get re-gifted to haunt others like the Ghost of Christmas Past. For example, I received a kit for making “beer can turkey” a few years back. I’m proud to say my brother-in-law will soon have to figure out what to do with that thing.

I’ve also given many bad presents. I bought my kids books they didn’t read, musical instruments they never played and movies that went unwatched. My worst gift was a pingpong table that was converted to a laundry table in less than a week. Currently it’s folded up and blocking access to the circuit breakers.

I bought that table back when I thought material things would make the kids happy. I’ve since learned that the things that make them happy contain more gigabytes than I can possibly afford.

I’ve also made some unfortunate choices for my wife. She greatly appreciated, though, that my presents came with gift receipts. At least I didn’t give her that pair of hideous red slippers. If Dorothy had clicked these together, they would have taken her directly to the Haunted Forest.

We didn’t just eliminate buying unnecessary gifts; we scaled back on decorating. Last year, we could barely squeeze the tree my wife and daughter cut down into the dining room. This year, we have an anorexic shrub that is so thirsty we can actually hear it slurping from the tree stand.

We stopped adding buildings to our Christmas village. We don’t need any more candles, or Christmas recordings, or cocoa. The Christmas morning gift-giving extravaganza used to last about 20 minutes. This year it’ll be closer to the time it takes a NASCAR pit crew to change tires.

My wife and I have been especially frugal with Christmas presents. The past two years, we exchanged large, beautifully wrapped empty boxes. Last Christmas, she gave me a box of kisses but had to scale back to a box of hugs this year. I wrapped a box of empty promises for her in 2008 but decided to go with empty excuses this year.

Of course, we still give gifts to our kids. I remember exchanging compliments with my boys last year. This Christmas, we’re downsizing to fist bumps. As for the girls, they’re a little more demanding. They don’t like hugs but I’m sure they’ll appreciate really warm smiles.