Families celebrate a modest Christmas


Just like years past, the presents were under the tree ready to be opened, but this Christmas is a little different.

"It wasn't as extravagant as it was in the past several years," Buenaventura said.

There were not as many presents for his six-year-old son Max, and there were fears about what the economic future holds. But Buenaventura thinks a more austere gift-buying season -- as difficult as that's been -- might be a blessing in disguise.

"People now have to live within their means, before whereas credit was freely available and you didn't think about what you were doing," Buenaventura said.

It is a new perspective not lost on 10-year-old Lena Simbe, who saw a movie with her family Christmas night.

"I got only a little, last year I got a lot," Lena said.

"I was honest, I told her the truth," Lena's father Jeff Simbe said. "These kids, the younger ones, they know what's going on about the economy and that mom and dad can't make the mortgage any more."

While many families cut their holiday gift-buying because it was the financially smart thing to do, others had little choice in the matter. The question is whether the scaled back holiday spending will be the new norm for Christmases to come.

University of San Francisco management professor Eugene Muscat thinks a lot of people will cling to the idea of spending less.

"They still want to give a gift so they simply have cut down on the amount of money they're going to spend per gift," Muscat said. "So to answer your question, I think next year they're going to hold on to that lower price purchase point."

This year Christina Fotenos of Daly City made some gifts and gave charity gift cards. She hopes the tough economy changes the way people think.

"I'm hopeful that through all this pain, we do come to some point where we look at our values and find out what's really important other than the things we buy," Fotenos said.

The recession may give people no other choice.

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