Once upon a time, I was the sort of girl who believed in "retail therapy." When I was particularly sad, I would get in my cushy SUV and drive to the mall (I was living in Northern Virginia at the time so my mall of choice was the lux Tysons Corner), and charge $300 or $400 worth of fabulously beautiful clothes.

Times have changed, and not just because I don't drive any more (I rock the bus and bike) and cut up all my credit cards years ago. We're all making our way toward a less-spendy future, one where we need to look elsewhere for our therapy.

Last week, much of the country was snowed in, and Portland, Oregon, where I live, was an unusual participant in the snow follies. While many shops remained open, we just couldn't get to them, and so I was faced with a Christmas where I was largely unable to go shopping.My children each got a book from me and one new toy each from Santa, and I spent Christmas day knitting fanciful, colorful wool balls from my yarn "stash."

Surprisingly, I don't think I've ever had such a happy Christmas. I gave almost nothing (and got the same; my husband and I spent our Christmas cash on new glasses and $484 for a new control panel for our furnace -- heat for Christmas!), and I had only an hour or two of "retail therapy," squandered mostly at the bookstore. Avoiding spending money was the best gift of all. As reports of an unusually somber holiday season for retail businesses come in, I have to wonder: could falling consumerism be met with a rising sense of well-being? Could we finally be rejecting our label as "consumers" and finding new names for our "confidence"? It sounds like a good idea to me.

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