With the clock counting down to turkey time and Black Friday casting its looming shadow over the working class, the holiday hustle and bustle has begun.

In mere hours, shoppers will line up for holiday sales, ready to beat the heck out of anyone standing in the way of extra savings.†

If youíve never tried it, take it from me, the day-after-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy is not for the weak of mind, body or spirit.

I suggest the following: wake up extra early, do your morning stretches, make your coffee a double, strap on some Charmin, and put on your steel toes. This is war!

If youíre like me and like your sanity, I urge you to stop and think. Ask yourself, what is 25-percent really worth? And what can you really afford?

I will admit if you are thinking of getting the lovely lady in your life a $500 pair of earrings, you would save yourself $125 - that 25-percent may be worth the hassle. Unless of course she figures out youíve spent the rent money on a gift she canít even wear to her job at the manufacturing plant.

If youíre like me, living paycheck to paycheck, why not opt to save yourself some money and trip to the emergency room?

Why not get back to what they holidays are all about?

It is a simple equation for a good time. All you need is family (substitute with friends when applicable,) a feast (turkey with all the fixings or a frozen pizza - the feast is in the eye of the beholder,) football (this is Texas yaíll,) some eggnog, Christmas carols and memories in the making.

While I used to stand right next to Scrooge screaming ďBah Humbug,Ē I am awaiting the holidays with a newfound joy. And I will have no creditors to answer to when it is all said and done.

It has become easier over the years, since I know a few things about my life - I have little to share when it comes to gifts and money, but lots to offer when you count love and happiness.

So, this Thanksgiving I can say Iím honestly thankful.

Iím thankful that I have parents who support me through thick and thin (love you mom and dad!) Iím thankful I have a daughter who is healthy and happy. I am thankful I have a new love in my life who tells me Iím beautiful every day. I am thankful I live in a community that is safe and clean. Iím thankful that my real friends are forever by my side. Iím thankful I have a job doing what I love. Iím thankful tomorrow is another day and yesterday is history. Iím thankful I have survived the last year. Iím thankful to be alive.

And then there is Christmas.

While I hear Santaís helpers asking themselves how they will make this holiday season a happy one with everyone but ďJohn Q. PublicĒ being offered a bailout, I remain confident you can spread the cheer on little more than a dime.

Instead of using your well earned vacation days by filling up the SUV and driving half way across the Lone Star State to spend a little more than 24 hours with family you hardly know and never see, before turning around to head back to work, why not stay at home? Invite your close friends and nearby family for dinner. Eat, drink, and be merry.

Take a load off of your mom and prepare the meal together? Christmas is about togetherness after all.

Shopping? Why not forget about the checkout line and dash for door busters and instead bake cookies or cakes to give to your uncle and aunt? He hated the tie you gave him last year, and she doesnít need another pair of fuzzy slippers.

Try family photos or scrapbooks filled with a year of memories instead of discounted fragrances and cheap electronics.

The answers are all around us. ĎTis the season to be jolly - not the season to be broke and suffering from a case of the gift giving jitters.

Tell your friends and family the party is on, but forget the gifts. Remind them all their presence is gift enough.

Then sit back, relax and enjoy!

Amanda Kimble is a staff writer at the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at 254-968-2379, ext. 238.