More Confessions From a Cheap-Ass Santa - picture of piggy bank with santa hat on

More Confessions From a Cheap-Ass Santa

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Over the years, I’ve really started to enjoy Christmas and the holiday season in general.  This is mainly due to the fact that we now have kids and I get to experience it all through their eyes.  My four-year-old still believes in Santa Claus, after all.  And this year, she’s already asking if she’s been good enough to get plenty of toys.

“Of course you have,” I tell her.  And, she really has.  I honestly believe that she’s especially kind and well-behaved for a four-year old.  She’s always getting things for her little sister and consoling her when she’s sad.  It literally melts my heart to see her being so kind and generous to others.  And because of that, I think that she should get some special surprises on Christmas morning.

Shouldn’t Christmas Be For Kids?

With all that being said, I think it’s weird that adults still buy for each other.  Husband and wife, especially.  I know, I know….I’m a cheap-ass Santabut hear me out.  I can’t imagine why in the world I would buy some pajama pants and put them under the tree for my 34-year-old husband.  Or tools or something.  Can he not buy his own tools?  I know I’m probably in the minority on this one, but seriously.  To those of you who buy for your spouse on Christmas, can I ask an obvious question?  “Why?”

Of course, I am a total hypocrite.  For instance, I always buy for my parents even though they tell me not to every single year.  (Sorry mom!) I think it would be unfair not to since they have bought me gifts my entire life.  They don’t need anything so I usually just get them a few restaurant gift cards or something.  I’m an absolutely terrible gift-giver, and I know it.

On the other hand, we don’t buy for siblings anymore at all.  It just doesn’t make sense to.  We all make plenty of money and have nice lives.  There is simply no reason for us to exchange gift cards just because everyone else does.  Plus, there are plenty of nieces and nephews to buy for now (I’ve got ten!) which cancels out gifts for the parents in my mind.  Sorry.

I Refuse to Participate in Gift Exchanges

I don’t care how much I love you.  Gift exchanges are one of my PET PEEVES OF THE UNIVERSE!!!  I will not participate in a gift exchange with you, especially not a blind one where you buy one random $20 gift then play a game to see who gets what.  To me, nothing is more contradictory to the true meaning of Christmas than a bunch of rich people exchanging $20 gifts that no one wants or needs.

Fortunately, gift exchanges seem to be going the way of the dinosaur in most cases, at least for adults.  I haven’t been asked to participate in one for years!

I Give My Kids Used Stuff

I totally buy my kids used stuff for Christmas and their birthdays.  And, so far, they have never noticed.  Once, when my daughter was one, I bought her a new-looking tricycle at a garage sale for $4 and gave it to her for Christmas.  She wasn’t quite big enough for it so I put it up in a closet and re-gifted it to her again on her birthday.  I think I should get an award for that.

Christmas Makes Me Feel Charitable

It really does, just not to my family and friends.  Ever since I started posting our monthly budget, I’ve gotten emails from people asking why we don’t give to charity.  We do, we just usually do all of our charitable giving at the end of the year.  I don’t know why we do it that way.  Maybe it’s because it’s cold outside and I can’t stand the thought of people out there without a comfy home to go to, or shoes, or blankets.  Or, maybe I can’t stand the thought of children not having anything to open on Christmas morning.  Regardless, I do start feeling charitable to those who are actually in need this time of year, and it’s usually about now when we make that decision.

I love Christmas.  I really do.  I’ve just begun to dislike all of the expectations that come along with it.  To me, it sucks the fun out and takes away from the parts of the holiday that are naturally enjoyable.  Christmas does make me feel charitable but I don’t think we should use the holiday as an excuse to buy ourselves a bunch of stuff.  So, sorry Greg.  No matching Game of Thrones hat and t-shirt for you.  It just feels wrong.

What are your holiday gift-giving rules?  Any confessions?  Please share them below.

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82 Comments

  1. I’m much more a fan of asking for and giving experiences. This year we went to a movie at a film festival for my birthday. Yes, it was “just” a movie and could have come out of entertainment spending easily, but it was special and exactly what I wanted. =)

    1. Last year I got Greg tickets to see broadway star Lea Salonga at the Palladium in Carmel, Indiana. The tickets were free but he still loved it and thought it was a great “gift!” Yes, we’re nerds.

  2. Every Christmas I always have gifts for my family but now I think I would extend my help to those who are badly needed my help, my fellowman Filipinos. I’m thinking to give my one month salary to them in my little way I can help them.

    1. I just learned about the typhoon and everything that’s going on over there. Really makes most of the problems in this country seem miniscule.

  3. My mother feels the same way. She likes to go traveling during Christmas to escape the expectations.

    I enjoy just going out for a family dinner or something.

    1. I would love to go on vacation over Christmas. I think we will one day when the kids are older. My old bosses used to do that with the kids and I thought it was weird at the time. Now I totally get it.

  4. I couldn’t agree with you more. I have hated the idea of exchanging gifts for adults…it defeats the whole point of Christmas and turns it into an uncomfortable affair for all involved. Once I suggested the end of exchanging gifts and WW3 almost ensued.

    1. Ha!

      Our gift exchanges ended somewhat naturally. My brother, sister, and I all had kids around the same time and it just seemed like a natural time to stop doing them.

  5. I’m not down for the endless Christmas expectations either (as FS noted in his comment), but I do like to experience things with family and friends. Going up to the cabin in the snow or staying in, getting fat (for 1 day), and watching Xmas movies or sports together is something that wouldn’t happen with Christmas.

    Regarding gifts, I try not to expect anything and enjoy what I get. It’s usually not a lot, but something surprising is cool to get. For a few years, I became this super minimalist and what I learned was that received a few things was appreciated. Buying me 20 gifts would be stupid, but one thoughtful, useful item is welcome from friends and family if they so choose (no expectation of a gift though).

    The Warrior
    NetWorthWarrior.com

    1. My mom buys me things whether I want them or not….so I ask for practical things. But, even though those things are practical, I do enjoy them a lot because they aren’t things I would want to spend my own money on.

  6. My family still does gift exchanges, mainly because it’s been a tradition and I don’t see it stopping. With that being said, my wife and I also exchange gifts with each other but the main reason for that is that we both have trouble spending money on ourselves. She wants this new coffee mug she saw, but she’d never buy it herself. That’s an example of something I will get her for Christmas. I do understand your point, though, and it gets a bit expensive/out of control when you have too many people to buy gifts for.

    1. I do agree with that….we have trouble spending on ourselves too. This year we’ll probably be buying a house and moving in a while so we’re especially stingy as well.

  7. We agonize over the perfect gifts for Dhs family. My mom gets a Barnes and noble gc to spent while visiting us w/o my cheapskate father complaining. My father gets something consumable, usually liquor. My sister and I should probably stop exchanging, though sometimes my present will be joint tickets to a show or series with my oldest kid. I give dh 10x his allowance. #2 and I buy books off each others’ wish list bc that is more fun than buying stuff ourselves.

    1. I like the idea of consumable gifts….especially liquor or wine. That’s something that people may not like to buy for themselves but appreciate. I would personally like a bottle of Bombay Sapphire if any of my family members are reading this and feeling generous.

      1. My father is kind of a jerk about any other kind of gift. He’s an ultra-frugal environmentalist kind of guy. He doesn’t want STUFF. But he’s good with hard liquor and food (especially baked goods and weird things from other countries).

  8. I can see both sides. I like getting presents for people, even small presents, simply because it’s a dedicated time to indicate that you care about someone. But the flip side of that is that if you really do care you should be showing it all the time and not need Christmas to confirm it. Christmas and presents were always big in my house growing up, so part of my feelings toward them are simply a result of my experiences. But I would probably like our family to be a little more minimal about it than we were when I was a kid.

    1. My mom always made Christmas big as well. I remember seeing the gifts under the tree and being in disbelief at how many there were! They didn’t buy us a ton throughout the year so Christmas was really special. I hope that my kids feel the same way someday.

  9. We dumped sibling presents a long time ago, and what a relief! Oh, and HUGE score on re-giving the tricycle – now that’s creative frugaling! Like you, I love Christmas, for the kids’ sake. It’s so fun to see the sparkle in their eyes when they come downstairs on Christmas morning. 🙂

    1. Yes! My four-year-old knows what’s going on and she’s already so excited. This is probably the first year that my two-year old will be excited once she realizes what is going on.

  10. We couldn’t be more different on this one. I love everything about gift giving — and Christmas is my glory! I’m lukewarm on office gift exchanges but have a great time at White Elephant ones at parties. Then again, I was raised in a house that made such a big deal out of Santa I was convinced he was real until I was about 10.

    1. I really do like White Elephant gifts! It’s probably because I can just find something in my house and don’t have to buy anything. Ha!

  11. I’m soooo glad you said this – I totally agree that gift giving between adults just seems silly! I’m not anti-Christmas, but I think you’re right, it should be for kids. My husband and I do birthday gifts for each other, but we don’t bother with Christmas.. and we survive just fine 😀

  12. we don’t do gifts for adults, well I only give my mum and sister something but not the extended family, 30 adults or so, no way. It makes Christmas much easier.

    1. I think so too! I never feel resentful about buying for kids….kids are what it’s all about!

  13. I LOVE that you give your kids used items!! We do the same with ours and we get so much flack from my Mom. She thinks we’re being cheap (Um…yeah!), but at this age they really don’t notice and they still love whatever it is we get them. We do give to our parents and go through the same thing you do with them. For each other, we’re sort of like DC and his wife in that we hate spending money on ourselves and enjoy the gift giving. That said though, we’re different with it each year and have more towards using the money for an experience as opposed to just buying something we don’t need/want.

    1. We get flack for giving used sometimes too….but it’s only for these years when they’re young. When they’re snotty teenagers, we won’t be able to give them garage sale clothes for Christmas, I’m sure!

      1. I soooo agree with you on that one. Wait till you see the teen/tween gift list. Give inexpensive and or gently used items when the kids are young! lol We stopped sibling giving on my side of the family but continue on my husband’s side but it’s a Kris Kringle so we don’t give to all the siblings. They really enjoy it but I’m working on them to lower the gift amount!

  14. Ben @ The Wealth Gospel says:

    For me, giving my wife a gift is a way to show her that I appreciate her. That and I love surprising her. But as far as siblings and nieces and nephews go, I stopped giving nieces and nephews gifts a long time ago because they have so much crap as it is. And for siblings, starting this year we’re choosing to help a family in need instead of giving each other gifts. Ultimately, I agree with you on the expectations. It’s like I feel bad not spending $20 on a gift for my mom, when a $5 gift would probably be just as thoughtful. Stupid stupid stupid.

    1. My mom is gift-a-phobic. I think she secretly likes them but pretends that she doesn’t want anything.

  15. My wife and I stay under $25 for each other. Forces you to get a little creative (which I am TERRIBLE at), but we would rather spend our money going on a vacation somewhere. We probably won’t spend more than $50 on our little guy this year since he won’t remember it, but we will get him some really cute clothes and probably a couple more balls. He really loves balls and they are cheap and come in many sizes! As I have said in a different comment I’m the lame uncle and give my neices and nephews silver dollars, my wife gives them something a little more fun (shegot them a couple gifts when we were in Ireland).

    1. I give all of my nieces and nephews 20 bucks. It’s not lame…kids love money!

  16. I agree, Christmas is for the kids. In my family, the adults mainly skip gift exchanges. It’s much easier and saves everyone money. We just buy gifts for the little ones in my family. The look on their faces when they receive their Christmas presents is priceless!

    1. I agree =) I like watching all the kids (mine plus nieces and nephews on both sides) open gifts. It’s so much fun for them.

  17. Tara @ Streets Ahead Living says:

    For Christmas, we have to shop for so many people that it’s budget busting and frustrating. I’m planning on making a lot of home-made gifts this year to try to save money.

    I will say that the gift of photos are always nice for older family, like framed photos as gifts. My MIL’s mother loves photo calendars and we try to give her one as a gift every year.

    1. Ohhhh…..a photo calendar is a great idea!!!!!

  18. I actually am kind of a scrooge, only in the sense that I just hate Christmas in general and NOT because I don’t like generosity. I have my reasons for not liking the holiday, believe me. If I have the money to get my parents something, it’s usually something “lite” like an updated photo of us in a frame. They just don’t “need” much they can’t already buy themselves. I also take part in an adopt-a-family program which makes me feel good because I do know people in that situation need stuff. I also like white elephant parties because they can be fun. Other than that…

    1. We’ve adopted families in the past as well. I like buying gifts for kids who may not get them otherwise!

  19. I think it should be a law, No Gifts for anyone over age 18. I stopped giving adult gifts to my family years ago, and they hate me, but it’s just dumb. We have to fly back, and I don’t want to have to cart even more stuff home in addition to whatever our daughter gets. We didn’t exchange with my sister in law for years, and she got us something last year. I’m not sure why but we need to make that clear this time. Jim and I usually just go buy something if we want it and say it’s our Christmas gift. Last year, we didnt’ really do gifts, but I got shoes and he got skis this year. I hate giving gifts because you feel like you are obligated.

    1. We drive about 12 hours to see family over the holidays. Fortunately, they usually give small gifts at Christmas cause they know we’ll be driving them back. Flying would definitely make things more difficult!!!

  20. My husband and I don’t celebrate Christmas and my friends and family don’t expect gifts from me. I do get my nieces Christmas gifts but they are usually hand-made because they tend to cherish those gifts more so than many other material items they get…and end up losing or breaking by Spring.
    I think my unborn children are lucky they aren’t around to experience my ideal cheap-ass Christmas. I don’t think Christmas is about presents and I don’t like lying about Santa to children. If I had children, Christmas would be about spending time together…baking cookies, watching movies, playing board games, creating art, volunteering and giving back somewhere. There might be a handmade gift in the mix somewhere, but my Christmas certainly wouldn’t live up to the expectations most kids have these days. I guess that means I’d have to homeschool my children so they don’t taint the Santa lie or feel jealous about all the gifts other kids are getting?

    1. You never know how kids will change your perception. I probably could’ve said the same thing before we had kids….and look at me now. I totally perpetuate the Santa lie even though I’m torn about it!

    2. My dad is now a pastor of many years, and my parents also did not want to lie to us children. They were afraid that if one day they told us that Santa wasn’t real, that we would then have to question them if Jesus was real or if that was just a lie too. So we still celebrated Christmas, but we just knew our presents were from our parents and not Santa. And we could thank our parents. Now that I’m grown (31) and have my own children, I do not feel like my parents robbed me of any Santa joy…I still got gifts, and honestly I didn’t care WHO gave them to me. 😛 We do the same thing with our children (ages 7 and 4) and even my 4 year old is trained to not spoil it for anyone else…so far so good. Of course you need to do what you feel is right for you, but know there is a happy medium. Just thought I would share what we do since most people think we are odd also. 😛

  21. A couple years ago we gave my son a used snowboard (in great shape) for Christmas I got off Craigslist. He was 6 or 7 at the time and he was like “Dad, why does it have a scratch on it?” And I was like “Oh, Santa must have ridden it down the chimney!” He thought that was just hilarious and was happy as a clam with it.

  22. I really enjoyed this post. I have mixed feelings about Christmas and Christmas expectations. I actually enjoy getting and giving gifts and my family has always done a lot of celebrating around Christmas. My wife’s family really** enjoys the gift giving part of the season. It is actually one of the most stressful times of the year for my wife managing expectations along with our gift givings budget. I really liked the idea of buying used things for our kids so we might take that idea from you.

    Also, I’m proud that you feel joy about the tricycle and I give you major props for that one. I glad that there is a community (your blog audience) that appreciates that kind of thing!

    1. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with buying used stuff for your kids. I’ve done it every year so far….no complaints yet! Of course, they may catch on once they get older….but I’ll get away with it as long as I can! (I buy them some new stuff too, of course)

  23. Wait….you gave your kid a trike and then gave it to them again and THEY DIDN’T NOTICE?

    Cheryl and I buy each other stuff that we’d never buy for ourselves, but really would love to have. It takes some of the guilt out of buying senseless crap once a year if the other person is the offender.

    1. Oh course she didn’t remember. She was only one the first time she got it! =)

  24. My husband and I usually give each other gifts, but we always set a limit on the cost beforehand. That’s usually a time when we buy each other things we would not buy for ourselves. For example, my husband literally never buys himself clothes and would probably still be wearing clothing from his junior high and high school days (and he’s 39 now!) if I didn’t get him clothes for Christmas and birthdays 🙂 Seriously!!

    1. Greg has clothes from high school…mostly pajamas, but still. I think they’re cute!

      1. Shhh!!! Don’t let Greg know you think they are cute…maybe that’s why he leaves them on the floor every morning! ha ha 😛

  25. I have a post coming out next week about how I hate the holidays. The reason, shopping and gift giving. I enjoy the holidays for the time to spend with family, but the gifts are just unnecessary, but they have become the focal point. Everyone is all about the presents. Sad!

  26. I mostly just bake treats for my loved ones and ship them out since we don’t really see them. B and I still give each other gifts, mostly because we both buy things that the other might have mentioned before or had their eye on for some quite time, but probably forgot about it once Christmas rolls around. It’s a nice surprise. 🙂

  27. Your post made me laugh! I love your principled stand on gifts. We tried doing a no-gift year and instead gave to charity on my family members’ behalf (i.e. – giving goats, chickens, ducks, and medicine to families abroad). We told everyone about this months ahead of time, plead with them not to give us gifts, and then gave them cards showing the animal or good that was given to a family in need on Christmas day. Kids still got toys from us though.

    It did NOT go over well, and there is still some weird tension about the whole thing.

    So I understand the weirdness in gift giving among grown adults, but it is something I am not fighting anymore. I have given in.

    1. That’s funny about the weird tension, hehe =) Well, some people take traditions more seriously than others….and they don’t like you to mess with their tradition!

  28. I am just about the biggest scrooge you can find. I don’t like Christmas at all, but I hear once we have kids, it will get exciting again. I usually gift the hubs but we have xmas, our anniversary in January, his bday in February, then valentines day all squeezed together, so I usually just get him something small and thoughtful for each one and call it a day. 🙂

    1. It will become exciting when you have those babies, I swear!

  29. My ex husband and I never bought each other anything for Christmas or birthdays. It’s too hard to hide and if we wanted something we bought it anyway. I do love buying my kids Christmas presents though. It can be hard not go overboard when I see stuff they like and imagine how they’ll react when they open it up. Fun, fun!

  30. Ha! I love this post!

    For the last few years, my wife and I have not purchased each other gifts. Just like you mentioned, it just doesn’t make much sense. She likes shopping for clothes so why would I buy them for her? I would suck at it too!

    We’ve certainly toned down our gift giving for family as well. We mostly just ask them to make an Amazon list of things that they need and we buy them. It ensures that they get something that they need or were planning on purchasing anyway. For example, my sister-in-law is getting married next year and they don’t have much money saved. We plan on getting them a roll of stamps for the invitations! Boring or thoughtful? I’ll let you decide!

    For us, Christmas is about spending time with our family because we don’t get to do that much.

    1. Hey, I think a roll of stamps is an awesome gift. Very functional and practical!

  31. I always feel bad when I give less-expensive gifts to someone and they give me way more than I spent on theirs. Ugh! I usually like giving gifts with thought and meaning behind it though, or if I simply think they’ll like it. I’ll even buy gifts throughout the year if it reminds me of that person and just keep it for the holidays. This way, I don’t have an enormous gift-giving bill come December.

    1. Usually I start buying gifts in the summer. This year, I stopped looking since we had to move. I think I did buy my kids a few Barbie outfits or something on clearance. I’ll have to dig them out before Christmas!

  32. I do buy my husband Christmas gifts. I didn’t grow up with Christmas because I am Jewish but I know the Christmas experience means a lot to him. When we were first together, and would go to his parent’s house for the holiday, there were a ton of presents under the tree. They really did go for quantity over quality and apparently was always that way. Well, flash forward and now his parents are in hospice and can’t really remember who their son is let alone buy him a gift. If I don’t get him a present under the tree, then he gets nothing and I find that very sad. Our kids are too young to buy him anything (although they help me pick things out). His sister may or may not send a present for him and the kids. So, yes, I do buy him 3-5 presents because I think it means a lot to him to have a surprise present under the tree and if I don’t provide it and there is nothing there under the tree for him, I think it would make him very sad. I don’t spend a whole lot, we share all our money, but I do try to get him things he likes on a smaller scale.

    1. Awww…..Meredith… That’s super sweet of you. I don’t blame you for buying your hubby presents…I would do the same thing. I’m such a judgmental bitch sometimes.

  33. To me, Christmas gifts are a bit over rated. When growing up we were taught that Christmas means the birth of Christ and that is what we celebrate. Even though we can give gifts, it is not a must. I understand people views are different based on where they are from but I have noticed some people here believe Christmas is all about giving gifts and nothing is wrong about that.

  34. LOL! I almost fall off my chair laughing at your brilliance of regifting your daughter’s Christmas present as her birthday gift! 🙂 It just proves how the “gift” means more than the actual present at that age since she didn’t recognize it. I still buy my Mom a present and don’t foresee a time where I wouldn’t. She’s earned it! Chris and I still exchange gifts. Partly out of habit (we spent more than half our marriage without kids) and we enjoy it too. I’m not a huge fan of Secret Santas either but I do buy gifts for my employees.

  35. You regifting the tricycle is THE reason why you are one of my favorite bloggers Holly. 🙂 J and I exchange Christmas presents but that’s because I’m a big cheeseball who loves things like that! 😛

  36. I kind of get your attitude. Unless you have separate accounts and don’t share money at all, you’re buying the gifts yourself as much as your spouse is. That said, I like opening presents on Christmas morning. We’ve been keep it low-key the last few years. My in-laws are on a strict budget and live with us. So the first year it was a $25 budget. Last year it was $35 and this year we’re going back down to $30. My husband and I may spend a little more on each other, but not much.

    Like you, I don’t like skipping parents on the gift list. I always get my mom a little something. Last year, when I got a startling bonus, we splurged a little on some Harry & David pears. She’s up in Alaska, so it’s a real treat.

  37. Hahaha…I laughed so hard about the tricycle; well done! I’m trying to have a spend-free Christmas this year. Should be interesting!

  38. I completely understand where you are coming from on the gifts for spouses, siblings. My parents still like to buy me gifts. Every year my mom asks me what I want and every year I tell her “I don’t know”. If I really want and need something, I’ll go out and buy it. If I don’t really need it, I won’t get it and eventually forget about it. Hence why I never know what to tell people for ideas, I’ve already bought what I think I need.

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  40. I completely agree with you on this one. On a related note, one year I was in charge of filling up the Christmas stockings and since I didn’t grow up with this tradition, stockings and the junk in them like expensive candy seems like a waste of money. To me the money spent on stockings could easily be a present in itself. Therefore, since we still had leftover Halloween candy in perfect condition and just as yummy just in orange wrappers, I used that. Wow, did the s*** hit the fan and my husband seriously went out Christmas Eve almost midnight to raid the local store and stocked up on “actual” Christmas Candy! Needless to say I am not in charge of stockings any more.

  41. It really is a crazy part of the year. We have Christmas, our daughter’s birthday on New Years Eve and then our Wedding Anniversary on New Years Day. The way I see about giving gifts under the tree for the spouses, we do this not because we want to but for our kids. We never give gifts from each other, all gifts under the tree are from Santa with two or three gifts from Mommy and Daddy.

  42. I hate gift exchanges too. Gifts are supposed to be personal, why spend money on something you’re not sure is even going to be appreciated?

  43. Well I’m an adult n love getting Xmas gifts. I don’t have kids and I’m not married n no one n it’s usually just my mom n sister bc we can’t afford to visit family for Xmas. I go shopping on Black Friday n buy tons of cheap movies and wrap stuff I buy myself and put it under the tree lol

    Although ppl say I’m hard to shop for mainly for the point you said were adults w jobs n can go buy ourselves stuff…oh well it’s the thought that counts 🙂

  44. My fiance and I always say “no gifts!” every year. Every year, we end up getting each other gifts. It’s stupid and now that we’re getting married, I don’t want to have to add gifts to each other to our budget. I don’t have kids yet but I am sure Christmas will be much more fun when we do.

  45. I just celebrated my first anniversary with my husband and I have spent over $1,000 on him this Christmas. Our first year of marriage he has been away more than home, at basic and military training, so I went a little over board. We aren’t rich and to us that is a lot of money (its more than our monthly rent payment). I love Christmas though, it was my favorite holiday growing up and it holds a special place in my heart. I also like giving gifts, and while you don’t need a holiday for this its just a fun tradition =)

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