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by Abigail Van Buren

Wife Wants 'I Love You' to Be Reserved for Those She Loves

DEAR ABBY: I know it may seem early, but this is the best time to start thinking about the Christmas holidays. Can you offer suggestions on what to buy for family and friends? Money is tight in this economy, and lots of good folks are out of work.

This issue will present itself for everyone. What can parents buy or give to their children and vice versa? -- LOOKING AHEAD IN VISTA, CALIF.

DEAR LOOKING AHEAD: Money IS tight in this economy, and the unemployment figures are mind-boggling. For too long, every holiday has been turned into an opportunity to induce people to shop, shop, shop and buy, buy, buy. That's why I'm suggesting we stop for a moment, examine what's really important about the Christmas season, and focus on that instead of spending money.

The time has come to seriously return to the basics. The most precious gift one can give is the gift of self. A meaningful example of the spirit of giving would be to volunteer some time as a family to serve food, or collect and distribute toys and clothing at a shelter or program for people who are in dire straits.