The madness has begun. Traffic is a nightmare, parking spaces are scarce and the crowds are crazed. The lines are long at checkout and the shelves of display are a mess. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday have come and gone.

It's the holiday shopping season.

While all of the customer frenzy is good for the economy (and a little surprising given the fact that Connecticut unemployment rate hovers around 9 percent), it can make a grown person want to skip it all and put money in envelopes for his or her family members as gifts. Like my grandmother used to say in the envelopes she gave her grandchildren, "Go buy your own."

In my immediate family, we stopped the buying of presents at Christmas years ago. It got to the point where we were buying stuff just to buy stuff. And some of that stuff never got used or was returned to the store.

However, my sister, who was the one who successfully suggested that no-gift-buying thing, now finds herself immersed in the holiday insanity because she and her husband have four children and 12 grandchildren between them. Wrapped presents get stacked from floor to ceiling at their house in preparation for the big day.

As for myself, I only buy presents for my great-nephews, but in the last few years I have been unable to do so because I was a little strapped for funds. My financial situation certainly was partly my doing. I tried to be a freelance writer, but the sluggish economy kept interfering with me getting work. And the steady work I did have suddenly was gone.

Now, with my return to full-time employment, I can afford to give my great-nephews a little something to open from me. They are all good kids and don't really care what they get. My two oldest nephews are happy with gift cards for a game store so they can buy their own.

My financial situation also was partly due to the rising costs of just about everything, including the expense to live here in good ol' Fairfield.

Here's what I want for Christmas this year: Town and school officials with common sense when they get around to crafting the municipal budget for 2013-14, which is in the early stages now but will be in full swing just after the first of the year.

Despite the pleas of taxpayers last spring, officials still raised our taxes by 4 percent to pay for the $272 million budget for 2012-13. Can we the taxpayers afford another 4 percent hike? I don't believe so.

Let's take a serious look at spending and see where we can reasonably cut to lessen the burden on already beleaguered taxpayers. And I'll renew my call to see where in the workforce we can find savings. Do we really need all of the people employed by the Town of Fairfield and Fairfield Public Schools?

So I've put together my wish list:

Cut spending.

Reduce taxes.

It's as simple as that.

Patricia A. Hines is a Fairfield writer, and her "Hines Sight" appears every other Friday. She can be reached at She also can be followed at or @patricia_hines on Twitter.