Who would have thought this time last year that 2020 would turn out the way it has?
Many people I speak with are excited about it finally being December with a new year just on the horizon. Others can’t believe how quickly this year has flashed past and are alarmed that it’s December already.
One thing everyone says to me is they want things to return to ‘normal’. Those of you, who read my AMC articles, know that the only thing I know that is normal is a cycle on a dishwasher or a washing machine.
However, I do feel we all want to go back to doing as many of the regular things we used to enjoy pre-Covid. That’s becoming easier as social distancing rules are relaxed and bigger gatherings can now return to outdoor and indoor venues.
Post-Covid is now being referred to as the ‘new-norm’, short of course for the new normal.
The best ways to achieve this is by getting back into as many regular routines as soon as possible and reinstate the rituals and traditions that anchor us to our family, the community and our beliefs.
December is the perfect month to start as it is already steeped in traditions and rituals most of us have been following our whole lives.
Not everything can return to how it was pre-Covid, especially if being on separate continents is what’s separating you from your loved ones. That’s when we need to be flexible and start making new procedures, like Zoom calls instead of meeting face to face.
It’s easy to implement new traditions; all it takes is a bit of planning.
Two of the main traditions celebrated in Australia in December are Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival also known as the Festival of Lights, from 10-18th December and Christmas day on 25th December, when Christians commemorate the birth of Christ.
My parents and eldest brother came to Australia as refugees in 1950 so they barely had any possessions to their name but they did bring with them all their traditions and rituals to help them feel grounded again.
Dad was a Holocaust survivor, who left his Jewish customs behind him so I’m not too familiar with the rituals of Hanukkah but my Catholic mother introduced us to all the Christmas traditions from her upbringing.
It started on 1st December when we put up the Christmas tree and all the decorations. It was equally important to Mum when the tree and decorations were taken down. It could be done any time after Boxing Day but had to be completed by Drei-Königs’ Tag (Three Kings’ Day) also known as Epiphany Day, which is 6th January, twelve days after Christmas.
We didn’t have much money growing up but our excitement would start to build when Mum would bring home a couple of bottles of soft drink during each of her weekly shopping trips in December to stash away for Christmas.
As we had no relatives in Australia we spent Christmas Day visiting Mum & Dad’s friends but Christmas Eve was always a family affair.
We never had the customary hot Christmas Day roast lunch but we did have our own special, albeit unconventional, Christmas Eve dinner that we all adored. Mum would heat up frankfurts and make her famous potato salad and we always opened our presents on Christmas Eve too.
One year when my brother Eddie was about three or four, Mum & Dad decided to adopt the Aussie tradition of opening presents on Christmas morning. It was no surprise when it never gained any traction after Eddie kept waking Mum and Dad up every hour from about 3:00am onwards asking if it was time to open our presents yet.
Speaking of presents, many of us are already nursing a financial hangover from lack of work during Covid and the last thing you want is to wind up with an even bigger financial migraine by over-spending on gifts for those you love.
How to budget for Christmas 2020
- If you’re hosting family and friends over this silly season, consider asking everyone to bring a plate or to all kick-in some dollars instead of the entire expense landing on your lap.
- Work out how much you can safely spend and stick to it. Set out a budget so you don’t get yourself in financial strife.
Very little cash is being exchanged post-Covid and many businesses now give you no choice but to make electronic payments. It makes it very easy to lose track of our spending when we ‘tap and go’ or when making those ‘one-click’ purchases online.
If you don’t have the money it’s best to be cautious and not over-use your credit cards or buy everything on Afterpay and start 2021 with bill shock and financial hardship.
If you can’t pay your credit cards off in full by the due date then be sure to check what the enormous interest rate is on your card and add that to the price of the items you’re buying.
Here’s my simple three step budgeting policy;
- Staples – the money you need to cover all your living expenses
- Splurges – the fun stuff after your bills are paid
- Savings – anything left over that you can put away for a rainy day
- If funds are limited try not to bow to family or peer pressure or be persuaded by marketing and advertising that forces you to believe you have to shower your loved ones with gifts to show your love.
- Make a list of the people you’re buying presents for and the dollar amount you’re able to afford alongside each and take it with you when you go Christmas shopping to keep you on track and avoid impulse buys that can easy blow your budget.
- Give gift vouchers to allow the recipient to buy what they want when things go on sale from Boxing Day, giving them more ‘bang for your buck’.
Christmas present ideas
- Provide a service by giving your free time instead of spending money on a gift.
Think about giving a service you’re good at like a foot massage or an offer to baby sit or mow the lawn or do a chore you know will be appreciated.
This is not a present that can be returned or exchanged or hidden in the back of the cupboard or re-gifted and despite it not costing you any money, I believe it could become one of the most loved, sentimental and memorable gifts you have ever given.
- Group together to buy for one
If finances are low, think about all chipping in a small amount with your siblings or workmates and buying one really nice gift for your parents or boss.
- Secret Santa or Kris Kringle is popular in the work place and is gaining more traction at home these days. Kris Kringle can be a gift or kind deed you’ll do for the person whose name you’ve draw out. Generally it is without that person knowing the source of their gift but I know families and work colleagues, who tell the person they are buying for to ensure they get some gift ideas they know they will really want.
- No presents for adults just for children
This is a great way to avoid overspending and to stop you from getting all those unwanted gifts.
- We all love to spoil our children but it might also be a good year to start limiting their number of gifts too.
There’s a great formula called Want, Need, Wear, Read. The idea is to only give four gifts to any child; Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read.
Some even add a 5th gift for their child to give to a charity of their choice.
It’s a great way to give your children some life lessons and involve them in the decision-making process and show them how to help those less fortunate.
- Make or bake your own gifts – not only will you save money but it will be a treasured gift from the heart.
- No gifts might seem a bit too radical but at the very least this year is expected to be much less extravagant.
In the end, Christmas is meant to be a time to enjoy each other’s company, even if it is via a screen and not face to face and you don’t need expensive gifts to do that.
Time is our most precious commodity and is the best gift we can give to the people we love.
It’s been a very tough year and many people have cash flow issues and will appreciate that it’s the thought that counts.
Keep a lookout for those around you who either don’t have any family or can’t get to see them this year.
I wanted to leave you with a profound statement I read recently from US actor Michael J Fox, who is famous for starring in the Back to Future movies. It was in relation to him battling Parkinson’s disease but I it felt it was equally philosophical when I looked at it from a Covid perspective.
Michael J Fox says, “Optimism is really rooted in gratitude”.
“Optimism is sustainable when you keep coming back to gratitude, and what follows from that is acceptance. Accepting that this thing has happened, and you accept it for what it is. It doesn’t mean that you can’t endeavour to change.”
“It doesn’t mean you have to accept it as a punishment or a penance, but just put it in its proper place. Then see how much the rest of your life you have to thrive in, and then you can move on.” – Michael J Fox
Season’s greetings and stay safe…cheers susie
Susie Elelman AM
Author, TV & Radio Broadcaster