How to Plan Your Financials for Christmas

2020’s Christmas might look a bit different to other years. COVID-19 has put more economic pressures on some households, and with quarantine facilities already booked into 2021, there will be no overseas visitors.

If you are struggling this year, either from fund shortcomings or because your family and friends are stuck overseas, take some time out to re-think your plans. While grief and sadness are common when our plans do not happen, there’s no reason you can’t reimagine your Christmas.

With global supply chains impacted by COVID, overseas shipping times slowed, and the general chaos the pandemic has caused, Christmas might not be what you wanted it to be; it could be a whole lot better.

It is All About the Money

There are many families across NZ and the world that have had to adjust their belts this year. Some people have lost their jobs, some have taken on reduced hours, and many business owners have experienced a slow-down in the recessive economy.

Luckily, Christmas isn’t all about the gifts. While gift-giving is a part of the festivities, it’s really only ten minutes of frantic paper-tearing, and then it’s just watching the cat play in the wrapping while the baby chews on a box. Studies have shown that in NZ, time with family is the first priority, with 62% of people valuing this above all other aspects. Gifts are only the seventh most important with a measly 13% of people ranking present giving as their favourite thing about Christmas, after summer weather, a break from work, food, time with friends, and Christmas joy/ spirit.

Somewhat ironically, most people hate the commercialization and cost of Christmas. Kiwis create more waste per capita than almost everywhere else in the world. It’s estimated we spend $319 each on gifts (in a family of four, that’s over $1200!). More worryingly, about half of gifts given are either given away, resold, or thrown away. We throw more rubbish out at Christmas too, 30% more.

So, there is a lot of reasons to look critically at your Christmas and what you really value.

Cut back on Christmas gifts

There are some ways to cut back on gifting—and it is not just good for your wallet, but also the planet. The less junk we buy and consume, the better.

  • Have a secret Santa. Using an online tool, randomly allocate people to a giftee. Set a limit to the spend—enough to buy something nice and useful, and not just junk. With the joys of Amazon and credit cards, you can include overseas family in this too, and simply buy them a gift online from a company based in their country, and have it shipped to their home. This means everyone gets one gift and it is something meaningful for them,
  • Don’t buy your kids a bunch of stuff they don’t need. It is becoming increasingly common to have a ‘Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read’ policy.
  • It’s been proven- science tells us kids don’t want gifts, they want to spend time with their parents! Maybe it doesn’t seem like the surly 15-year-old wants to hang out with their Mum and Dad, but they actually do, even though it’s so uncool. While there are loads of ‘experiences’ you can buy, it doesn’t have to be something purchased. It could be as easy as a gift voucher for a day where their child gets a whole day with their parent to themselves:
    • Camping (in the backyard!)
    • Baking together
    • A visit to a zoo, amusement park, or other attraction
    • A picnic together
    • Go to the movies, theatre, ballet or concert together
    • Treasure hunt
    • A day tramp
    • Beach day
  • Home-made gifts are surprisingly cool. Whether it’s a hand-made Christmas decoration for Grandma’s tree, home-made gingerbread cookies, a hand knitted scarf or a family photoshoot, this can be a cheap- thoughtful- and memorable for many years to come.
  • Everyone in the family that can get together buys just one present. Presents are all put into “the bag”. First person withdraws a gift and unwraps it. The next person withdraws a gift and after opening it can decide whether to keep it or swap it with the previous person who has no say in whether their gift gets swapped. Continue until everyone has a gift. This can be RIOTOUS and there are varying rules.
  • Have a second-hand challenge, only buying gifts used from TradeMe or from your local Salvation Army.

Get Zooming

If you have whanau overseas, do a Christmas Zoom call. If you’re doing a secret Santa, you can open gifts together, or even have a meal together if times sync up.

  • To break the ice, you can go round in a Zoom-circle, each person talking about their favourite Christmas memory, or the best gift they ever got (or worst, provided the gift giver isn’t present).
  • Have a Christmas quiz. What were all the names of Santa’s reindeer? Where is sufganiyot eaten for Christmas? Where does Yalda occur?
  • Have a series of questions for family; who is most likely to hurt themselves doing something normal? Who is the grumpiest person? Who is the loudest? Ask the questions in the chat and watch as siblings gang up against each other, or people remember the times their kids did silly things.

Christmas should not be about money

Somewhere along the way, the TV ads and slick marketing tricked us into thinking that Christmas is spending money on gifts. But it’s not. It’s about family, friends, fun, food, and a few rounds of backyard cricket in the sun.

COVID has made it clear in 2020, that what matters is people.  He aha te mea nui o te ao. He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata (What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people). This year think about what really matters. And what your favourite memories of Christmases in the past have been. And I guarantee you will hardly remember the gifts, but you will remember the siblings and nieces and nephews together, the fun, and the joy.