Christmas is a season that stresses people out. I know why but I still don’t get it. Christmas is such a happy time. Seasonal decorations. Seasonal music. Seasonal food. Australia doesn’t get the whole seasons thing so Christmas is the ultimate time of year – the one season we all love to hate.
I particularly love Christmas. I flourish on the very things that stress other people, particularly the mother that I live with. The family dinners, the barbeques with friends, the cooking, the shopping, the gifts, the wrapping, the cleaning, the decorations, the constant sweeping under the Christmas tree to pick up the dropped pine needles. What’s not to love? People, generosity, food, the Christmas smell?
This morning I went to Aldi and Woolworths with my mother for “a few last minute things” we apparently couldn’t get two days ago when we were also at the supermarket. Usually I would volunteer to drive, but at the last minute I couldn’t be bothered walking upstairs to get my wallet. I relinquished the control and experienced the other way to do Christmas. I love my mum but we look at situations very differently.
For all its generalisations, the Type A/Type B personality is an appropriate example. I’m the former; mum’s the latter. While circling the carpark she decided in less than 30 seconds, parking in a side street more than a 500metre walk from the shops entrance was her game plan. I tried to share my car parking tips. Her response, **brake!** “Do you want to drive?!” Alas, we found a park within 5 minutes (actually we found one in two minutes but some dick literally stole it. Think reverse park undertake. Yeah, not cool. I said some words and leant over from the passenger seat to slam the horn to which my mother said, “Melanie, language please.”)
I know my approach is a little different to others and probably sounds like a nightmare to most. I’d like to experience a less rigid, less haste way to do Christmas but all I see is stress or Christmas Eve Eve 24-hour shopping. In the words of a dear friend, I know “We’re not all Melanie Pennington,” but seriously what other game plans are out there?
Here’s Christmas the Melanie Pennington Type A way:
Plan and do it early.
Don’t procrastinate. Christmas shopping in the week of Christmas is not planning. Deciding what to get someone at the shops is not planning. Going to the shops is not planning. (Online shopping is where it’s at. They deliver it to your house/workplace for cheap-cheap-cheap or even free!!).
Don’t guess what your loved ones would like.
Yes, you could ask them (or in my case get them to give you a list, see below), but better yet – listen to them. If they’re forward they’ll tell you, but I prefer to jot down their gripes from about September onwards. “I never have any tops to wear.” “My favourite perfume is about to run out.” “You have so many nice necklaces.” “Wow, check out this super speedy top of the range computer-y thing.” Boom, Christmas present decided.
Write a list – for everything!
A Christmas wish list (from September onwards, if I think of something I need, it goes on the list), the Christmas gift list for everyone else, the menu, the decorations. A list means you won’t forget anything.
Budget for it.
Work out how much gifts will cost you and then spread it out across the year. In my annual budget I allocated $10 per week or about $50 a month to Christmas and Birthday gifts. I don’t have a credit card choosing to live in the present not the future. “Oh budget, smudget,” I hear you say. Here’s why: when your employer tells you they’ve screwed up your contract and you won’t get paid throughout December until Christmas Eve, you can say “okay” and not completely freak out. (Note: I didn’t. I told them a lot less friendly words before confirming because of my organisation I wouldn’t need to scour dumpsters for food for the month.)
Tackle a carpark like it’s a game.
To win is to find a park – a close one and quickly. To lose is to drive in circles aimlessly. Game plan: Pray. Drive towards where the people on foot are entering the carpark. Follow. Pounce. Job done. Thank God.
Move like you’re on a mission.
At the supermarket, if the list has more items than you can hold without probably dropping the strawberries, grab a trolley. If you think you probably can hold it all do it. Baskets are for sissys. People will avoid a trolley on a mission or poor girl holding the last minute shampoo grab with her chin. If you move around with speed and purpose, other people will move. The old lady with a trolley is primed to be overtaken mid-aisle. Supermarket aisles are wide enough for 3 trolleys. You will fit between the two idiots old friends, catching up beside the tomato relish. At Westfield, plot out your route. Take short cuts through the multi-entrance stores, use the escalators inside department stores or the stairs halfway between the main centre ones. If you walk fast, you avoid those semi-familiar peopel from high school or your mother’s friend who wants an update on your entire family. Ie. They’ll inconvenience you to make you stop. (Note: downside, you’ll also walk straight past your best friend unless they are bold enough to yell your name out.)
Set a time limit.
Shopping isn’t meant to take all day. The aim is to be inside the shops not circling in the carpark. Tackling the shops prior to a social outing gives you a deadline. We all work better with a deadline. With a time limit your better placed to move yo’ butt faster, not fret over which brand of sliced almonds are cheaper (unit pricing FTW!) and to choose the quick aisle. There’s a lot riding on it. Fail at sticking to the time limit and you’ll be late to your next activity.
Keep a well-stocked gift drawer.
Throughout the year, keep your eyes out for bargains. My favourite markdowns are usually at Kikki K, Sussan, Typo, Lovisa, Witchery, David Jones food section. My reward cards tell me so. The extra item here and there don’t break the budget (in fact they’re budgeted for each month in ‘miscellaneous’) and when you find yourself heading off to a party with another Secret Santa and you’ve already re-gifted that weird mug from your colleague/aunt, grab something from the drawer. The friend you’ve failed to catch up with since last Christmas hands you an unexpected gift, grab the pre-wrapped gift from your handbag. No stress. Disaster averted. (Goes without saying, a gift drawer is paired with a wrapping box with ribbon, doilies and cards for every occasion.)
And so here I am sitting in my room on Christmas Eve with all my gifts purchased and wrapped, food items purchased and the time to prepare them scheduled. My leftover paper, doilies and ribbons are with my sister as she wraps her boyfriend’s parents’ gift. My gifts for my sister and brother-in-law living 4000km away under their tree (thanks to Express Post. I may have left it one day too long for Australia Post to guarantee its delivery and an extra day for my sister to likely need to pick it up from the post office because she wasn’t home). There are homemade Christmas bunting flags fluttering in the wind outside and a Santa snowman is at home on the inside our front door. I wish I could say I have Christmas carols playing, but I’d be lying. I like to think I’ve mastered Christmas. I like to think I’ve won at Christmas season. But there’s my Type A talking.
Wondering if there’s a downside, check out ‘10 reasons you should be glad you’re Type B’.
(In short, be happy because I’ve got nothing but heart attacks and heart ache coming my way).
I’m completely aware this article reads very self-absorbed. If you saw me writing it, you would see the little smirk on my face – the kind of smirk my friend Kimjeng would like. With all the above out in the open, I completely appreciate my mother does things differently, yet also gets the job done – just less efficiently!