Figuring Out What It Means to Finish 2020 Strong

In The Before Times, I was always pretty clear on what the end of the year would mean.

Raucous holiday gatherings that I hopefully came in under budget for and could heartily enjoy.

Moments of pause to reflect on goals I met and goals I didn’t.

Way too much hot cocoa. 

And yet somehow, this year is shaping up to be very different. Given the bleak start to fall we are having in the Midwest with local positivity rates hovering at 10%, I already know that holiday gatherings will look different. And given the whirlwind of change and chaos and disruption that was 2020, I’ve long pushed aside most of my goals from the start of the year. 

While there are only two months left in this year, I thought that refocusing and channeling my energy (and dollars) into several areas might be just what I need to finish the year strong.

1. Give more.

When the pandemic started, I sent a temporary boost to several aspects of our budget. Groceries and household goods jumped up by $75. I wasn’t about to feel guilty over buying toilet paper when it came back in stock just because it wasn’t at our usual price point. The same was true for beans, pasta, corn starch, and the dozens of other pantry staples (and luxuries!) that I could no longer find. I also increased our spending so that we could support local businesses with takeout, and I bumped up our charitable giving so that we could try to help more people in need.

When our community slowly reopened, groceries more or less returned to normal and local restaurants were once again packed, we scaled back our budget. While it’s been tempting to also scale back our charitable giving now that my husband is on a leave of absence and our income isn’t nearly what it once was, we’re going to leave this in tact. It would maybe feel better to send that money to savings, but I know that now is the time to give. We also plan to donate whatever is left from our Christmas sinking fund!

RELATED POST: You Don’t Have to Give, But You Absolutely Should

2. Shop small.

Most of our “fun money” is currently getting funneled into air purifiers and cleaning supplies for my classroom. Not fun, but it’s necessary. Plus, it feels better to pull money from there than pulling it out savings when our budget is already running so lean. This change coupled with the fact that restaurants and bars have been reopened for months now meant that we were eating a lot less take out. It felt less like a duty and more like a splurge.

But with cases on the rise (again), our county is facing a second shutdown. We really love our local restaurants, and we plan to more purposefully support them again. In addition to trying to do that on a more ongoing basis, we are also going to take as much of our Christmas fund as we can and spend it on small businesses.

For instance, there is a local toy store that charges a few dollars more per item than Target. But when I think about all the ways that purchasing the same toys locally can make such a difference, it’s an easy call. It just means being a little more mindful with our Christmas sinking fund and our budget!

RELATED POST: What Should I Put on My Toddler’s Christmas List?

3. Fill up my own cup.

I really thought that we were a pandemic success story–whatever the hell that actually means. So far, we’ve navigated so many of the challenges with our finances and our health mostly in tact.

Yet these past few weeks, I’ve realized what a tremendous toll all of this uncertainty has taken on us psychologically and physically. And I never let up. I never gave myself permission to rest or reflect until last week.

I stepped away from the blog last week, and I went to bed early for a change. It didn’t fix anything in the sense that this school year is just as up-in-the-air as ever. But it fixed a lot of things in the sense that it was the first time I’ve given myself permission to pass on an obligation in favor of breathing more time and space and energy into my own life since the pandemic started.

RELATED POST: I Put Down My Badge of Busy and Took A Nap Instead

Final Thoughts on Finishing The Year Strong

This isn’t the year that any of us thought we were going to have. It just isn’t. I may not be working on the same goals as I thought I would, and I may not be ending the year in the same way. But that’s OK for now. In fact, it’s more than OK.

Because when I look at my goals for how I want to finish this year, I see a reflection of the kind of life I want to live. I want to focus on others, and I also want to learn to be kinder to myself. Maybe these goals will help me get a little closer to that. 

So Tell Me…Is there anything in particular you are focusing on as you start to consider the end of the year?


  1. Hey Penny!

    These are such great goals for the remainder of 2020. I’m so glad you took last week off and went to bed early. This year has taken its toll on everyone- even “success” stories. Here’s to hoping you are able to have small moments of peace throughout the remainder of the year.

  2. All three of these are important every year, but especially this year. And please do be kinder to yourself – you’re the best “self” I know! (And I promise I’ll try to do the same for me)
    Big hugs!

  3. Kristin

    Such great focuses for the end of the year and I am so glad you gave yourself permission to step away. We are giving ourselves permission to step away from the hustle and bustle of what the holidays usually are for us and focus on our little family. Less obligations and more togetherness. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Funny timing – I was just starting to think about #3 last week. I’m rethinking the publishing schedule and gave myself Monday night off from working late. I need to figure out what I want to do with the former because I actually quite enjoy the blogging but I’m also going to need a lot less on my plate soon.

    I’m just getting enough brain back to work the first two back into our daily lives again, too.

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