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Creating a holiday budget during COVID-19

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Despite the tidings of comfort and joy, the holidays can be stressful in some capacity for many of us.Despite the tidings of comfort and joy, the holidays can be stressful in some capacity for many of us.

The pressure of purchasing gifts added with hosting the perfect family dinner with a pandemic to top it all off will likely have more weight on our minds than usual this year, even if it’s supposed to yield a few days of relaxation.

I can personally say that navigating my affinity for gift-giving has proven to be tricky, considering the global economic stress that COVID-19 has brought.

Regardless, I still believe the holidays are a good opportunity to show each other some love and compassion, especially during these uncertain times.

Here are a few universal tips to help creating a holiday budget during COVID-19.

1. Accept what’s changed

First and foremost, accept that things have changed. Chances are your holiday budget doesn’t look quite the same as it did last year or other years, for that matter—and that’s perfectly normal.

The fact that you’ve made it to the holiday season is a blessing, and no one should get down for having tighter money than usual, especially when it comes to purchasing non-necessities.

Before diving into making a holiday budget for this year, leave any notions or expectations of what a typical holiday season should resemble behind.

Things are noticeably different this year. After all, the entire world is different. It isn’t worth stretching yourself thin to try to make this holiday season resemble previous seasons that weren’t dealing with a pandemic.

2. Keep things simple

Simple is the route I’ve decided to take in terms of gift-giving this year. Everyone receiving gifts from me this year is getting a variation of the same thing. Everything is the same price, too, which means I can do a one-stop-shop for every purchase.

Having a dedicated amount to spend on gifts for a person is essential to avoid going over budget and spending money you don’t have.

You don’t need an elaborate list for every person in your life. Keep your gift-giving simple. It’ll keep your budget simple, too.

3. Reimagine the holiday season

Along with gift-giving, the holidays tend to come with many other expenses, like food, activities, and travel expenses.

Considering the hefty price tag that comes with all the aspects of celebrating the holidays, it might be time to re-imagine your holiday season. Your bank account will inevitably thank you.

The world is changing, and your holiday traditions might be too. Consider swapping a holiday feast for a more modest affair this year.

Instead of dropping cash on pricey holiday markets or events, you can always drive or walk around and check out your neighborhood’s lights and decorations for free.

4. Don’t put the money you don’t have in your holiday budget

One of the riskiest things you can do when it comes to spending is getting a little too swipe-happy with your credit card.

Given that people worldwide are struggling with our finances this year, it’s best to leave the credit cards out of it when you can.

Racking up a bunch of consumer debt during a pandemic is not what you want. It’ll leave you worse off financially, and spending a ton of money is not what anyone needs to have a happy holiday.

Sticking to a budget is a lot easier when using cash. You can withdraw the exact amount you’d like to spend. Cash allows spenders to make more effective decisions and track how much they have as the amount descends rather than ascends.

5. Use free budgeting tools

If you need an extra nudge to help you budget, there are some great budgeting tools out there.

You can go digital with budgeting apps like Mint, Every Dollar, or PocketSmith, to help you create a budget and track your spending.

You can also create a specific holiday budget using pen and paper. It has the potential to work more with more effectiveness and accuracy than a budgeting app, too.

6. Repurpose your travel money

COVID-19 delayed and canceled travel plans for a lot of people. Whether you scored a refund on a canceled trip or still have some savings in your vacation fund, consider repurposing this money and using it to fund your budget for the holidays.

Of course, this isn’t a must-do, but if your holiday is more of a priority than your (likely distant) travel plans, it’s a good way to make space in your budget.

7. Give (if you can)

Donating money or time isn’t exactly feasible for everyone, especially this year.

However, if you are fortunate during these precarious times, make sure you can include donations in your holiday budget.

Many people are struggling financially this year, and the holidays are an amazing time to lend a hand in whatever way you can.