The holidays are a special time of the year for most people. As the year closes out, we often get to see our family and friends and enjoy their company at holiday parties and get-togethers. Traditionally, many enjoy a well-deserved vacation from work for a few days as well. However, for many people, holidays can be a major source of stress, especially when it comes to money. This year, with millions of people unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic, thinking about how you’re going to get through the holidays when your bank account is close to empty can seem especially daunting. It doesn’t have to be that way, however. You can survive the 2020 holiday season even if you’re out of work and low on cash. Here are some great tips for getting by with less money for the holidays.
1. Take Stock and Set a Budget
Before you become overwhelmed with thoughts of going broke over the holidays, you should make a plan. Sit down with a calendar and access to your checking or savings account balances, and look at everything you could possibly do over the holidays. Then, reconcile what you could possibly do with a budget for what you can actually afford. If you have less money than you did during previous holiday seasons, you’ll definitely have to cut some events and activities out this year, as difficult as that may be. However, making a plan for the holidays will eliminate some of the stress and uncertainty, so you can actually enjoy yourself.
2. Be Smart about Gifts
If gift-giving is a big tradition in your circle of friends and family, then set reasonable expectations for this holiday season. It may make sense to reach out to those close to you and tell them that gift exchanges are a bridge too far this holiday season, and perhaps just send meaningful cards to one another this year instead. However, if you do still plan to exchange gifts, make sure to make a plan. First, make sure you set a budget, then, try to make your money go as far as possible by looking for deals everywhere that you can. Check out flyers for bargains and compare prices online. If you wait until the last minute to go gift shopping, you’ll have less of a selection and likely end up spending more for something that the recipient won’t want. Alternatively, if you’re crafty, you could also save money by making personalized gifts for everyone on your shopping list.
3. Stay Home (or Travel Smart)
If your budget is tight this year, consider forgoing travel altogether and staying home. Travel is one of the most expensive and hectic parts of the holidays; it can be difficult to get good deals on airfare or train tickets, and hotels and Airbnb’s are often priced higher due to peak travel times. If you stay local and spend the holidays with people who live close by, you’ll be able to lower your stress a bit and save money in the process. If you do have to travel at this time of year, try to be smart about it. Book your air travel as soon as you can and look for any deals you can find. If you’re driving, see if there’s any way you can carpool with someone to save on gas money. Finally, you should consider staying with friends or family when you get to your holiday destination. Couch surfing for a few days can be much more economical than a hotel.
4. Be the Host
One way to save a little money over the holidays and still have a great time is to be the host with the most. Instead of traveling all over the place, offer to host family and friends from out of town, or offer to have a holiday party in your home or apartment. If your friends and relatives can come to you, you may be able to eliminate hefty travel expenses, especially if there are flight and lodging expenses you’d have to incur. If you end up hosting a holiday party, decorations and party favors can be simple and inexpensive. You can save even more money by making the party a potluck. People usually love sharing their favorite holiday recipes, and if people bring most of the food and drinks to your place, a great party will barely cost you anything at all.
5. Embrace the Real Meaning Behind the Season
Another great tip for getting by with less money for the holidays is to remember why people celebrate them in the first place, especially this year. Instead of stressing out about money and running around to buy gifts and get all those Christmas cards in the mail, try to take a step back and enjoy your time with your family and friends. Chances are strong that many of the people in your inner circle are facing the same financial challenges you are this year. So, share a cup of coffee or a drink with the people close to you, try to forget about money or the lack of it, and enjoy each other’s company as a challenging year ends.
Having Happy Holidays when Unemployed
This is sure to be a challenging holiday season for many, but you can find ways to make the most of it. The aforementioned tips for getting by with less money for the holidays are an excellent start. Be mindful that everyone’s expectations are sure to be lower this year, and rightfully so. Did you give someone an expensive leather jacket last year? Did you rent a space and host an amazing party? Did you mail out personalized Christmas cards that cost you a fortune to have done professionally? Skip all that this year, and focus on the true meaning of the holidays. Your wallet (and your friends and family) will thank you.