Being social, staying safe, and making good financial decisions throughout the holidays.
Over the holidays — normal ones — we generally fall into the traveling or hosting category. The pandemic has put the brakes on all that this year, as we stay home to avoid spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. But traditions and celebrating with family and friends are important and having that time together to look forward to — and then look back on — can help us make it through the long winter. This year we need it more than ever, as both everyday worries and financial stress have increased during the pandemic. The good news is that it’s possible to plan a memorable holiday season without putting yourself or others at risk.
Here are some ideas to help keep the holidays meaningful this year while creating some new traditions along the way.
Prepare to be social but safe
- Have a virtual family cook-off where everyone starts with the same ingredients and compares the results. Be sure to include the older generation and choose a leader who’s good at hosting video chats.
- Dress up your table with fun decorations or even hold a centrepiece competition with a prize for the winners.
- If you have family members or friends in assisted living, have some decorations delivered to them to help the holidays feel more festive.
- Bake cookies for your neighbours or volunteer to prepare food for vulnerable families in your area.
- Take your dinner virtual with family members near and far — and remember to snap some photos.
- Downsize your feast, sticking to one or two family favourite recipes, to reduce stress (and cost).
- Ask everyone to wear fun holiday masks (and their ugliest holiday sweaters).
- Support a local business by having a holiday takeout dinner.
- Get outside! Go for a pre- or post-dinner walk with your household. If there’s snow on the ground, get the sled, snowshoes, or skates out.
Make good financial decisions when giving gifts
- Set spending limits and avoid impulse buys. Watch out for overusing credit cards, dipping into your savings, or even tapping into your pension plan savings.
- Purchase small, thoughtful gifts — personal touches are likely to be a lot more meaningful this year.
- Be original and create your gifts. Bake cookies, knit scarves, or design your own holiday cards — it’ll save you money and mean a lot to the recipients.
- Shop online to avoid crowds but be careful of cyber theft. Monitor your credit card activity and confirm deliveries.
- If there’s something you need, such as new tires, ask family members to contribute to your tire fund as a gift.
- Give your future self a gift — consider contributing a little more to your pension plan.
- Open presents together over video chat so you don’t miss out on happy faces unwrapping their gifts.
- Don’t forget it’s also the giving season! Consider making a donation to your favourite charity, which likely needs it more than ever. Don’t forget to get a receipt. You may be able to claim a tax credit.
With a little planning and creativity, you can get through the holidays happily and stay healthy. And if you make smart financial decisions, avoiding debt and not putting a dent in your savings, you’ll feel even less stress when January comes, and your finances are still intact. The important thing is to focus on what you can control. Even if you're only making a small holiday dinner at home, you can make it feel special, and some of the activities you incorporate this year may become traditions for future holidays.
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