The Holidays Will Probably Look Different This Year

Here’s how to budget for them

Once you’re out of school and no longer have summer breaks and tons of random vacations, the holidays seem like the only thing to look forward to. I’m being a little hyperbolic, but to be clear, I love the holidays. Wearing sweaters and eating way too much chocolate isn’t even the best part. It’s about having time to spend baking cookies with friends and family. It’s about togetherness. So… what are we going to do this year?

If you’re not sure what your holidays are going to look like this year (and therefore have no idea how to budget for them), here are some questions that might help give you a little guidance.

1. What do you hope for during the holidays?

There are a plethora of ways we usually spend the holidays. Some of us like to spend time with friends and family. Others of us ward off the cold by taking trips to tropical places. This year may look a little different, and it’s okay to be sad about that. Our worlds have been turned upside down in a lot of ways this year, and we shouldn’t minimize the sadness that comes with those changes. The good news is we may still have an opportunity to accomplish some of the things we want this holiday season.

So you already know I like to spend time with family, but I also hope for space to recharge. In a “normal” year, the holidays were often a time for me to recharge, regroup, and relax. It’s clear that the opportunity for R&R won’t be an issue this year, but I also still want to make sure I can satisfy my desire to have that family time.

For yourself, think about what it is that you value during the holiday season. Is it quality time with loved ones that you’re after? A break? An opportunity for travel? A chance to see the look on your loved ones faces when they open a gift you gave them?

No matter how big or small it may seem, if it’s important to you, it’s worth recognizing.

2. How can you make that happen with COVID?

You’ve had time to reflect on what you value during the holidays. Given those values, is it possible to find alternative plans that allow you to have a fulfilling holiday season and also take your safety (and the safety of those who are travelling with or visiting) into account? Possibly, but it may take some creativity on your end.

We’re lucky in this day and age to have technology and it can allow for so much. If you can’t meet up with family members for dinner or to do gift exchanges, but you’re still itching to celebrate with them, try organizing a video chat party. If you’re planning to meet digitally for dinner, you could even suggest that everyone make the same meal so it feels a little more like you’re all eating together. A few months ago, I had a video chat dinner planned with some friends. Ordinarily, my husband and I would have gone to their house for dinner or they would come to ours and so we’d be eating the same meal. But even though we couldn’t be physically together, sharing the same meal of homemade pizza, salad, and cookies make it feel a little more special.

For some, it might not be possible to see family this year, but it might still be possible to get out of the house for a bit. Consider travelling locally to a place where you feel safe in lieu of crossing the pond or jumping continents. Keep in mind that many states have their own rules about quarantining after arrival. Be sure to check to make sure that you’ll be able to comply with their rules when you arrive. If you are visiting friends or family in person, be sure to include them in the conversation so you know what they’re comfortable with, and ask them to check local regulations in their area so that you can all stay compliant.

3. What are your budget considerations with COVID?

Many of us have been financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Given that, it’s important that we consider our budgets when planning out how we’ll be celebrating this year.

If you value gift-giving and plan to continue that this year, keep in mind that you might have lots of extra shipping costs to account for. (Although, much of that could be offset by not purchasing plane tickets if you would have travelled in other years.)

You might be able to travel locally, but the type and how extravagant of a trip you’ll go on depends on how much you have available in your Vacation Envelope.

No matter what you decide, you can start planning now. If you don’t have one already, consider making an Annual Envelope for Gifts or for Vacation if you plan to spend on either or both this year. And by planning ahead and making an Envelope to save up for your alternative holiday plans this year, you can save yourself some stress when someone asks you what your holidays are going to look like this year.

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