Nothing has been normal about 2020. The holidays will be different too. With financial uncertainty, qualms about traveling and the coronavirus still ever present, should you change your approach to the holidays?
There’s no right or wrong answer. Much depends on your head space, heart and wallet. The experts weigh in on ways to ring in the festive season.
Don’t overextend yourself
"It’s a bit of a throwback to years ago where the cliche was that socks were given as a present. In these trying times, a lot of what was old and ‘basic’ is back into vogue. For many people, priorities have been redefined for the better!" says Brian Cohen, principal and investment adviser with Landmark Wealth Management in Melville.
Be mindful of the holiday hoopla. "Retailers are planning to rake in big bucks this holiday season because they know that people have spent less — due to the pandemic — and plan to splurge. Remind yourself, though the calendar year will change, the economy likely won't. Don’t let the fear of missing out cause overspending," says Howard Dvorkin, CPA and chairman of Debt.com.
If money is tight, tell your kids. "If you give in to their wishes, this will set a bad precedent and could prevent them from learning the value of money. Explain how needs and wants differ," says Leslie Tayne, a debt resolution attorney with the Tayne Law Group in Melville.
Remember others outside your circle
With the pandemic, many people will be needy. "Charitable giving during this holiday can be a great activity for the whole family. If you’re able, consider having your kids choose an organization or cause to support that you can donate to or volunteer with this holiday season," says Abel Oonnoonny, vice president and senior financial consultant at Charles Schwab in Manhattan.
Create a budget
Maybe you typically wing it when it comes to financing the holidays. Not now. Plan and create a gift-giving budget. To start, make a list of everyone you want to buy gifts for. Then add that list of people to a spreadsheet, like Excel or Google Sheets, and next to each name add the maximum amount of money you can spend on that person," says Rebecca Hunter, CEO of the personal finance website, theloadedpig.com.
If you don’t know how much you can spend on each person, one way to start is to decide how much you can spend on gifts in total and divide that by the total number of people. Then adjust as necessary for each person, she says. Keep your gift-giving budget handy while you're shopping online and do your best to not overspend.
Stretch your dollars. You’ll likely be doing much of your shopping online. "Open a new email account for the holiday season, so you can subscribe to sales alerts and exclusive email deals from your favorite retailers without clogging your primary inbox," Tayne says.
To ensure you're getting a good deal when an item is on sale, use price-tracking tools such as CamelCamelCamel to get a good idea if you're paying a fair price. SlickDeals allows you to create alerts when new deals pop-up matching products, categories, or brands you've chosen, she says.
Make a debt-payoff plan
As much as you try to stay on budget, shopping happens. Deal with it quickly. Says Tayne, "Cut back spending in some categories to make additional payments on your credit card statements. If you have a cash back credit card, redeem rewards as a direct deposit or a statement credit, which can help pay down your holiday debt as well."