Six Holiday Shopping Lessons from the Pandemic

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In 2020, it's hard to plan for holiday shopping without thinking about it through the lens of the year's events -- particularly the pandemic, which ushered in a new lifestyle for many of us. With that in mind, I present to you a short list of holiday traditions to consider as you approach gift-giving and calendar planning. Some of them may even stick -- long after we adapt to our "new normal."

Without further ado, my 2020 tips to manage the holidays in a financially prudent way:

  1. Make a coronavirus-inspired gift list. By necessity, our daily circle of close-proximity friends and family has shrunk. Large gatherings have been a rarity. I don't think I'll soon forget ensuring I was downwind and maintaining about a 15-foot distance from my elderly mom on a recent visit home. Well, if you limit gift purchasing to that short list of nuclear family members, you'll save a ton of money in 2020.
  2. Stay at home, by choice. I don't know about you, but at our house, more time at home has resulted in significant savings in several spending categories. During the holidays, it's amazing how much you can spend going out with friends, window shopping (especially when it goes bad), attending parties and the like. Stick close to home, and you're sure to spend less this year.
  3. Have and stick to a budget. Setting a spending limit and tracking what you spend has long been a staple of a successful gift-buying strategy. If the increase in our U.S. savings rates is any indicator, we, by necessity, have been doing a much better job on that front during the pandemic. Don't lose your focus during the holidays.
  4. Be charitable. One of the beautiful things we've seen this year is an outpouring of support within communities and the country to assist those affected by COVID-19. This holiday season, consider redirecting your efforts by volunteering or donating to a charity that truly captures the spirit of the holidays.
  5. Be frugal. There are a lot of folks out there who didn't need a pandemic to tighten up their spending. However, there are also plenty of folks, me included, who saw all the uncertainty affect their approach to shopping, entertainment and spending, in general. Carry that approach through the holidays, and you'll still have fun, family and togetherness, without putting yourself in financial peril.
  6. Shop for gifts online. Here's an area where we have all upped our game in 2020. Do the same during the holidays. Be surgical in your approach, take advantage of sales and e-coupons, conduct robust research and let potential purchases sit in your shopping cart as an automated cooling-off period to ensure you're getting the right gift at the right price.

Happy Holidays!

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