Editor’s note: Quorum is not affiliated with any of the companies mentioned in this article and derives no benefit from these businesses for placement in this article.
Everything has been turned on its head this year by the coronavirus pandemic, and the holidays are no exception. From the way you shop to where and how you celebrate, expect it to be different.
Even so, different doesn’t necessarily mean unpleasant. You might actually find your holidays more enjoyable because 2020 is giving you the excuse to skip or change traditions that have lost their luster.
One thing is certain: this isn’t the year for last-minute shopping. Get started now with these tips.
Protect Your Finances
Amid the holiday excitement, it’s easy to get carried away and buy more extravagant gifts than you can afford or to overspend on decorations and celebrations. Pandemic fatigue might make that even more tempting this year, even as budgets are potentially tighter due to a struggling economy.
Although overindulgence may feel good and generous in the moment, it’s not worth the buyer’s remorse when the bills come due. Here’s a healthier plan for your wallet:
- Know what you can afford: Whether you’ve already saved for the holidays or plan to use upcoming paychecks, figure out how much you can reasonably afford this year without tapping into your emergency fund or piling on credit card debt.
- Create a holiday budget: Divvy up what you can afford between holiday gifts, decorations and food. When shopping, stick to your budget. If you do spend more than intended on a gift, that’s okay as long as you make up the difference by spending less on something else.
- Track your spending: Keep tabs on how much you’re spending along the way and set aside money for anything charged to your credit card so you can pay it off without incurring interest.
Safeguard Your Health
In addition to keeping your finances in good shape, you also want to take care of your physical health throughout the holidays. Options for shopping include:
- Online shopping: You can avoid all the crowds and traffic by shopping from the safety of your home. Just be aware that you may see increased shipping charges and delayed deliveries due to more people shopping online, as well as because of possible supply chain issues.
- Curbside pickup: This eliminates shipping fees and the need to enter the store. Plus, retailers have figured out how to make this really easy for shoppers. On the downside, you may still run into inventory shortages or slower order fulfillment.
- Shop in-store: If you choose to stop in-store, take proper health precautions: Shop at off-peak times, use contactless payments and follow CDC guidance on wearing a mask, watching your distance and washing your hands.
Capitalize on Deals
Earlier shopping often means more deals to snag, even if you missed Amazon Prime Day. Many retailers aren’t waiting until the day after Thanksgiving to slash prices. Walmart is staggering its Black Friday sales over three Deals for Days events scheduled throughout November, and GameStop recently announced that its hottest holiday deals will be available earlier than ever this year.
To get the most for every dollar, try these strategies:
- Scoop the big sales: Check out sites like BestBlackFriday.com and com to get a sneak peek at various retailers’ Black Friday and Cyber Monday ads.
- Use cash-back offers and coupons: Sign up to receive coupons directly from retailers like Bed, Bath and Beyond, or take advantage of sites that offer cash-back programs and coupon codes for free like RetailMeNot or Rakuten.
- Sign up for rewards: Many major retailers, including Kohl’s and Macy’s, offer reward programs that give you access to discounts and store cash, even if you don’t have a store card.
- Comparison shop: Want to know what store has the best price? A site like popcart.com can tell you. Or to avoid delivery charges, check out freeshipping.org.
Stay Vigilant About Cybersecurity
With more people shopping online this holiday season, cybercriminals will be hunting for deals, too, i.e., access to your credit card. When online, protect yourself by:
- Visiting websites that you know are legitimate
- Looking for the padlock icon or “https” prefix before you enter your payment details
- Using private, password-protected Wi-Fi
And watch out for seasonal scams. This time of year, there’s often an uptick in unsolicited emails or phone calls touting unreal deals or requesting donations. If you’re on the receiving end of either, don’t click on an email link or divulge personal information. It’s safer to call, email or directly visit the company’s website to verify the deal or request is legitimate.
Enjoy Your Holidays
By following these money tips and taking the necessary precautions whether you’re traveling over the holidays or staying home, you can still revel in the most wonderful time of the year without going broke or increasing your chance of getting sick.