How to Budget for Socially Distant Holidays

It’s hard to believe it, but it’s time to start thinking about your 2020 holiday plans. And around here, that means it’s time to start thinking about your holiday budget. Things are going to be different this year, with social distancing restrictions turning holiday traditions sideways, so let’s take a moment to look at what these brave new holidays will look like from a monetary perspective. Here’s how to budget for your socially distant holidays during COVID-19.

Travel or stay home?

The biggest decision you’ll have to make is whether to undertake your usual holiday travel plans, or to stay home and celebrate remotely instead. If this were a health and science blog, we’d say that you should absolutely and unequivocally stay home! There’s a rampant pandemic on the loose and it’s incredibly irresponsible to visit your elderly relatives at a time like this! 

But we’re a finance blog, so we will just say that if you’re going to travel, you’ll need to rethink your budget. For example, it’s going to be far easier to practice safe social distancing when traveling by car than it is traveling by plane. But gas prices, hotel stays, and meals on the road all add up to make this option a considerable expense. 

Fortunately, you can find some pretty great deals on hotel rooms right now. Gas prices are also in one of their more affordable lulls, although that could always change between now and your trip. At any rate, if you’re going to travel, start planning now.

Mailing gifts

If gift-giving is your thing, it’s highly likely that you’ll mail more presents this year than you have in the past. That means you’ll need to take shipping costs and timelines into consideration. We highly encourage you to use the USPS to find the best shipping rates, but we’ll caution you that you’ll want to get your gifts sent out a little early this year to compensate for the unfortunate dismantling of vital USPS infrastructure that has slowed down delivery service across the country!

Now, when sending your gifts by mail you’ll want to maximize the bang for your buck by being smart about your packaging and shipping choices. If you’re sending someone music, books, or other media, you’ll probably do best to choose the USPS Media Mail option. This and renter’s insurance are two of the best deals in America, so take advantage of it! For everything else, you’re going to have to do some calculations.

The USPS offers flat-rate shipping for items up to 70 lbs through its Priority Mail system. They offer boxes of various sizes, each for a flat fee. This could be a great option for bundling multiple gifts for the same household. Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast rule to finding the best shipping rates, so get out your tape measurer, find your scale, and start crunching numbers

Making something memorable

This year is the perfect year to find some memorable alternatives to your holiday traditions, and that includes your choice in gifts. A homemade card, some made-from-scratch cookies, or other handcrafted gift will have you spending time instead of money, and it’s sure to make a big impact with whomever you send it to. 

If there’s ever been a year to shed the material and celebrate the spirit of community, family, and togetherness behind these holidays, this is the one. Have you spent quarantine learning the harmonica? Send someone a video of you playing them a song. Has watching all of those Bob Ross episodes inspired you to paint? We bet your work can hang on someone’s walls. And if that sort of creativity simply isn’t your thing, we guarantee that a simple phone call will go a long way in letting someone know just how much you appreciate having them in your life.

No matter what you do to start planning your socially distant holidays budget, know that your favorite accountants are here and ready to help!