Can you believe it’s already November? Pretty soon it’ll be December, and then we’ll have a fresh new year ahead of us. At the beginning of the year, most of us didn’t think that 2020 would be such an isolating time. But we’ve all been doing the best we can to keep traditions alive while staying safe.
Aside from being far away from our family members this year, the health crisis has also caused a lot of financial hardships throughout the nation. Many Americans are struggling to survive. Between the two, that means that this year, Thanksgiving is going to look very different. The winter holidays will also likely take a hit.
But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t find ways to celebrate. Thanksgiving is about being grateful for what you have in front of you. If it’s not a plate of turkey, it may be something else. Perhaps your relationship with your spouse has improved this year since you’ve become more of a team. Or maybe you’ve learned that downsizing has made your life feel more manageable. No matter what, there are still aspects in your life worth celebrating, regardless of what your bank account looks like.
Still, if you’re looking for ways to put aside some extra money while keeping the holiday spirit afloat, here are some good suggestions on how to cut costs and save this holiday.
Consider meeting virtually.
This year, it’s not a great idea to meet up for Thanksgiving — at least according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s because a lot of people tend to travel for the holidays. With every public stop someone makes by car (or for every plane ride someone takes), they’re risking exposure. If you’ve suffered from financial hardships this year, that’s another reason to cancel out travel, because it can get very expensive.
While meeting virtually may not be the same, there are plenty of benefits behind it. For one, seeing everyone you love on the screen will lift your spirits. Secondly, you don’t have to worry about any awkward conversations over dinner. And by staying at home, you’re not only making the healthy choice — you’re saving on gas, road snacks, and a possible hotel room stay.
Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum/Unsplash
Remember that it doesn’t have to be turkey on your plate.
Sure, turkey is the most popular choice for Thanksgiving dinner. But it can also be expensive. One way to save this year is to clip coupons and be on the lookout for specific store promos.
It’s also possible that you’re living in a place with a small kitchen, making it difficult to cook a whole turkey. This year, consider making food that you truly enjoy. Build your own feast. If you ever wanted to have a Thanksgiving dinner consisting just of sides, this is your year.
Thanksgiving is largely about food, but that’s not the only part of it. It’s a time where we sit down and reflect on all the blessings we have. For example, even if you lost your job, you may be thankful for the network of friends and supporters who are on the lookout for leads. Knowing that there are people willing to help is something to be very thankful for. And you can be thankful even if you’ve opted to order a pizza instead of preparing a large feast.
Consider selling some of the things you no longer use.
Look around your house. Is it time for a purge? Even though it may be too cold and too unsafe to have a yard sale right now, there are still plenty of ways to ship out products to others for some extra money. eBay is always a great tool, but there are also sites like Decluttr that’ll pay you to ship out old CDs and DVDs.
It may seem sad to get rid of them, but be honest — if you haven’t watched a DVD in years, the money you may accrue from selling them will be far more beneficial.
Go for a hike and use nature to help decorate.
This all depends on the area you live in, since it’s harder in cities, as well as states that get extra cold and snowy in November without fail. But if you can find a way to take a fun walk outside with your family, it’ll be a great bonding exercise — and it’s free.
You can also easily turn a nature hike into a fall scavenger hunt. If you ask your kids to find and collect leaves and pine cones, you may be able to turn them into a festive Thanksgiving centerpiece when you get home. By creating art with what you find in nature, you’re teaching your children how to be crafty. Pretty soon, they may be able to even craft some Christmas presents for family members.
Participate in a gift exchange.
It’s a lot easier to pool friends together and buy a gift for one of them than buying each person something individually. Save money for the holidays by setting up a gift exchange now so that you and your friends will understand how this year will be expected to play out. Gifts don’t need to be expensive, either. Set aside a limit of $30, and then schedule a Zoom call where you can watch each other open presents closer to the holiday. It’ll be a lot of fun and save you a ton.
Set aside a budget — and stick to it.
It’s very easy to spend outside of your limit during the holidays. Whether it’s tacking on a few extra dollars for the organic turkey or treating yourself to a pumpkin spice latte every day it’s chilly outside, funds can unexpectedly disappear. Make sure you and your partner are fully on the same page about spending.
If you’ve been hit hard by the health crisis, every dollar counts. Hopefully, things will recover soon — but for now, having strict control over the budget will help make sure you don’t sink into debt this year. Even if you feel like you haven’t bought enough presents for your kids compared to other years, remind yourself that what you have is plenty. If they question it — which is unlikely — let them know that Santa has also had a hard year but is doing the best he can.
Switch to drinking water.
On the topic of those pumpkin spice lattes, you may want to ditch your Starbucks trips entirely if you’re trying to save some money for the holidays. But other drinks from the grocery store can also add dollars to your trip. For example, soda is not the cheapest drink you can get. Canned seltzer water can also be pricey in some areas.
Try to see if you can happily switch to cold tap water. Tap water is easy to come by — and unless you live in a city where it’s unsafe to drink, it’ll be much healthier. If that gets a little boring, there are plenty of flavor drops you can add in for an extra kick. It’s a guarantee that this change will also make you feel better as we head into winter.
Plan meals and shopping lists ahead of time.
It can be amazing to see the amount of food that gets wasted due to poor planning. This isn’t just a good skill to learn to save up some money for the holidays — it’s also a great way to limit your amount of food waste.
Every week, make a plan of what you’re going to make and eat. Stick to your list, and don’t stray from unnecessary add-ons that seem tempting while you’re shopping. Within a few weeks, you should see your grocery bill go down a lot once spontaneous purchases are out of the picture. You’ll also end up saving a lot of time in your day that was likely spent wondering what’s for dinner.
Typically, the only difference in the grocery store brand is the packaging. Mental Floss suggests going generic on many products but mostly produce — since it’s rare for one head of iceberg lettuce to taste different from another that’s more expensive.
“Brands that don’t own their farms pay other farmers for their crops, and while different farms may have different methods for growing and harvesting food, a flashier name doesn’t guarantee you a better product,” the site suggests. By going generic, you’re cutting down on cash spent while still getting everything you need to get by. And since many Thanksgiving meals include a bunch of produce, you can use this tip immediately.
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