By Lori Mattson, Associate Program Analyst, ScholarShare Investment Board

December 15, 2020

There is a certain perspective we have this time of year, maybe a bit more reflective, a bit more grateful, and even a bit more generous. The holidays bring out traditions for most of us, typically centered around gatherings and gifts. Even though this year is like no other, we can still share that holiday spirit with those we care about and even create new traditions and memories to find the best in our current circumstances. While 2020 may not have been the year we received everything we wanted, it is the year to appreciate everything we have.

In the midst of a different type of holiday season encompassed by a pandemic, along with continuous market disruptions and volatility with uncertainties in the financial forecast, consider these options for managing the gifting part of the holidays and ensure your financial well-being while contributing to the financial health of your loved ones.

First of all, decide ahead of time what you will spend, then develop and prioritize gift lists that align with your budget. Do not be afraid to make cuts to your list when necessary. Remember, not everyone on your list needs an expensive store-bought gift. Many will appreciate a card and handwritten note or photo, or homemade gift. Once you have established a budget, commit to keeping it.

Secondly, consider the impact of a generous gift of a college education. For a family member, friend, or even yourself, look to open or contribute to a child’s 529 college savings account, a gift that can last a lifetime. There are many ways and sources of creating accounts, crowdfunding or gifting to an existing account, or giving a check for college savings money to grow. In the spirit of the holidays and the spirit of gifting, I can’t think of a better gift than education. We spend our entire lives learning so why not give a gift that will create a legacy of a brighter future?

The “simple living” movement has been gaining steam, never more so than this year. You can embrace this trend when it comes to gifts for your children, other family members, and friends. Focus on fewer, more meaningful gifts; one personal finance blogger suggests this “formula” when shopping for your kids:

  • One thing they really want
  • One thing they really need
  • Something special for them to wear
  • Something special for them to read

You do not need to spend hundreds of dollars on family tickets to The Nutcracker to get into the holiday spirit (in fact, this season you probably can’t). But most cities have free or low-cost family-friendly events like the annual Christmas tree lighting and Christmas music concerts you can enjoy while social-distancing and without spending a penny.

Take a walk or drive through neighborhoods known for lavish holiday lighting displays or spend an evening making homemade ornaments and decorations. Make hot cider or hot chocolate at home. Encourage a sense of giving back by volunteering as a family at a food pantry or clothing drive for those less fortunate in your community.

While the pandemic has certainly changed our way of life this year, hopefully it will give us a greater appreciation for those we hold dear. Happiest of holidays to you and yours.


About the Author

Lori Mattson is an associate program analyst with the ScholarShare Investment Board, the state agency that administers California’s ScholarShare 529.