The holidays, like everything else, look different this year. That means holiday shopping will be different too. Don’t expect to do a lot of in-store shopping as cities around the country go into second rounds of lockdowns and Covid cases continue to spike. And many people probably won’t want to spend a ton of money on gifts this year. That’s okay. There are ways you can save and still make the season a merry one. Here are five ways to do it:
The Gift of Time
We often equate gift giving to mean gifting someone with an object. This year, try giving the gift of time. If you can meet safely outside, spend a socially distanced happy hour with friends or call up a girlfriend across the country to chat on a Friday night. As the pandemic continues, so does our isolation. Setting aside time to connect with friends is important (and free!). This year more than ever, people will appreciate spending quality time with loved ones—whether it’s over FaceTime or safely at a distance—than receiving an overly- priced candle. Keep it personal this year.
Accounting for the Holidays
When trying to save for anything—whether it’s for a spa day or that cool poster you’ve been eyeing—it’s good to keep a separate account. This way you won’t be tempted to dip into it. The nice thing about accounts, too, is that once the money is in there, you’re likely to forget it exists and won’t accidentally spend it. A holiday account doesn’t need to be for expensive items, either. Don’t think of this as an entire savings account for a down payment on a house. It just needs to be a place to set aside money—whatever the amount.We often equate gift giving to mean gifting someone with an object. This year, try giving the gift of time. Click To Tweet
Instead of giving expensive presents, suggest doing a budget-friendly shared activity and paying for it. Even in a pandemic, there’s a way to give activities. Find a movie you and a friend want to watch and rent it on Amazon Prime. You can watch together over FaceTime. Or buy the same book for you and a friend and read it at the same time. By giving smaller gifts that are interactive, you likely won’t spend more than $20. You’ll also be able to partake in the gift and that makes it more fun.
Keep an Eye on the Sales
Take advantage of the deals being offered this year. Some retailers are already planning to extend or shift sales. Amazon moved its Prime Day up from July to October. Keep an eye out for other stores making similar moves, especially local ones. As Amazon sales have boomed this year, small companies are likely looking to make up business lost to the online giant. And the holidays are important. If you see an item you like but it’s too expensive, ask if it’s going on sale or whether they’d give you a price break. It’s a good time to negotiate.
The Earlier The Better
Because there have been delays at the post office and shipping is a nightmare, you should start your holiday shopping early to avoid delays. And since most of us are online shopping, this will save you from paying higher shipping costs the closer we get to the holidays. Before you start buying though, list out the items you want to buy and from where. You don’t want to have to pay a shipping fee twice. Plan to pay an additional $10 for shipping and if you end up getting free shipping, consider that money back into your holiday account.
Remember that if holiday shopping and gift giving is just too hard this year, you can always send money. Sending money isn’t as gauche as it used to be. It’s even nice to receive a surprise $10 in your Venmo account from a friend. It shows that someone was thinking of you and wanted to treat you to something special. Don’t make holiday shopping this year the stressful event it is every other year.
A version of this article was originally published on Forbes.