This COVID Holiday Season Calls for Budgeting Your Spending and Eating

Pile of money set amongst Christmas presents

This year I've heard tales of the dreaded "COVID 15;" I've even experienced it myself. For many of us, an overabundance of stress leads to an overabundance of consumption, in multiple facets of our lives. Not only does uncertainty trigger unhealthy eating habits, but it also triggers damaging spending habits.

If there ever were a year to navigate the holidays in a prudent manner, this is it. This holiday season make it your goal to get through the season with no extra padding -- on your scale or on your credit card statements.

The following tips will keep you on course when it comes to eating and spending. The payoff? Starting 2021 without needing to add weight or debt reduction to your New Year's resolutions.

Set a calorie limit. We all know that establishing a daily calorie cap and tracking where you stand can help you ease through a minefield of eating opportunities. To stay financially fit, put a cap on your holiday spending, too. This means figuring out how much you can afford to spend for gifts before you shop. Ideally, you're shopping with money you've already set aside, but regardless, make a commitment to shop within your means, and keep detailed records.

Make a list. If you don't buy that pie at the grocery store, it won't add to your waistline. Likewise, if you can resist impulse buys, you won't add to your debt load. It's true that the music, aroma of holiday goodies and a generally festive atmosphere can cause even the best-laid plan to go awry. So, protect your stomach and wallet from this assault of the senses by sticking to your list and not adding to it twice. Remember, a huge debt load is just not nice.

Maintain control. Success in the battle of the bulge has a lot to do with creating helpful guardrails. Often, this means taking simple steps such as eating healthy meals at home rather than racking up calories out on the town. Such maneuvers also work on the financial front. One of the best guardrails is to shop using cash only. Credit cards provide the greatest opportunity to spend what you don't have or didn't plan on. Sticking to cash helps you stay in control. When it's gone, you're done.

Be creative. No, this isn't in my wheelhouse. But whether you're taking the stairs instead of the elevator to burn calories or looking for ways to finish the holidays with no more debt than you started with, it makes sense to put your imagination to good use. On the gift front, it could be baked goods, coupons for services (can you say parents' night out!), or even cool photos that capture an important moment or friendship. And what's wrong with drawing names? This may not work for the little tykes but for grownups like you and me, it means picking a special gift for that family member and spending less all around.

Don't buy what you don't need. Whether it's groceries or gifts, we all have fallen into the trap of, "if it's on sale, buy it." This year safeguard your diet and your budget with this qualifier: It has to be on your list. In other words, try to buy stuff that you intended to buy anyway while it's on sale. Don't expand your shopping spree just because something seems like a good deal. Doing so is a recipe for extra calories and spending.

So, there you have it. Incorporate these techniques, and you'll be smiling all the way through the holidays and right into the New Year -- without a big chunk of new debt or a winter "coat." And remember, it's not too early to start saving for next year. Happy holidays!

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Personal Finance