Budgeting / Essays & Confessions

What I’m Doing With The Money I Saved From Not Buying Gifts This Year

By Wednesday, December 23, 2020

This holiday season looks remarkably different for everyone. 

And that regardless of whether or not you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, or another major holiday this year. As someone who doesn’t traditionally celebrate gift-giving holidays during this time of year, I’m choosing to remain at home and opting for a minimal celebration with my roommate. Because of this,  there’s a considerable amount of money I’m saving this month, despite December being one of the most expensive times of the year— pandemic and all. With that said, here’s what I plan to do with my surplus funds.

1. Donate

With another round of lockdown being enforced upon restaurants and small businesses, I am more cognizant of my privilege in having a job that allows me to safely work-from-home than ever before. This year has been financially difficult for so many and that’s why I’m donating and encouraging charitable giving, this season. While we all deserve to treat ourselves and our loved ones (this year more than others), it nevertheless feels good to donate and help those who are struggling to even put food on the table.

It also doesn’t hurt to look beyond the borders of our nation, and towards international causes and struggles, particularly as news of vaccines being brought up by developed countries like the US and the EU emerges. As someone with family in the developing world, it is even more concerning to think about the immense privileges a Western citizenship grants you, especially in the midst of this pandemic. Donating to organizations helping to secure at least PPE and other essentials in those nations—countries that will be battling COVID-19 much longer than the West—is another way to help, this holiday season. 

2. Support Small/Local Businesses

One of the ways I’m treating myself this holiday season is by supporting my favorite local bakeries and restaurants. While  I’ve become adept at cooking this year,  I’m choosing to kick back and relax a bit, over the holidays, while also supporting the companies that I cherish and hope will be around in 2021 and beyond. I’m also making it a point to shop at local stores to pick up birthday gifts for friends and family well in advance. Typically, November and December are the months that retail stores rely on for their budget, and supporting these businesses now, instead of waiting until say, March, is much more resourceful and helps put a small bonus in the pockets of these workers for the holidays. 

3. Save In A CD

It may not come as a surprise, but after the year we’ve had, I’m choosing to be a little more strategic about my savings for the years to come. While interest rates are quite low, meaning that my high-yield savings account isn’t earning me what it used to, a CD is still a safe and efficient way to grow your savings. I’m pooling my savings this year into a short-term CD with the hopes that interest rates will rise by the time my CD matures and I’ll be able to use the cash to invest in a longer-term CD with higher interest rates. Given the uncertainty of the year, too, I’m hoping that a CD will offer a safer way for my money to grow than investing in the stock market or other, more volatile, means. Moreover, no-penalty CDs exist, too, essentially allowing you to withdraw money without a penalty, unlike a typical CD. As such, I feel as though CDs are a safe and efficient way to save, this holiday season, essentially gifting yourself free cash to access in a short period of time. 

4. Create Holiday Cheer

Finally, I’m setting aside a bit of cash this month to consciously create a holiday spirit in my apartment that I can enjoy. From buying and decorating a Christmas tree (although I don’t celebrate the holiday) to purchasing decorative wreaths and experimenting with holiday cocktails, I’m embracing the holiday season in its entirety, for once.

To be frank, I rarely do this, but it feels meaningful to create traditions and bask in the nostalgia of the season, while re-watching childhood classics and romantic comedies. It also makes me feel as if the year is finally coming to a close and living in a city with minimal seasons (California life!), these little efforts and tweaks help drive home the idea that a new year — and a new leaf —are just around the corner. 

While my friends and I can’t spend much time together, this season, we’re sharing festive walks around the city, checking out streets lit up with holiday lights, and “sight-seeing” wealthy homes with beautiful Christmas trees in their windows and outdoor home decor. Plus we’re doing arts and craft projects through Zoom, baking new recipes together, and just generally doing more to stay connected than we typically would, given that so few of us have the luxury of being with our families right now. While none of these tasks are particularly expensive, they feel like a worthy investment into me and my mental health, this month…

…or so I tell myself while buying, even more, Bath & Body Works candles for the apartment.

Keertana Anandraj is a recent college grad living in San Francisco. When she isn’t conducting international macroeconomic research at her day job, you can find her in the spin room or planning her next adventure.

Image via Unsplash

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