Don't Let Pandemic Drag Down Your Finances

Jalene Hahn |

2020 has been a stressful year. In normal years, many people find November and December stressful. There are generally more expectations and activities from holiday parties, decorating, gift-giving and general busyness.

While this year might not have as many activities, I am sure most people will find it just as stressful, just in a different way. In my family, Thanksgiving was just three of us. Alex is in California and couldn’t join us in person, so he joined us via video for part of dinner. We decided to forgo the traditional Thanksgiving meal and traditions in favor of a simplified, streamlined day. Don’t get me wrong—there was still pumpkin pie, just no turkey and dressing.

Christmas also will be challenging. While Alex will be home, there will be no office parties or get-togethers with friends. We won’t be hitting the malls this season. There will be no in- person midnight mass or Christmas concert. We’ve canceled our planned holiday vacation to Yellowstone. Looking at past holidays and visions of this one have put a crimp in my holiday spirit. The long weekend contributed to feelings of loss and depression, isolation and loneliness.

This emotional state can really mess with decision-making and good financial intentions. I recently participated in a virtual conversation circle where the topic was around control. The first question was, “What does ‘control what you can control’ mean to you in this moment?” I believe I have control over my attitude, environment and actions. One technique I use to check in with myself when I feel I am off track is to use the HALT acronym. It reminds me to pause and check in with myself to see if I am hungry, angry, lonely or tired.

This time of year, it is easy to be overwhelmed and find yourself hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Before spending money or making financial decisions, first check in with yourself and make emotional or physical adjustments.

Hungry. When was the last time you ate? If you find yourself making hungry decisions, try to keep a healthy snack handy. Cutting out sugar and bad carbs can help alleviate that sugar-high crash cycle. I’m trying to plan my meals so that I know what we’re going to eat and am not scrambling at the last minute and ordering pizza. It helps with food costs, reducing food waste and eating healthier.

Angry. Are you tense, stressed or pessimistic? Anger can lead to impulsive decisions. Try to take deep breaths, stretch or exercise. Once you have achieved a calm state, make your decision or purchase.

Lonely. Recent studies have found an increase in loneliness due to pandemic shutdowns and social distancing. It is especially hard for young adults. Staying connected to family and friends in a meaningful way can help combat loneliness. Take time to regularly connect with a phone call or video chat.

Tired. Fatigue comes in many forms and not just from a lack of sleep. Holidays tend to bring on extra activities and financial pressures. Fatigue clouds your judgment and decreases your willpower. This year might be a good time to simplify holiday celebrations. Examine all the traditions and determine which ones will not work this year.

While my Thanksgiving was bleaker than normal, I am still trying to find the positive this holiday season. I plan to take the opportunity to reflect on what is important and to develop more healthy, meaningful traditions. I’ve let the boys know that Santa will not be coming due to the pandemic, but we will still have a few gifts under the tree. No candy in the stocking—just fruit, dental floss and lip balm.