From apple pies and turkey to presents and the New Year countdown, the end of the year typically carries its good cheer past the festivities. However, this year’s holiday season might look and feel uncharacteristically different for all of us. Despite the recent uplifting news of a potential vaccine for COVID-19, the unprecedented emotional, physical, and financial toll that the pandemic has caused could possibly persist and even rise in the coming weeks.
Although there are many things to be grateful for during this holiday season, the absence of customary celebrations, gifts, and travel make the financial struggles of the past several months more painfully obvious. According to Simon Restubog (May, 2020), this chaotic year has caused layoffs, downsizing, and involuntary unemployment in vastly different domains of business.1 It is no surprise that people are planning to spend less this year. A recent Deloitte retail survey found a 7% decrease in general holiday spending among households, led by a whopping 34% drop in expenditures on travel.2 Overall, roughly 2 in 5 Americans will likely spend less this year due to the pandemic.
Public health guidelines—of which we are all painfully aware by now—strongly recommend keeping holiday gatherings to a minimum, reinforcing a pervasive sense of melancholy and loneliness. In addition to the effect of quarantine and isolation on mental health, the ongoing uncertainty of income aggravates anxious and apprehensive thoughts regarding the future. Whether it be anger, confusion, loneliness, or depression, people of all ages have suffered unmatched emotional struggle on top of the everyday challenges of COVID-19.
These emotions exert a major influence on our financial decisions. The Wall Street Journal’s Benartzi and Payne emphasized that even ambient emotions—easily disregarded under normal circumstances—play a dramatic role in financial decision making.3 On one hand, our financial stability has been severely tested over the past couple of months; and issues of financial security and responsibility may restrict many of us from holiday spending on gifts and special food. On the other hand, such conscious, sorrowful decisions to hunker down and tighten our belts during a formerly exuberant season can create considerable internal turmoil. Counterintuitive to preserving financial security, such stress sometimes translates into the sudden urge to indulge in palliative shopping.
So, what do we do now?
One key skill for preventing our emotions from overpowering us is to clearly identify them.
“Am I worried that we are not going to have enough money?”
“Am I sad that I cannot travel this year?”
Flagging these key emotions helps us digest our feelings in a non-destructive manner. And conscious awareness helps us to manage difficult mindsets through seeking positive, alternative ways to ease strong, unpleasant feelings.
Although spending on quality gifts and celebratory travels may not be possible this year, why not shift our focus to spending quality time closer to home? Because as painful as it may have been for many of us, it is in these challenging times that we realize the value and significance of family and friends.
- Restubog, S., Ocampo, A., & Wang, L. (2020, May 08). Taking control amidst the chaos: Emotion regulation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Retrieved November 19, 2020, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0001879120300658?casa_token=4mdrB4qjMYMAAAAA%3AM_TdljHzF34HHZyv_Qxb0vHZe3muH02DJ2yUwS0nLyThZJ2Vg2lmRMskjpzITygYocUrMVrOBAE
- 2020 Deloitte holiday retail survey: Reimagining traditions. (n.d.). Retrieved November 19, 2020, from https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/industry/retail-distribution/holiday-retail-sales-consumer-survey.html?id=us%3A2el%3A3pr%3A4di6890%3A5awa%3A6di%3A102020%3A
- Benartzi, S., & Payne, J. (2020, October 19). How Covid-19 May Be Unconsciously Affecting Your Financial Decisions. Retrieved November 19, 2020, from https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-covid-19-may-be-unconsciously-affecting-your-financial-decisions-11603065600