What a year! Somehow 2020 seems like it has both dragged and flown by.
As you gather in small groups or perhaps toast your extended family via Zoom, Thanksgiving might be a good time to talk about Christmas gift exchanges. In light of job losses, and other COVID-19-related consequences, this may be the year when tight budgets may mean fewer gift purchases. Many families hand-make their gifts and get tremendous joy for all from sharing their craft.
We see so many families falling behind financially because of overspending during the holidays — sometimes taking years to dig out from under the debt. We don’t want that to happen to you!
At the same time, in our small community it is a crucial to support the small businesses — this year in particular!
Did you know that “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving, was given its name because traditionally that would be the day that many businesses would no longer be in “the red” financially, but would begin to make a profit and thus be in “the black”? That just demonstrates how important the last month of the year is to keeping many small businesses in business into the next year.
Add a crazy year like this one, with businesses having to shut down for a time or forced to restrict how many people could patronize them, and this year’s holiday season is even more important than normal.
Of course, it’s not up to you to single-handedly save the world, so make sure you don’t overspend your household budget. However, we suggest that whatever your gift budget, spend as much as you can to support our area small businesses and locally owned restaurants. (Don’t forget to also budget for holiday food and décor.) Especially make a point to patronize those businesses that you want to see around in the New Year.
While shopping online is quick and easy, going to local stores and sellers can provide unique gifts and often superior customer service. Think creative and local!
For instance, what about buying someone a gift certificate to a local restaurant? Another way to help area restaurants is to plan a local shopping outing and picking up take-out on the way home for an easy and delicious meal.
Someone else on your list might appreciate a service such as a chimney sweep service, a window washer (to save for spring) a few hours of work with a handyman, painter or plumber. Having a gift certificate to having a car serviced and cleaned — or just taking it in yourself — could be a thoughtful gift for someone on your list. What about a photo session from a local photographer, a piece of art at one of our many galleries, or cookies each month from a local bakery?
Practical gifts purchased locally can be a real help and blessing. One of our favorites is a ladder standoff to attach to the family extension ladder and keep every user much safer when getting on the roof, cleaning out gutters and hanging lights on the house. That’s a gift that keeps on giving!
Other practical gifts include purchasing a fire extinguisher, smoke alarm, carbon dioxide detector, NOAA weather radio, escape ladder for second-floor window, extra batteries, or roof de-mossing certificate. Get creative, it’s fun.
Create your holiday budget now
One hint to keeping within your budget is to make a pre-shopping plan for your purchases, call around locally for what you are looking for first, and then make a planned shopping route. (Some stores will price match, so the time spent in research can be money in your pocket.) This will prevent wandering around in a holiday fog getting nothing done, wasting money budgeted for gifts on expensive gas.
Personal touches matter
What many of us are missing nowadays is that personal touch and connection with others. We are all social creatures after all and this separation from people and normal activities hasn’t been easy. So, even if you give a “practical” gift, see if you can also incorporate a homemade goody, personal note, or promise of a shared coffee or meal.
Homemade coupons offering your time and talents can be another inexpensive gift that the recipient will love. Babysitting, house cleaning, car washing, cookie baking are good starters. What are your other gifts and talents — and the receiver’s needs? Maybe homemade soup one day a week for a month, a fresh bouquet of flowers once a month, cleaning the garage, helping with a tax return, two hours of weeding, a weekly phone call or COVID-friendly from-the-porch visit with fresh coffee. … You get the idea.
Giving to our community helps
If you are one of the fortunate ones still receiving a regular paycheck, you may be able to help others around you. Gift certificates to local grocery stores, restaurants, or even taking care of someone’s power bill are all possibilities that can be acknowledged in person or taken care of anonymously.
In addition, many local charities are coming upon their busiest time of the year. And this year, for most the demand for items and services is up but the number of givers may be down. Giving to these nonprofit organizations not only makes an impact on individual lives, it affects the health of our community at large as a result!
Going into the holidays during a pandemic is something none of us have dealt with before. But, sometimes getting back to basics can be a good thing. Grays Harborites are known for both their generosity and their can-do attitudes. We’re in this together; and, as we look out for one another, we may be surprised that this could be the best holiday season yet.
Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is executive director. This is a nonprofit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing opportunities for all residents of Grays Harbor County. For questions about the ductless heat pump program or home repair, housing counseling for renters and landlords, home-buyer education and buying, call 360-533-7828, listen to the extension picks that will best help you and leave a callback name and number. Due to COVID-19, our office is not currently open for a visit, but we will call you back.