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Dear Wally WasteNot,

It has been a tough year. With COVID-19 restrictions making it difficult to shop and uncertainty about my household budget in the coming year, I am concerned about how to make the holidays feel special for those I love. Do you have any ideas that are easy on the wallet, and the planet?


Strapped but Safe


Dear Safe,

There is nothing more important than keeping you and your family safe from the pandemic right now, so kudos to you for prioritizing your health. Quite possibly the worst part of the pandemic is that it is not allowing the best part of the holidays, as we are not able to share time with our friends and family. Here are some thoughtful ways to show you care without breaking curfew, or your budget.

Gift certificates – Supporting local businesses is more important than ever, so if you can afford a gift certificate, try to keep your investment local. Many businesses can handle a contactless transaction over the phone or the web so you can shop safely from home.

Pay a bill – Others may also be struggling to make ends meet, so making a deposit toward someone’s essential bills like gasoline, electricity or water could help keep their lights on. Pull together with a few other family members to help cover a bigger bill, or a couple of months.

Subscription – A monthly subscription to their favorite media streaming service, a pass to state parks, or similar membership type services can provide much needed safe entertainment to battle any winter blues.

Create something – Tap into your creative talents. If you’re good with the computer, create a movie or slideshow using photos, music and video clips to showcase special memories you share. If you’re better with your hands, try creating a photo collage or scrapbook. If you have sewing skills, create a reusable shopping bag (easy to do with an old pillow case and minimal skill), or a reusable mask.

Re-gift – Recycling a gift that you haven’t found useful is perfectly fine, particularly if you believe someone else could enjoy it. 

Shop your shelf – Sharing a family heirloom and a hand-written history with the story behind it could be a wonderful way to keep cherished memories alive with the next generation.

Shop secondhand – While you’re not likely to find a PS5 in a secondhand shop, you may find some unexpected treasures.  Inspire creative kids with a kit, like a dress-up kit for the aspiring thespian or budding fashionista, or a toolkit for the young tinkerer and future inventor.

Give a service – This is not the “coupon” that rarely gets redeemed, but a specific and thoughtful offer to help out with something you know they need, like a day sitting their kids, washing the car or changing the oil, or making a meal and delivering it to them when you know they’ll be home late.

Does this inspire you, or do you have other ideas we missed? Please let us know your ideas to save resources and celebrate safely!

Wishing you a happy and waste-free holiday season!

Yours truly,

Wally WasteNot