The cancellation of Christmas last year came as an unwelcome shock to many families across the UK, namely because after almost a year of isolations, restrictions and limited contact with close ones, Christmas was a chance to finally be together again. As Christmas this year approaches, the seeds of doubt are starting to grow again in many people’s minds as new variants emerge. So, what can we do to prepare for another Covid Christmas in a worst case scenario?

Stay Safe

While the guidelines are only guidelines at the moment, the more we stick to them, the better chance we have of reducing the spread of coronavirus and therefore the more likely we are to have a normal Christmas this year.

Wearing face coverings

Wearing masks is currently compulsory in shops and on public transport and wearing a face covering whenever you enter a public space massively reduces the risk of you spreading the virus unsuspectingly. It’s also important we try to maintain social distancing as well. With buses and trains getting busier, this isn’t always possible, but when shopping or out and about, give a little extra room to those around you.

Keeping clean

Washing your hands often – before you enter and leave a building, for example – is also suggested as you kill the germs and stop the spread. It might not always be convenient so hand sanitiser can be a good substitute. Otherwise, try to avoid touching things when you’re out to reduce the risk of picking up germs left by someone else. While Covid-19 is a big threat at the moment, it’s not the only virus that can render you ill or even bed-ridden – the normal flu is expected to take its toll this winter too.

Regular testing

If you travel regularly or if you don’t work from home, it may also be a good idea to take a lateral flow test weekly. Now the tests are slightly less invasive, they are quicker and easier to perform – plus they’re free. While not always 100% accurate, the lateral flow tests can help diagnose Covid-19, even if you don’t have any symptoms, mitigating the risk of you unknowingly carrying the virus as you go about your daily routine.

Financial Preparation

Even though we can do everything in our power to prevent catching or spreading Covid-19, we can still be susceptible to the virus and its knock-on effects. The last two years have reduced many people’s financial resilience meaning they are less able to bounce back from financial shocks than they were before the pandemic. Some have had to use savings to cover income reductions and others may have lost their jobs and job security entirely. Christmas can therefore be stressful from several angles.

Preparing ahead of the festive period is typically the best way to keep your cashflow stable and to avoid having to borrow money now to finance your bills after spending your usual budget on Christmas presents.

If you’re paid weekly, consider how you can adjust your usual weekly spending to accommodate the increased costs during December, without compromising on your normal bills. It may mean cutting back on your invisible spending for a short while, but this is preferable to facing financial difficulty later in the month. If you’re paid monthly, you’ve probably got 1 or 2 paydays left. Allocate the funds wisely and be considerate about your spending.

Always separate the money for your bills first, so you know exactly how much you have leftover for leisure spending. If you can, it might also be worth saving an extra 10% of your income in case you face any unexpected expenses or increased heating bills, for example, over the next few weeks. This is a practice you can take forwards into next year to help you rebuild your financial stability and protect yourself against cashflow shortfall.

When it comes to Christmas shopping, it may also benefit you to work out a plan and spread the cost over the weeks running up to Christmas. Give yourself a realistic budget for how much you can afford to spend on presents for friends and family and stick to that budget! There’s no use having a financial plan if you have little intention of sticking to it. There are still some sales and discounts around so don’t buy the first thing you see (research first!) and remember that the costs of some normal purchases have increased in recent months so you may find your money doesn’t stretch as far as it used to. This is especially true for food shopping, so try to buy the right amount of food and consider frozen goods (if you have the space in the freezer) so you can keep the food for longer if you don’t end up using it at Christmas. It may also be a good time to use any vouchers or points you’ve been collecting all year to reduce the impact on your budget.

You can use credit like unsecured loans to help you spread the cost of Christmas but remember that this is money that will need to be paid back – with interest – at some point in the future. It can be easy to get overwhelmed and carried away when it comes to treating loved ones at Christmas, but it’s not worth getting into debt. The January blues can be difficult enough without added financial pressures.

Another Covid Christmas is a real prospect this year, so make sure you’re doing everything you can to protect yourself and others from the virus. While a financially challenging period, the pandemic has also caused emotional and mental difficulties for many. Be kind and considerate, not only to others but to yourself, and try to enjoy this Christmas – even if it is cancelled (again).