No doubt about it—it’s been a tough year for many small businesses as the coronavirus pandemic shuttered storefronts and the economic recession had customers tightening their purse strings. This year’s holiday season could be a lifeline to small businesses that are still struggling from the chaos of 2020. With that in mind, here are a few ways you can help support small businesses this holiday season. 1. Take the Virtual Plunge If you haven’t already, then it's time to jump into the world of virtual events and classes. Like your favorite Turkey Trot, most of the fall run/walk races have gone virtual this year. While a “race where you are” event may not have the same energy and camaraderie as an in-person race, you can still whip up some socially-distanced competition among your peers and burn calories while raising money for the race’s charity partners. You could also commit to using the online offerings of your local fitness club or yoga studio. Buy a punch pass for yourself and your best friend and commit to working out together (virtually) one day a week throughout the holiday season. 2. Be a Foodie If ever there was a time to embrace your inner foodie, now is it. Food-related businesses need your love (and your money). With earlier sunsets and colder weather, many of these businesses will lose out on money they generated with outdoor seating during the summer and early fall. So put down that mass-produced pumpkin pie and instead pick up a pie from your local bakery. Go ahead and bake a few dozen cookies using your family recipe but then buy the rest of your sweets from a local pastry shop. Are you in need of some liquid holiday cheer? Your local brewery or distillery likely has carry-out available. Do you remember the knock-your-socks-off hot sauce you had on vacation last year? Or the coffee made from locally roasted beans at your cousin’s wedding? Place an online order for those items to give to your neighbors as gifts and introduce them to a new small business. Even better—give yourself a break and skip the cooking frenzy. Instead, have your holiday meal catered by a local restaurant. 3. Farmers Need Love, Too Don’t forget your local farmers. Many of them use farm events as a source of reliable income. With corn mazes and other fall events canceled, farmers need some extra attention. Can you order your holiday bird from your local farmer? Or how about giving a farm box as a gift? Fresh, local fruits and vegetables delivered weekly is the gift that keeps giving beyond the holiday season. All farm events aren’t necessarily off the table. If Christmas trees are part of your celebration, how about starting a new family tradition and picking out your own from the local tree farmer? Or check with your local farm to see if the holiday light show has been converted to a drive-thru event this year. 4. Demonstrate Your Regional Pride Do you still have gifts to buy for out-of-town relatives? Consider giving them a basket of local goods filled with handmade chocolates and pasta—and maybe even some note cards designed by a local artist or a book from a regional author purchased from your locally-owned independent bookstore. You could even buy tickets to a local musician’s livestream concert for you and a friend. Not only do you get to enjoy hearing your favorite band, but you may turn someone else into a groupie, too. 5. Treat Yourself Maybe a tantrum sounds better than self-care right now, but in the long run, taking care of yourself will pay off in spades. Minimize your holiday to-do list by hiring out some tasks—contract a local photographer to take the holiday photo, hire an artist to design the family calendar, and use a family-owned print shop to crank out your custom cards. Don’t underestimate a quick getaway for yourself—even a 1-night stay at a local hotel or Airbnb can revive your soul during the holiday season. 6. Use Social Media for Good Every business thrives on good reviews, so leave a few kind words for your favorite local business on the appropriate review sites. Tag a small business on your social media post, and you might entice other people to try them out this holiday season. 7. Gift Cards Are Always the Right Size Love them or hate them, gift cards are never the wrong size or color. A gift card could reward a small business more than you expect—the recipient of your gift card is likely to spend more than the amount of the gift card, and they might even become a new loyal customer for the business. Small businesses aren’t out of the economic woods yet, so ask local businesses what they need. With a few changes to your holiday habits, you can help support your favorite small businesses and ensure their end-of-year survival.