It could well be a tough Christmas for many UK households this year. While the current lockdown’s only set to last for a month, there’s still a pandemic raging and no telling yet what kind of restrictions we’ll be looking at in late December. Faced with the prospect of spending the traditional season of togetherness apart, families across the country are looking for ways of keeping connected through the winter.

So many of the people we help at RIFT tell us that they spend chunks of their yearly tax refunds on travel. The chance to see friends and family abroad, or even just a train journey away, is a big part of what makes a refund precious. While face-to-face gatherings might be a little more restricted than we’re used to in the 2020 festive season, there are still ways of bringing our loved ones together in spirit. Here are just a few of the examples our customers are trying out.

Christmas care packages

Obviously, there’s a good chance we’ll all be sending more presents to our clans this year, as opposed to handing them over in person. Depending on how the COVID-19 restrictions go, even a quick trip over the road to drop off gifts to a neighbouring relative might be a big ask. Why not look beyond just the gifts under the tree this year? A Christmas care package could include anything from simple food to treasured mementos of shared times past. Even a personalised ornament for their Christmas tree could help bring a smile to a missed loved one’s face throughout the holiday. If it really is the thought that counts, why not let people know that they’re in yours?

Joint activities

Another thing we’re all getting a lot more comfortable with is using technology to keep in touch. With large sections of the UK working and socialising from their own homes these days, Zoom conferences and Skype group video chats have become as common as old-fashioned phone calls (if you even remember the prehistoric times when phones were used for those).

Nowadays, a group video call can be so much more than a chance to chat for 10 minutes. When you don’t have to watch the minutes tick by worrying about your phone bill, internet-connected phones and computers let us play incredible games or watch epic movie trilogies together, anywhere in the world. We’ve changed the whole way we think about “group activities”, and now’s the perfect time to make the most of the new worlds we’re creating.

Going virtual

If you’re ready to take the next step and plunge into the deep end of social technology, Virtual Reality offers some amazing opportunities to reach out and touch someone from worlds away. The new generation of VR technology is bursting with ways to meet up with loved ones. You can catch up “in person” to chat, play games or even watch films together in a virtual cinema. All it takes is a headset and a sense of adventure. In fact, an Oculus Quest 2 is one of the prizes up for grabs in our Christmas Countdown prize giveaway.

Sharing the love

Naturally, when we talk about keeping our loved ones’ needs in mind, it always comes back to spreading the good word about tax refunds. Sending a friend a heartfelt gift or message is a fantastic way to keep them going through a tough Christmas – but what if you could wrap up a £3,000 tax refund for them as well? With RIFT’s Refer a Friend scheme, we give you cash rewards and prize draw entries when you help spread the tax refund love. More importantly, you’ll be making real people’s lives better at an incredibly difficult time. Not only will they get back the money the taxman owes them, but you both now stand to win a £1,000 Christmas bonus  apiece from RIFT and we're doing a Christmas Countdown of an extra prize a week between now and the big day.

You can read up on Refer a Friend here. In the meantime, reach out with all your tax worries, questions and problems – and keep checking back for more ideas, advice and updates as the Countdown to Christmas continues.