woman with christmas gifts

6 Ways to Enjoy the Holidays When You’re Broke or Unemployed

If you’re struggling financially or find yourself out of a job, it might seem difficult to muster up some holiday cheer. But a lack of money doesn’t mean you can’t have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Here are some tips to help you survive – and even thrive – during the holidays, enjoying yourself and those around you even if money is extremely tight.

1. Go Volunteer:

Have you visited a soup kitchen, a homeless shelter or a home for battered women lately? Pay a visit to any of these places and volunteer to help out for a day – or even just an hour or so – and I can guarantee you that you will have a fresh perspective on your own situation, no matter how dire it may be. Nothing will take you out of the doldrums faster than seeing so many people out there who have it far worse than you do.

2. Get Active:

Maybe you’ve lost a job or are grappling with overwhelming debts. But if you have your health, that’s something to celebrate. So be grateful that you are of sound mind and body and get out there and do something physical. Being active is great for your mental outlook and your physical well-being. A game of basketball with friends or even a solo run in a local park can not only help ward off depression, it can also improve your focus on personal goals and objectives. That will help you not just during the holidays, but also year-round.

3. Give Something From the Heart:

A November 2010 survey from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling revealed that 34% of cash-strapped Americans said they were not going to spend any money at all during the holidays.

It’s hard for many people to get through the holiday season without spending money on gifts. But it definitely can be done.

Consider the two or three people closest to you and think about the areas where they have needs. Would your spouse or significant other love to be pampered for a day? Create your own in-home spa, with candles and bubble bath, etc., and give him or her the royal treatment. Would your sister with three kids love to have a day off? Then give her a “Baby Sitting Certificate” that she can cash in at a future date. Does your best friend think you have an amazing talent, like braiding hair, playing the piano, or designing web sites – anything they’d love to learn? Offer to teach them.

My point is that you can still give your loved ones something of value; it just won’t be something store-bought. But such a thoughtful gift from the heart is still bound to make their eyes light up, probably even more than some gift-wrapped item.

4. Resist Last-Minute Temptations:

In the final days before Christmas, and in the build-up to New Year’s Day, you can expect retailers to tempt you with all kinds of “last minute” sales and promotions. Sometimes, when people are already in debt or cash-strapped, they succumb to the “blowout” sales simply because (unconsciously) they are thinking: “I already owe thousands in debt, what’s a few more hundred dollars?”

Unfortunately, this is just going to lead you into financial trouble. When those bills start rolling in, you’ll have to face reality. So don’t make things tougher on yourself by engaging in last-minute splurges. Your spending may give you (or someone else) a short-term, momentary thrill. But in the long run, anything that puts you deeper in the economic hole just isn’t worth it.

5. Surround Yourself With Good People:

Part of the beauty of the holidays is having the time to spend with those you love. It might be close family, cherished friends or long-lost relatives that you can re-connect with. Even if you physically can’t be with someone you care about, you can always pick up the phone or write a letter. Just letting someone else know that you’re thinking of them during the holidays is a good way to give – and receive – holiday cheer.

6. Remember the Reason for the Season

Last but not least, those of us who are Christians should certainly remember that Jesus is truly the reason for the season. It’s not about the latest gadgets, toys and games for the kids, nor is it about how many door-buster sales we can hit.

I don’t begrudge anyone the right to engage in the commercial aspects of the holiday season if they choose to. But as Christians, we should be focused on the birth of Jesus Christ and engaging in activities, festivities and events that give us an opportunity to reflect on him and appreciate the sacrifice Christ made for all of mankind. That sacrifice was dying on the cross that we might have everlasting life.

In John 10:10, Jesus said: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.”

Jeremiah 29:11 also tells us: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

So during this holiday season, don’t let an empty bank account define you or limit your happiness. Hold tight to the Lord’s promise; it’s a promise to “prosper” you and give you a more “abundant” life.

Now that’s worth celebrating.

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