Surviving the Holidays When You're Unemployed

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The holiday season is a time for sharing peace, joy and love with the people you care about. For many, it's the highlight of the year and a time filled with parties, gifts and fun. However, there are also many people who find that the stress of the holidays serves only as a reminder of things they have lost, people who aren't in their lives any longer, and the hopelessness of not being able to give the types of gifts they want to give to those they love.

This isn't a new problem. In fact, countless stories have been told over hundreds of years about these sorts of problems. When you think about it, Tiny Tim, whose family couldn't afford Christmas presents due to the miserly nature of Ebenezer Scrooge and the young couple in “The Gift of the Magi” all faced a similar dilemma.

When it's easy to get depressed, how can you manage to survive – and even enjoy – the holidays when you're unemployed? Here are a few tips to help:

Stay positive about your situation – During the holiday season, there will be parties thrown by friends, families, and professional contacts that will force you to get out and mingle. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that there's not much worse than being cornered by a well-meaning (at least I hope) relative who wants to grill you about why you don't have a job. It's enough to make a person want to lock themselves away until January 2nd. Since that probably isn't an option, try taking a positive approach to the situation by coming up with a quick and simple response before heading out to any parties. For example, when asked what you do for a living or how your job search is going, you could say “I'm so excited that I have this opportunity to find a job that will allow me to use my skills and experience in new ways.” or “I haven't found the right job yet, but I'm looking forward to finding a challenging opportunity soon.” Whatever you do, don't allow yourself to fall into negativity by complaining about how hard it is to find a job or how bad the economy is right now.

Take advantage of networking opportunities – One of the great things about the holidays is that there are so many groups and organization that are have annual holiday parties. Sometimes they are evening gatherings, but more often they're lunch meetings, breakfast parties, and afternoon events. Make a commitment to attend as many of these as you can. If you aren't a member of many organizations, ask people in your professional network if you can go as their guests. Often, they'll be glad for the company and will be able to introduce you to a new group of contacts. During the gathering, try to meet and get to know as many people as you can and add them to your social network. I don't recommend asking about job leads during the event, but if you swapped contact information, you'll be able to talk with them about it at a later time. Also, if you can get invited to an office party at a place you want to work, you'll have the chance to meet the people who work there and even get to know the management as well.

Don't get hung up on gifts – The worst thing about being unemployed during the holidays is the guilt and shame of not being able to buy the gifts you want to give to your family and loved ones. It's so hard, and honestly, there's nothing I can say that will make it much easier.  However, there are gift-giving options for almost any budget – you just have to get creative with it. Check out online auction sites like eBay or buy handmade goods on Etsy. Keep an eye on your local Craigslist for people selling - or even giving away - items that someone on your list would love. Prices are often negotiable, too. With mainstream retailers, look for companies that offer free shipping, which is becoming more and more common. You can also do a quick Google search and find recipes and craft ideas for making easy and inexpensive gifts. These personal, thoughtful and inexpensive gifts are often a huge hit because your loved ones recognize the time and effort that you put into them. Of course, it isn't always that simple when trying to buy presents for children, who don't know the meaning of the word "budget". Over the past couple of years, I have made a point to think about the best experience I can give my kids and give them that as a gift. Maybe it's concert tickets or maybe it's a trip to see their favorite play – whatever I pick, my goal is to make it meaningful and make memories that last a lifetime, rather than a toy that breaks in a week.

You don't need to have a lot of money to enjoy the holiday season. Take advantage of all of the holiday events happening in your town in order to make the most of the season. This year, instead of focusing on what you lack, try focusing on what makes this time of year special.

What do you do to help keep holiday depression at bay? Do you find this time of year hard when you don't have a job? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


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  • Dorothy M.
    Dorothy M.

    Caregiving is In DEMAND

  • Marc Richardson
    Marc Richardson

    I haven't work since last December, and of course, My Birthday, Thanksgiving, My wife's Birthday, Christmas, and New Years all hit one after the other! I can't speak for everyone, but what I've tried to do is stay grateful that I can still work, and that I still have a roof over my head, and food in the fridge. I'm honest about my situation, and a family we have Thanksgiving dinner with is giving us a hand this season. I may have a potential position opening up via a friend's reference, but until then I just try to keep finding the ood in a challenging situation!

  • Cheryl Graham
    Cheryl Graham

    I traditionally host Christmas and go all out with food. My sister suggested that I won't have Christmas b/c I am currently unemployed which was nice and gave me an out. However, I knew if I didn't, THAT would be depressing. Rather, we are going to carry on with our tradition, but everyone is pitching in more towards dinner while cutting back with a simple meal and no gifts. Who knows, we may be creating a new tradition.

  • Lorraine M.
    Lorraine M.

    If god brings you to it; he will see you through it. We need to quit focus on gifts this time of the year. IT IS ALL ABOUT GIVING FROM THE HEART...

  • sherry a.
    sherry a.

    i dont have a job or any income so you dont shop for christmas

  • Julie M.
    Julie M.

    Don't worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will take care of its self. And jobs like sears . target,Carson ect is all ways hireing for Xmas help. Keep your head up. Don't worry decorate your house it helps.

  • Deborah Heller
    Deborah Heller

    I would like to take advantage of as many holiday festivals as possible. And homemade gifts can be extra special this time of year.

  • George Montgomery
    George Montgomery

    Look ahead to tomorrow's adventures


    Certainly...attitude but a job offer helps!!

  • chaderrica t.
    chaderrica t.


  • Virginia F.
    Virginia F.

    Thanks for the advice, I feel more depressed every day. I will try to give gifts just to my Great-nieces. The adults understand. Good luck to everyone!!!!

  • Melissa Kennedy
    Melissa Kennedy
    Thanks for all of the comments. @Kathy - You're exactly right. Personally, I would love a couple of homemade cookies over a gift card any day. It's all about the love that someone put into the gift and nothing makes me feel more special than something small that someone made for me. It's all about giving love. @Lori - I know it's hard these days. I'm not suggesting that we live in a fantasy land. It's just that we have a choice - we can throw up our hands and say that it's just this way and that we give up, or we can take a deep breath, count all of the things that we are grateful for and find ways to share joy with others. No matter how bad, awful and immediate your needs are right at this moment, there is someone else who is struggling through with less. Try volunteering at a shelter or doing something nice for a family in need - maybe you could be the difference they've prayed for.
  • Ann Cibuzar-M
    Ann Cibuzar-M
    As one who is unemployed I would not present an artificial front by giving gifts when the money is better spent getting to the job interview and resolving your problems and not looking like you are some wealthy fraud that is just job hunting for something to do because it is an attention getting situation rather than a need to survive in this economy. Just food for thought. Thanks.
  •  Lori U
    Lori U
    In other words,  avoid reality and live in a fantasy world.  That's just great.  That should really help me find a job.  Ignore the truth, which is that there are no jobs and no economy except for a chosen few.  I should just go about my life as though everything is great and having no job is not a big deal.  Sure,  I'll try that.
  • Kathy M
    Kathy M
    My husband and I are both out of work this year and we both have been looking for a job for more than six months.It can be very depressing and worrisome thinking about what the New Year will bring.  I try to focus on all the good things we have in our lives and family members realize that maybe you cannot afford a gift this year.  If you feel that you just have to give something-bake some cookies and package them and send them.  Nothing like something homemade and given from the heart.  Those are the best gifts anyone can get.

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