Whether you are a jobseeker or you are in work, for many people the financial and associated social strain in addition to the often unrealistic expectations that come with this time of year can bring a host of challenges. Christmas is portrayed as a time of joy, celebration and generosity with many choosing to spend huge amounts of money on lavish food and drink and numerous expensive gifts for family and friends. However, for those already facing financial stress it can exacerbate the worry of how to cope during the festive period.
As the desire to participate in the festivities collides with the reality of the uncertainty of maintaining job searches or being in a job that barely covers the necessities, it can become an extremely delicate balancing act.
Budgeting is imperative and it is important to create a realistic budgeting plan that accounts for essential expenses first such as rent, bills and food. Once this is done, you will be able to see exactly what money is left over for Christmas expenses. Do not be tempted to overlook any essential bills as you will only face double the amount by next month and you do not want to get into more debt.
If you are a job seeker then you must maintain your search for jobs. Seasonal vacancies are often a pathway into permanent employment and if not, then you have gained valuable experience and a potential reference to include on your CV, ready for your next application. Do not lose heart. It may seem hopeless at times but with determination and resilience, you will get a job. It may not be this month or next month, but I can guarantee that something will come along for you. For anyone currently on benefits or receiving a low income, you must check if you are receiving the right amount of benefit entitlements. Never assume because you are working or have been on benefits for a while, that you can not receive additional help because an unbelievable £15 billion pounds of benefits in the UK remain unclaimed each year because people are unaware of what they could be claiming for. Use one of the several benefit calculators and you may just get a nice surprise.
Many charities have funds available and many have access to food vouchers so do contact them. If they are not aware of you then they can not help. I know of someone only recently who works full time and discovered that they were entitled to help because they were also classed as an unpaid carer. As well as charities, food banks and community stores are springing up all over the place to try and satisfy the demand. People of all walks of life use these, from job seekers and single people to families and full time workers.
More and more people are embracing a simpler way of life whether it is focusing on being eco friendly, self sufficiency, living frugally or a combination of all three. It is an increasing trend which is predicted to stay and one that you could be a part of. People who are mindful and have a frugal mindset tend to experience a whole new perspective on life and value what they have.
Don’t be embarrassed to tell people that Christmas is a financial struggle this year and you are not able to afford to buy Christmas presents, especially for the adults in your circle where often you feel obliged to buy a gift for someone simply because they do. Bargain gifts can be picked up on online marketplaces, charity shops (where many new items can be bought), ongoing Black Friday deals and pre Christmas sales in stores, often with huge discounts. Set a limit and stick to it. Try not to put anything unnecessary on credit cards but if you do insist on using credit, ensure it is 0%. Remember that small children especially are not interested in the monetary value of gifts.
Looking after your own welfare is a priority especially at this time of year. Make yourself a priority and focus on your mental wellbeing by setting realistic expectations, taking time out and seeking support if necessary.