Jobless at Christmas
Being jobless and skint is hard at any time, but never more than at Christmas when it can feel that everyone but you is buying brilliant presents and going to classy parties. We've put together the main areas of festive stress for the unemployed, with tips on dealing with each.
Your family will (hopefully) not mind too much if you can't come home laden with presents, but it can be tough for younger members who might not understand you're out of work. Families can also be expert naggers about when you're going to find work and how you're going to pay your bills - all "well-meaning", of course. And Aunt Maud sweetly enquiring over Christmas dinner about "whether you're still on the dole" can make you feel like you're being judged or gossiped about.
David, 22, dealt with family stress last year by being upfront. "I didn't moan or look for sympathy, but I did say money was tight and I'd only be buying presents for my three nephews," he says.
"Obviously I made it clear I didn't want a pile of presents back either! And I said to my parents ahead of time that everything was fine, and kept them up to date with my job search, so they didn't ask me about it on Christmas Day in front of the rest of the family. It meant they could jump in on my behalf if any of my other relatives started going on about it."
If you have a good enough relationship with your family, David's approach is a sensible one. If you feel you can't talk about it, or feel it's your own business, the best thing to do is just to answer any enquiries briefly and then change the subject. Keep doing this and even the most determined naggers should get the message.
Christmas can often mean meeting up with friends you grew up with, as you or they return home for a few days. This can be really tough if you're feeling in a bit of a rut and it looks like they've got everything sorted.
Try not to focus too much on this, says career advisor and life coach Davinia Gill. "Just focus on the fact they're your friends and you're meeting up to have a good time," she says. "Think of strategies in advance to deal with any awkward questions, and don't let any snide comments get to you - a real friend will be supportive and only care about whether you're a good friend back."
Christmas can be a source of real stress if you're worrying about how to afford presents and keep up at Christmas parties. Again, this is really tough if all your mates are earning. Christmas is expensive for everyone, but even worse if you're also worrying about how to pay January's rent.
The best thing to do here is be honest, says Davinia Gill. "You might have to miss out on a couple of parties, but there's nothing wrong with saying money's a bit tight so you're not going out as much this year," she says. "Pick the ones you really want to go to and try and work them into your budget. Again, real friends will understand."
Don't forget to also check our guide to Christmas on the cheap, for tips on how to make the festive pennies stretch even further.
The new year
The new year is traditionally a time for taking stock of your life, and making your plans for the coming months. If you're not working it can be tempting to think you haven't achieved much this year, but try and focus on other things you've done, like making new friends, developing new skills or helping someone out. Then use the new year as a time to look at where you are now and where you want to be.
If you want a job similar to your last one, think about who you know in the industry who could maybe help you out. If you're looking for your first job, research the industry you're interested in or ask someone you know in it about the best way to start. Do you need to retrain, or start a course to get the right qualifications? Where can you do that? Are there any grants or financial help available?
No-one would deny that Christmas and New Year can be especially hard when you're skint. But think ahead of time what your coping strategies are going to be, be upfront about what you can and can't afford, and remember - 2012 is a whole new year.
By Laura Canning
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