Self Care For Poor Folks: Holiday Edition

A lot of us will be working extra hours or taking second jobs in the form of retail.
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Shannon Barber
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A lot of us will be working extra hours or taking second jobs in the form of retail.

This week, we’re talking the holidays. I kind of wish I had ominous music to play for you, dun dun dun -- The Holidays.

Personally, I don’t really celebrate most US holidays; I’m just not into it. I prefer to work (holiday pay, holla) but even though I don’t really participate, it is stressful. That said, I have some tips.

Poor folks, let’s talk about some real crap.

A lot of us will be working extra hours or taking second jobs in the form of retail.

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I’ve done it, a bunch of you have probably done it as well and I have some important things to tell you about doing it without being completely miserable.

  • When you get a paycheck or two in, spend the money on the good insoles. When I worked three retail jobs through one holiday season, the good insoles were maybe the only thing keeping me from constant tears.

  • When you are at work, don't forget to rotate your ankles every now and then -- and sneak in a calf stretch or two. Keep your blood flowing and your feet will hurt less.

  • If you can afford it, buy a pair of good shoes. Check discount stores -- or if you work someplace that sells work shoes, check that discount.

  • Do not let anyone shame you if you decide to work at a store people don't like. Wal-Mart, Target, whatever. Screw those people unless they are paying your bills.

  • Do not feel bad if you'd rather work than attend holiday-related functions.

  • Make some time for a bit of socializing on your terms.

  • Remember to bring your lunch or dinner or whatever. Even if you get crappy breaks, make sure to make time to eat, drink some water, and go pee.

Further -- if you’re on your feet for hours or you find yourself commuting in the cold and your feet hurt, elevate your feet for ten or fifteen minutes when you get home. Follow up by rubbing (or having someone else) rub your feet to get the blood going.

Be prepared. If you’re not used to working retail (or even if you’re not used to sitting in a call center all day), your body is going to freak out a bit. Get yourself some Epsom salts to soak in, get topical muscle rubs if you like them.

Next thing I want to talk about is surviving when you do go to family (or other) events where you might be uncomfortable.

Things to remember:

  • If you need a timeout, be blunt about the need for a good poop. No, seriously -- most people won't really question you further. Take you phone and play a game of Bejeweled or whatever.

  • If you need one have an out. Arrange for someone to text or call you or text or call someone if you’re feeling too anxious to be social.

  • If you're dealing with family or other people who freak you out, have your medications handy. (If you take them.)

  • If there will be booze and if you are on medications, familiarize yourself with any interactions in case you don't usually drink. If you don't want to drink at all, you can let your host/ess know beforehand or bring your own beverage.

I want y’all to remember that if you don’t want to do the holiday party thing, you don’t have to. People make it seem like you do, but you really don’t. If putting yourself in obligatory-feeling social situations is not your jam, it is not your jam and people who care about you need to respect that.

Now, let’s talk gift giving.

When you’re poor, especially if you have kids or a large pool of people to give gifts to, it can be hell. Here are some strategies for dealing with it.

If you make things, make someone a thing. Knit or crochet a scarf, paint them a thing, write personalized poems, send love letters. Hell, write some dirty limericks and write them in your best hand on pretty cards. I could be off here but for me when I know someone was really thinking of me and they give me a present that is absolutely for me, it makes my day.

Think of other ways you can get creative. If you have friends who like tea, bath things, silly things, and getting lots of small presents, try this: Gather up several boxes of different kinds of tea, hit the dollar store for silly toys (bubbles, silly string, confetti etc), grab a few lipsticks or silly glittery lip glosses and create a special little box for each person you’re buying for. When my best friend of more than a decade puts in fake bling from the dollar store and glittery absurd lip-glosses in my gift packages, it just feels good.

For those who aren’t into that stuff, make someone an epic mix CD. Yeah I’m serious, can we make that a thing again? I’m talking about making someone you care for an amazing playlist and telling them, "When I hear these songs I think of you and I’m happy."

Don’t be afraid -- if you can’t afford to do things for the holidays including giving gifts, say so. It’s perfectly okay in my book to say, "Hey, family, I am having a rough time financially this year so I’m unable to send gifts."

If you can’t afford postage for cards, try making people on your lists playlists to watch/listen to on YouTube or a collection of links to stories or articles you think they would enjoy. Curate something special and drop it in an email or get super fancy and set up a webpage for that person. Use what you know.

If you have kids, shop early. I know it’s a tad bit late for early early but do what you can. I know how hard it can be to try and balance giving your kids awesomeness and not spending everything you have. I talked to a few parents with kids, and most of the feedback I got revolved around focusing the kidlet on one awesome thing you can save for.

Frankly, since I’m not a parent I have no idea how y’all do it. I don’t have a lot of resources so, let’s team work. Parents and caretakers of kids, speak up. How do you do it? I am really interested in how parents deal with this.

The holidays are hard, whether you are celebrating or not. There is a lot of pressure to spend, a lot of pressure to be festive, and a lot of pressure to do a lot of stuff socially. It's going to be stressful for some of us -- so for those who aren’t stressed, please remember don’t be a jerk.

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Lastly I want to confess that I’m actually just awful at the holidays. I am. My personal strategy for dealing with them is to buy seasonal foods like stollen and other German holiday time foods because my partner likes them. I save up money to buy new pants when the sales hit, and I LOVE a lot of holiday-themed bath things.

That said, I seriously invite y’all to teamwork it out. Let’s swap ideas for surviving work, parties, and gift giving. And, again, parents, please pipe up. I feel very strongly that other parents are sometimes the best resource for those caring for tiny humans.

Now, please, go forth and do the holidays in whatever way you do.

PS: For those adventurous bakers who like fruit cake type things, the stollen pictured is a screenshot from this how to make it video I found on Youtube. If you try it, let me know how it turns out.