The Stress Of The Holidays When You're Part Of The Working Poor

by Caila Smith
Originally Published: 
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Despite what my children might believe, the holidays are not always the most wonderful time of the year for my husband and me. And before you mark us down as the Grinch or a couple of Scrooges, let me just say that I am gung-ho for the holidays.

Our family decorates early. We have more seasonal crafts on our walls than we do family pictures. I feel damned if I don’t partake in salt-dough ornaments with my kids, and nothing beats watching my little ones’ world go from mundanely ordinary to incredibly magical overnight.

That being said, the holidays are expensive AF. My husband and I live paycheck to paycheck as a family of six. Sometimes, even without the holidays, it’s a struggle for us to get by. Because we are one among many living under the title: The Working Poor. (Welcome to America!)

So there’s always something incredibly nerve-wracking about being the poor person in my family and never knowing if family members are buying gifts for my kids. If they are, of course, I want to return the favor. And even if they aren’t, I’d still love to buy for every child in our extended family.

To me, I’d rather give a gift than receive one. It makes me feel good on the inside, ya know? But truthfully, I can’t afford it without a game-plan for doing so.

And as we all know, it’s not just the gifts that rob us of our savings. It’s the decorations, the food we demolish like gluttons, the gas money for traveling to all those family get-togethers, the traditions we feel more than obligated to partake in, special events, stupid wrapping paper, holiday pictures, and So.Much.More.

And maybe not all of those items are a necessity. But in our family, we will take these lasting memories while we can get them. Even if it means depleting our bank account.

My friends and family immediately surf the web just as soon as the words “White Elephant Exchange” or “Secret Santa” are dropped within their vicinity. Meanwhile, I’m taking a gander at our money situation and praying our bills won’t go through a day early.

And recently, we’ve learned just how expensive things are about to get with our oldest set of twins being in school for the first time this year. There are spirit days (usually requiring a store-run because we are last minute and unprepared), holiday festivals, holiday programs and parties to suit the newest festivity. Yes, each one of those events is just a few dollars here and there. But for all of us living the lower/middle class life, it’s no secret that even the pennies add up.

The financial drain of the holidays leaves us poor-ish people in a bit of a pickle until W-2 time. Or perhaps it just leaves us crossing our fingers in hopes that we were good enough for Santa to bring us cold, hard cash in our stocking this year.

The holidays are financially tough on our family, yes. But we always make it happen.

My children’s creative side is fed to with holiday-related crafts. Christmas morning greets them with presents, cookie crumbs and residual milk spots on Santa’s mug. They get their special day of magic-filled wonder. But for so many other families, they can’t say that.

So I encourage you to look at the holidays from a different point of view this year. If your pocketbook is full, throw some money in one of the Toys-for-Tots cans. Help out a single mother or father this year. That family who lost a child a few months back, bless them.

Without any judgment, questions or social hindrances, reach out and show your love to just one person this holiday season.

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