With the national unemployment rate in the U.S. at about 10%, odds are that everyone knows someone who has lost a job. And while it’s true that it’s really the thought – not the gift – that counts, people who are struggling to keep their home or feed their children might prefer something other than scented candles. Here are some ways to give a gift that counts.
1. Invite them to run errands with you. This may sound strange, but after being shut in at home for days or weeks at a time, it’s nice to get out of the house and spend time with a friend. We may not have any money, but it can be fun to help you spend yours.
2. Buy gift cards. Budget eliminates non-essentials, so intentionally give unemployed friends gift cards for “luxuries” – Starbuck’s cards, movie passes, or video rental gift cards. All-purpose gift cards for places like Target allow the receiver to purchase anything they need from clothing to food to shampoo.
3. Just ask. If you have a friend or family member who has lost a job, just ask them, “Is there anything in particular you need or want for Christmas this year?” It’s a win/win: your money is well-spent and they get a “perfect” gift.
4. Give your attention. Don’t forget that jobless friends may be struggling with confidence and self worth. Take a moment to call or send an email to let them know you’re thinking about them. Drop a card of encouragement in the mail. Being unemployed can be incredibly lonely, and it’s good to be reminded that others still care.
5. Give your time. Invite unemployed friends over for a meal. Or plan a potluck. Actually, in this economy we’re all mindful that it’s more about laughing with people we care about, and less about the money we spend.
Considering I’m currently unemployed, this might seem like an incredibly self-serving post. Except it’s not. Because every idea listed here is something one of my incredible friends has already done for me.