Fatherhood and Finances: Hardship During the Holiday Season

There are no doubts about it; this year has been extremely difficult for many Americans. The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the U.S. economy and has led to an unemployment rate of 6.7% in November, with approximately 5.64 million men facing unemployment in November 2020.

What can you do if you’re one of the millions of men facing financial hardships during the holiday season? How can you mentally prepare yourself for the upcoming holiday?

Accept Reality as It Is

The truth is, being a father who’s unable to buy his family gifts for Christmas is a situation that feels awful. How could it not? When you’re family is looking to you to help provide an “authentic” holiday experience, how else are you supposed to feel when you have to tell them that it’s not going to happen this year.

The first step to addressing these feelings of guilt and inadequacy is to accept reality for what it is: the pandemic has affected the economy and now money is tight. It’s not exactly something you can control, is it?

What you can control, however, is how you respond to this situation. Rather than getting wrapped up in these feelings of guilt, you have the opportunity to choose a different way to react; a more productive way that can still allow for some holiday celebrations.

What to Do When Money’s Tight

There are several things that you can do to help keep this holiday season enjoyable for the family, even during financial hardships:

  1. Prioritize your holiday – Who or what do you need to spend money on this year for the holiday? Who is most important to you during this time? Are there any traditions that you aren’t willing to give up? Ask yourself these questions before moving forward.
  2. Create a budget – Decide what spending to prioritize and then create a budget. From there, consider your budget sacred and inviolable!
  3. Forget about the gifts – The holiday season is supposed to be about spending time with the ones you love, isn’t it? Forget about stressing over buying gifts and instead prioritize activities that can be done as a family. This season provides an excellent opportunity to teach children about the true meaning of the holidays.
  4. Be creative! – Coming up with creative, low-cost (or even free) gifts for your family can be a bit tricky, but it can also be more meaningful—especially if the gift is your time or is handmade. Taking your child on a father/child outing can be the gift that creates memories that last a lifetime.


Facing down financial hardships, while undoubtedly difficult, does not have to create a terrible holiday situation for you or your family. Yes, you will have to be honest with yourself and your family about the situation. Yes, you may have to sacrifice certain time-honored traditions, too. In the end, accepting the reality of the situation and using a little creativity can still allow you to make the holiday season one of joy for you and your family.

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