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Blue and Broke for the Holidays
Date:12/22/2008

s found himself with an unanticipated $8,000 bill for the stay. "His holidays are ruined," Fong said.

Companies still in business are devising their own strategies. According to Gary Bagley, executive director of New York Cares, a volunteer-oriented charitable organization in New York City, the number of corporate holiday parties is down, with companies organizing their employees to volunteer instead.

"I wouldn't say [volunteering for the holidays] is unheard of in the past, but this year, we're also having folks say they're volunteering instead of the holiday party and making it very clear it would have been a holiday party but, considering the times, it doesn't feel right to be throwing a party," Bagley said.

That, of course, is for people who have jobs. But whether you have a job, a half-job or no job, there are ways to survive the holidays, both mentally and financially:

  • Maintain your mental health. It's as important as your physical health, Fong said. Make sure you get seven hours of sleep a night, exercise, eat three square meals a day, avoid junk food and limit yourself to two alcoholic drinks a night if you're a man, one if you're a woman. Avoid pot, heroin, cocaine and mama's pills.
  • Combine social activities with exercise. Become part of a running club or hiking club, for instance. Many such clubs and activities don't cost much, if anything.
  • Hand-make gifts or give the gift of your time (inexpensive yet priceless). "Objects or gifts don't necessarily equate to happiness," Gold said. "This is a good time to talk about what people mean to you and then make a gift, make a card. … Make coupons to a parent or a sibling or a grandparent: 'I'll spend an hour of time with you playing ball or taking a walk.' "
  • Volunteer. "Volunteering is the longest sustained happy buzz you can give yourself," Bagley said.
  • Get together with a group of friends and shop fo
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