Tips for the seasonally skint
A Christian debt charity has some simple moneysaving tips for those who might find themselves short on cash and tempted to take out a payday loan this festive season.
Christians Against Poverty (CAP) provides free services and support to those battling with debt problems through church-based debt counselling centres in 239 towns and cities across the UK.
The charity has compiled a list of top ten tips to help people enjoy the seasonal festivities while keeping Christmas affordable and free of a debt hangover in the New Year.
Although the season is often blamed for money problems, Chief Executive of CAP Matt Barlow says that Christmas itself is rarely the cause of debt but that "using credit to pay for it does make a fragile situation worse".
"What starts as a bit of an income boost can lead to difficulties when working hours get cut, the washing machine breaks or someone is ill. The point is, none of us know what is around the corner for 2014 and the best present for your family is to create some financial stability for when life throws the unexpected at us," he says.
The charity's following tips aim to help families focus on what really matters at a time when it's so easy to get caught up in consumerism.
Ten tips for the seasonally skint
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1. First of all, give yourself a talking to: some people will always have more than you – and many more people will have less. Aim to remember and mirror the kindness and simplicity of Christmas.
2. Talk to relatives now and agree in advance to 'just buy for the kids' or decide to pool your resources to purchase for something bigger for them.
3. Just buy the food you need at Christmas – and if you're looking for the 'gut buster' experience, go bigger on the cheaper items like potatoes and work out what you'll do with any left overs.
4. If you have guests coming, ask them to bring a contribution eg "Could you bring the wine/pudding/crackers?" If you are the one making the lunch, you are already giving a great deal.
5. Get together with friends and swap clothes, you may just end up with a great party outfit without the cost and it will be fun!
6. Aim for presents to be personal and meaningful rather than expensive. Try photo gifts of special times you've had together.
7. Home made presents can be lovely and cheap. Make some marmalade and add a bit of whisky; melt down candles to make new ones and put in old tea cups or do some chocolate truffles.
8. If you are 'time rich' make up some vouchers for the things you can do that would help someone else e.g. 'One hour's ironing voucher' or 'Afternoon tea at my house voucher'.
9. Check out what you can do for free in your local area. The local church will have special services that will be big on meaning and offer a warm welcome.
10. Remember, your time, care and attention is the most valuable thing you can give anyone big or small.
CAP is calling for greater financial support this Christmas and asking people to consider making a donation of £25 to support families who are struggling during the festive period.
Mr Barlow has explained the need for increased funds: "It's hard to imagine a more devastating situation for a mum than to be unable to properly feed her children, especially at Christmas, but sadly this is what we regularly find among the families we visit.
"When we first visit someone, our policy is that we will never leave them with empty cupboards but, of course, that comes at a cost," he says.
More information on the campaign can be found at www.capuk.org/christmas