Not everyone’s Christmas will be merry and bright due to rising costs and increasing financial pressures…
Christmas could look very different this year for many, many families across the country. The cost-of-living crisis is already putting a massive strain on households, and this is only set to get worse as tax rises and spending cuts are likely to be announced in the coming days. For families already at breaking point, the winter months will be a source of great worry and stress, and Christmas only adds to that pressure. It’s yet another financial burden that quite simply will not be affordable for many people.
Because of this, Christmas 2022 may be quite different for you and your family. This will be the case for thousands of families in the UK as people struggle to make ends meet or make the heart-breaking decision to heat or eat. Many of us will be weathering this storm, but some will have much more difficult journeys than others. There is help available to support families through these worrying times – and we’ve listed a few helpful resources throughout this article – but many people are arguing that the government support packages and pledges aren’t enough.
Politics and budgets aside, we want to focus on you and your family this Christmas. We want to try to reassure and support you; to talk about the differences you might notice over this festive period compared to previous Christmases, and to look at some potential stresses you may experience.
Heating & Eating
Your home may feel colder this winter because of the rising costs of gas and electric. A lot of families are reducing their usage to try and lower their bills, or being forced to turn off their heating completely. You may find you have to wrap up warm with extra layers at home or go to bed with a hot water bottle at night. Local councils, libraries and churches are setting up ‘warmth banks’ across the country to create heated hubs for people to stay cosy without the worry of soaring bills. These hubs will be a lifesaver for many people, especially the elderly and most vulnerable. To find a warmth bank near you, call your council or check your local Facebook page (most towns have a Facebook page of local events).
Food may also be scarce this winter as many families make the desperate choice between heating and eating. On Christmas Day itself, there may not be a dinner table laden with food – many households will eat frugally and simply can’t afford the expensive Christmas food shop they may have done in previous years. Foodbanks can help to support families to make sure there is food on the table and nobody has to go hungry. There is no shame in using foodbanks – food poverty is affecting thousands of people across the UK. The Trussell trust reports that an emergency food parcel is being given out every 13 seconds, which really drives home just how many people are experiencing food poverty. You can find your nearest foodbank here.
Presents & Pressure
Less money will mean less presents for many people. Parents will be worrying about how they can afford to buy their children gifts this year or how they will make the festive period feel special on a tight budget. Children will be feeling this strain too. You might be wary of asking your parent/s for too much, for example, or are worried about how they will cope with Christmas costs. As bills rise, so does the pressure on families. This can lead to more arguments in the home and stressful situations, and you may be feeling anxious, upset and worried. Talk to your parent/s or an adult you trust if you are feeling this way. If you would prefer to talk to someone you don’t know but can trust, call the Samaritans on 116 123 for free (open 24/7, 365 days a year) or visit https://www.samaritans.org
You might feel guilty or ashamed about feeling sad if you don’t get many presents this year, and it’s OK to feel this way. You may also feel resentment or jealousy towards other children or friends who get lots of gifts and who don’t appear to have the same financial worries as your own family. This is a normal way to feel but it’s important to remember that although life may not seem fair (and it isn’t a lot of the time), it’s not your friend/classmate’s fault.
Talking about these thoughts with someone who can relate to how you’re feeling can help you process your feelings.
Fun winter activities, shopping for gifts, festive days out and Christmas dinner feasts will be unaffordable for lots of families, meaning Christmas spirit may be hard to find this year. It can be difficult to feel jolly and bright when money is tight, your home is cold and there are no presents under the tree. Sadly, this will be a reality for many families this year. That’s why it’s so important to do what you can to look after your mental health during these turbulent times, and to reach out for help when you need it. It can help to focus on your relationships within the family and to put time and effort into making one another feel loved and supported. Try to spend quality time together and make your own Christmas joy – cook a meal together, play games, make paper decorations or snuggle up and watch a movie together.
Finding Christmas spirit and sparking a feeling of togetherness costs little or nothing and it’s the one gift that will help your family the most during these difficult months.
Remember, you are not alone. So many others are experiencing the same worry and stress, and we should all be kind, understanding and loving to one another, especially to those who are struggling the most.
These resources may be helpful to get financial advice or support:
Citizens Advice: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/