We all feel the pressure to have the ‘perfect’ Christmas, and it really is the season we are encouraged to spend, spend, spend. However, for a lot of people the money worries are drowning out the buzz of the festivities.
With the cost of living crisis being more prevalent than ever this year, spoiling one another with lavish gifts and providing endless amounts of food and drink, is not realistic for everyone. A survey by Mind found that people with mental health problems find it even harder to cope at Christmas, almost three times that of the wider population, and 41% of the survey reported getting into debt.
Overspending is a common issue all year round, but it can be particularly hard to manage at Christmas. They Money and Mental Health Policy Institute outlines that will the extra pressure and stress of the holiday season, people are more likely to ‘crisis spend’. They define this as:
- Happens during a period of poor mental health
- Is motivated by emotional or psychological, rather than material need
- Causes some form of financial detriment
People with mental health problems are more prone to crisis spending. For example, people with depression can be prone to comfort spending to boost low mood, just as people with bipolar disorder can be prone to higher spending, particularly during manic periods. Having a mental health problem can make keeping track of spending much harder, but it is all too easy at this time of year for any of us to miscalculate what’s going on with our finances.
Patient Info suggest some tips to help ease financial pressures this Christmas, which include:
- Set a realistic budget – having a realistic budget that suits you and your family and sticking to it can help to ease anxieties about not having enough money. Being honest about what you can spare may prevent overspending too much.
- Share the load if able to – Don’t be ashamed to delegate responsibilities, as Christmas is all about togetherness. If you are hosting Christmas dinner, why not ask others to bring along certain dishes to contribute.
- Get creative – If you have a hobby, or skill, like painting, knitting, photography or anything at all creative, why not try to make thoughtful and unique gifts. This way your gifts feel personal without spending a lot of money.
- Be in the moment – When your mind is filled with money worries it can be useful to practice being in the here and now. Simple grounding exercises, such as focusing on your breathing and noticing your senses, can help you to feel more in control and less overwhelmed.
- Speak to someone – If your financial worries are affecting other aspects of your life, such as your sleep, mood, relationships or appetite, it’s a good idea to speak to someone who will be impartial and non-judgemental. Here are some places who can offer emotional support over the Christmas period:
- The National Debtline is a government service that offers free, confidential and independent advice on financial issues.
- National Energy Action has a number you can call for advice and support if you’re struggling to afford to heat your home. They also have guides with advice and signposting to further support.
- Help for Households has information about government cost of living payments and tips to reduce energy costs.
- Ofgem has a list of government schemes and grants that can help with energy costs.
- Get advice if you’re worried about loan sharks. Stop Loan Sharks provides information and support, and lets you report a suspected loan shark.
- For 24-hour support you can also call the Samaritans on 116 123 or text SHOUT to 85258.
- Contact a debt service near you. Christians Against Poverty provides support with debt and unemployment and lists the contact details of local debt services.
- Contact StepChange they provide free advice about money problems, debt and budgeting.
- Get help with accessing benefits and grants from Turn2Us.
- Mind's helplines provide information and support by phone and email. If you're struggling with benefits, you can contact their welfare benefits line on 0300 222 5782.
Please note that this article has not been written by a healthcare professional, and if you are struggling with your mental wellbeing it is important to speak to a GP.