Christmas, Money & Mental Health

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This week I want to talk about Christmas, money and mental health. We’re almost into December so I’m sure like most families, you’re preparing what gifts you’re going to buy, who for, how much, and for most people, worrying about how you will afford it. More and more families are living in poverty or on the breadline. There is so much pressure to buy bigger, more expensive and to outdo one another. Kids want things from every advert they see, and lists to Santa seem to grow and grow . Most children don’t have much perception of how much things cost, and when they do, I think it is important to instil the same message we should be listening to ourselves, and that message is to live within your means. Don’t spend money you don’t have. We have explained to our six-year-old that mummy and daddy have to work hard to earn money, and that we send money to Santa, and parents only send what they can afford. He has asked for a games console, so for months we have been clear if he asks for that, he wouldn’t have money for any other presents. Many people I know take out credit cards or loans and spend hundreds if not thousands of pounds on buying for the children, and the rest of the family and friends. Some gifts become gifts of habit, and you’re buying for the sake of buying. We have taken a stance against habit buying, as this can become very costly. We’ve made this known to our friends and family to so there is no pressure for them to have to buy for us either. We buy only for children related to us, and parents who we make personalised calendars for which take us more time than money, and we each participate in one secret Santa. This allows us to keep the costs down in terms of spending. Money and debts are a huge detrimental factor in mental illness. They can cause and exacerbate depression and anxiety, yet they can also be as a consequence of mental illness such as bipolar disorder, where someone experiencing a manic episode may impulsively take out loans credit cards store cards etc to make impulsive and unnecessary purchases. Then once New Year rolls around or the mania fades, you’re then faced with money to repay that potentially you don’t have.Christmas doesn’t need to cost the Earth. Children remember your presence not your presents. Think back to your childhood and the gifts you received. The only ones I remember are what I had in my stocking every single year. A new toothbrush, a blank VHS and a calendar. I remember pulling crackers, and us all eating lunch wearing silly hats and then visiting our family. They’re what I want to pass on to my children opposed to presents.Here’s our Christmas top tips

  1. Stop habit buying and be clear with friends and family what you are going to be doing
  2. Work out a realistic budget and stick to it
  3. Divide your budget and use an app or pen and paper to track exactly how much you spent on each person
  4. Be honest about money with your children
  5. If you want to give to more people give home-made gifts. A great tip is to get the kids Involved, especially for older relatives who will treasure home-made gifts more
  6. Don’t rely on credit to buy presents if you can’t afford to pay back
  7. Don’t worry about what others are doing. No matter how big, expensive or extravagant others go, your mental health is the key importance over one day of Christmas
  8. Give your presence not presents