Christmas is a time for giving and it seems that spirit is alive and well in Britain in 2017. However, as the last Scottish Friendly Disposable Income Index (DII) of the year, which is now out, shows, the season of goodwill is putting significant social and financial pressures on us. Family, friends, TV advertising, retailers and social media are all combining to push us even harder in pursuit of a ‘perfect’ Christmas and in many cases that pressure is having a detrimental financial impact.
The pressure to have a perfect Christmas and the impact this has on Brits’ spending habits comes from a range of sources including other family members (52%), TV advertising (38%), friends (29%), retailers (28%) and social media (27%).
With this perceived pressure affecting many Brits, more than three quarters (76%) of households with children say they make some form of financial sacrifice in order to buy Christmas presents, compared to just 45% of those without (see fig.2). Most worryingly, just over one in eight (13%) families who are making sacrifices say they delay paying household bills to buy presents, while one in ten (10%) postpone their rent or mortgage payments.
On average Brits anticipate spending £342 on Christmas presents this year with £303 going on credit cards. Paying back the money they borrow for Christmas is also expected to take some time with the average household saying it takes four and a half months. As a result many households are unlikely to be able to clear their Christmas debts until April 23rd 2018.
Unsurprisingly many people want to forget financial problems at this time of year but splurging over Christmas is leaving many households with a hangover they can’t shift for several months. By all means enjoy the holidays, but don’t become too reckless in the face of peer pressure or idealised visions of what Christmas should be from TV advertising or retailers. With a bit of planning and restraint you will find you won’t end up out of pocket and in debt and will still be able to have an enjoyable Christmas.
It’s easier said than done, though. I’m usually a typically canny Scot who watches what he spends. In the past, particularly when I had lots of children of family and friends to buy for, I’d typically put money aside for Christmas every month after I’d been paid. But now all the kids are grown up and I don’t have to buy presents for them, I’ve not been so disciplined in my approach to Christmas and I’ve blown the budget this year. Next year, Santa, I promise to be good and I’ll be following the Christmas saving tips on some of the great money saving site such as Money Magpie and from newspapers like Metro .
While I’ve let the side down this year, I’m pleased to say my colleagues here at Scottish Friendly towers have been taking note of some Christmas money-saving tips. This year, for instance, our office is adorned not by the usual “real” Christmas tree which obviously has to be replaced each year but by a gorgeous artificial tree which will see us through over many Christmases to come.