You can’t buy Christmas

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You cannot buy the perfect Christmas – that’s the message from a debt charity which has released its own top tips of staying in the black over the festive season.

Christians Against Poverty, which has a local centre in Clitheroe’s St James’ Church, sees people through the year who have reached a crisis point in their finances, most commonly through job loss, low income, illness or relationship breakdown.

This year, it has launched a tried-and-tested list of ways to avoid the kind of financial meltdown which sees a rush of clients by February.

“We love Christmas,” said Clitheroe centre manager Pamela Entwistle. “The problem is we are sold this line that the perfect Christmas is something we should be buying, and that causes more stress than celebration.

“Now is the right time for families to talk to each other to create a sensible game-plan to ensure that Christmas is happy for everyone – and so is the New Year.”

The top tips have come from both the experience of those within the charity as well as CAP’s own clients who know what it’s like to stick to a tight budget as they clear their debts.

1. Agree on a game plan to stop all of you overspending: do a ‘secret Santa’? Agree on a set amount each? A ‘just for the kids’ rule? A ‘from charity shops only’ rule?

2. If children have their heart set on something out of your price range, club together with relatives.

3. Short of a new Christmas outfit? Get together with mates for a swapping party and you’ll all go home with something new, without the cost.

4. If you’re doing the meal, ask guests to each contribute something: drinks? pudding? cheese? cake? a turkey?! If you’re spending time cooking a Christmas feast, you are already giving a lot.

5. Aim to only buy the food you will actually eat and decide what you will do with leftovers eg. potato cakes from cooked potatoes, make stock from Turkey carcass, soup from uneaten vegetables, freeze un-used gravy for another time.

6. Home-made goodies always go down well – cupcakes, chocolate truffles, shortbread, jam – all are cheap to make and, wrapped with cellophane and ribbon, make great presents.

7. Your time and thoughtfulness are every bit as valuable as your money. Instead of presents, offer vouchers for gardening, washing the car, a few hours cleaning, ironing or making someone’s favourite cake or snack.

8. So many people live alone – a cheery visit from you is worth more than any present.

9. Spend time focusing on what you can enjoy at no cost and make Christmas really special: watching your kids in the school nativity; watching the lights get switched on; enjoying Christmas carols in church; dressing the tree; playing family games.

10. Never take out credit or be tempted by a Christmas loan – you don’t know what the New Year will bring. Your income may change and it could affect your whole family’s security in 2013. No Christmas is worth that.

If you have problem debts, give yourself the gift of peace of mind: visit www.capdebthelp.org or call 0800 3280006.