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The Real Cost of Having Fun!

No sooner are the summer holidays just begun than the shops are full of 'Back to School' signs in their windows and urging us to buy school uniforms NOW. Now they're over and Halloween and Christmas are showing signs of appearing.

The summer holidays are expensive as it is and we all over spend on treats for the kids, family and have the huge expense of 'going away' . With holidays costing more than ever-many people are finding themselves more stressed than ever as they fret about how to pay for everything. Carly Morrison, 32, from Chester, went to France this year with her two kids. Nothing fancy-a caravan in Le Touquet by the sea. She says she used to love the fact the kids could run wild and be out all day. This year it rained non stop almost for the entire week they were there and she found herself paying for activities so they could get out of the caravan. 'It cost a fortune! The credit crunch also meant that what was a bargain last year certainly wasn't this year and everything was so expensive. French supermarkets weren't anything like they used to be and a bag of food cost us dear.-even the wine didn't seem such a good offer.'

Marianne, 28, from Birmingham, took her kids to Weston Super Mare  and the rain meant they had to pay for the cinema,  had meals out, and within the first few days had spent most of their holiday money. 'We really noticed the difference and what we wanted was a relaxing few days but what we had was stress about how to pay for everything. We played cards in the caravan a few times-but we wanted to get out as well. But everything cost such a lot this year.'  

Somehow it's made worse because time sooner is one lot of expense out of the way and the next comes along to clobber us. There doesn't seem to be any 'catch up' time does there?  

Already the shops are sneaking Christmas on to the shelves and it's another little panic and another stress as we begin thinking about how the hec are we going to pay for this lot this year.  

The stress of Christmas looming after a summer trying to enjoy the holidays when money has already been tight, can seem like an absolute nightmare.

Research has shown that money worries and debt over Christmas produces a 40% increase in levels of anxiety or stress as Christmas approaches. There is also a 25% increase in levels of depression around Christmas with people feeling they can’t afford to give the kids what they really want to...or keep up with their friend’s presents.

Part of the problem, according to psychologist Margaret Goodwin is that, 'Everything is so expensive these days and kids are encouraged to ask for everything going-and they want it NOW. The stress of saying NO to a child and risking the ensuing rows is hard enough to bear-but the stress of saying YES to a child and then having to get a loan or pay by credit card is even worse. Children today, on the whole, have no idea about saving up for the toy they want. It's tough being a parent today financially and often parents feel guilty because they want to give their kids the best. Maybe we should go back to the good old days when kids had a money box and saved up. Credit cards mean kids have no real sense of money and what things cost or are worth.

Mind conducted a survey and this revealed that:

  • 19 per cent of people felt less able to manage their mental health because of worries about paying off the cost of Christmas
  • 21 per cent face difficulty paying for food and 19 per cent paying their utility bills this January because of Christmas spending
  • 20 per cent will have problems meeting their rent or mortgage payments this month
  • Over 50 per cent admitted they had spent more than they could afford on Christmas
  • 39 per cent used credit cards to cover the cost of Christmas
  • 33 per cent estimated that it would take them more than six months to pay off their Christmas spending debt

Mind's Chief Executive Paul Farmer said: "Christmas is an expensive time of year but it's not just your wallet that could be hurt by excessive spending. Financial worries can have a devastating impact on mental health and can lead to serious problems such as stress, anxiety and depression. Worries about finances and the prospect of not being able to afford the essentials like food, heating and electricity will only add to their distress."

But they do say that a problem halved is a problem shared and it might be a good idea if mums and dads got together and talked about how they cope with extra demands made on the family finances. How do parents say NO without feeling guilty or that they are giving second best to their child? What is the right amount to spend at Christmas and should we go into debt paying for presents?

Debt Divas offers sound advice as well providing the opportunity to do some on-line chat about money problems with each other. It seems to me that the earlier Christmas is spoken about-the sooner you'll have it cracked and Christmas will be a lot easier on the purse. It's meant to be a time of family fun-not a financial nightmare. And it's certainly not meant to ruin your health.

Writer Journalist
Author Magical Menopause. Published by: Infinite Ideas. Jenny Eclair recommends.
Represents artists re Sogno D'oro. (Golden Dreams)

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