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How to tell your family you can't afford the usual Christmas

3 min read

How to tell your family you can't afford the usual Christmas
Christmas is an expensive time of year, and if you're looking at ways to save money this holiday season you're not alone. Here's how to manage your family's expectations
Christmas is a time for celebration, but it’s also a time of enormous financial stress. The season of giving comes with pressure to give beyond your means, and the lead up to the big day, with all the adverts on TV and everyone around you discussing their shopping lists, can fill you with anxiety if you know you’re not going to be able to afford it—but how do you break it to your family?
"The season of giving comes with pressure to give beyond your means"
In 2022, the average cost of Christmas was £429 per person but this year it's due to be 40 per cent higher, at £602 per person, and according to Google trend data, searches for “can’t afford Christmas” have risen by 211 per cent in the last week alone. Finance expert Georgia Galloway at Finbri explains the best way to tell your family you can’t afford the Christmas they’re used to this year.

Choose the right time

The sooner the better—the longer you put off the conversation, the more difficult it will be. Like any sensitive conversation about financial worries, picking the right time and setting is important.
Person baking Christmas tree cookies
Choose a quiet setting where everyone can sit down and talk, rather than springing it on the family at a hectic time in the middle of a busy day.

Be honest and share your feelings

Be upfront and honest about the financial challenges you’re facing. Whether you’ve had a sudden change in income, unexpected expenses, or it’s just down to rising costs and bills, let your family know what’s going on and why you’re struggling. It’s a difficult topic, but emphasise the fact that you want to make the festive period special despite the limitations.

Set realistic expectations

Be specific about exactly what you can and can’t afford. For example, you might be able to afford to buy a present for each member of the family but not as many as usual, or perhaps it’ll be presents for only the children in the family this year, and not the adults.
"Be specific about exactly what you can and can’t afford"
Perhaps instead of an expensive turkey with all the trimmings, you could all agree to cook a family favourite dinner instead, which might allow a little more in the budget for stocking fillers.

Get creative and suggest alternatives

A scaled-down Christmas doesn’t have to mean no Christmas at all. From suggesting a potluck dinner where everyone brings a different part of Christmas dinner to help share the financial burden, to making your own party hats and writing jokes instead of forking out for crackers, there are plenty of ways to reduce the cost of Christmas without reducing the enjoyment.
Father and daughter decorating Christmas tree
Suggest fun and affordable activities that your family can all enjoy together, like a Christmas movie night instead of going to an expensive Christmas event, or suggest that all decorations should be homemade, instead of buying any new ones this year, and spend a day crafting together.

Focus on what matters the most

Christmas is about more than just expensive gifts, decorations, and food; it’s about spending time with your loved ones and creating memories together. Remind yourself and your family about the things that are most important, and encourage a focus on shared experiences rather than material possessions.
"Christmas is about spending time with your loved ones and creating memories together"
Remember that you’re not alone, and many people will struggle this year, but the important thing is to be honest with your family and create a Christmas that is special for everyone, no matter how little you spend.
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