AS THE Christmas period approaches many families across County Wicklow will be already concerned about the impact it will have on already limited budgets.
The local branch of The Money Advice & Budgeting Service (MABS) based in Arklow says that families from all sections of society are now faced with more and more financial difficulty and that occasions such as Christmas can prove difficult to finance.
'Individuals and families from all walks of life are crippled more and more by the lack of monitory resources available to meet the demands on weekly and monthly living costs. Essential living costs have become harder to reach, ie oil, electricity, food. Family lives have been affected one way or another, in many cases health has deteriorated due to stress of living and coping with financial difficulties,' explains Money Advice Co-Ordinator Mary McDonald.
'Exceptional expenses are very often not budgeted for merely due to insufficient means to do so and occasions such as Christmas can be very difficult to resource. It's a time when individuals, particularly parents, panic about not being able to provide their children with the gifts they ask for and sometimes parents believe they deserve particularly at this time of year. The challenge to keep paying the normal household bills and meet the demands of Christmas can often lead to default on priority bills such as electricity, rent, mortgage and sometimes leads to taking on additional loans that they may not be able to afford in the New Year,' she adds.
Ever increasing fuel costs can provide an additional difficulty for households, but according to MABS some assistance is available.
'One of the major concerns for families particularly at Christmas if the weather is particularly harsh is home heating. Handling this expense is very difficult particularly where children or the elderly are involved. If you are experiencing severe pressure to reach this essential cost you should contact your local SVDP to see if they are in a position to assist you or Citizens Information Service to see if you are entitled to Fuel Allowance'. TIPS FOR MANAGING CHRISTMAS SPENDING:
Set money aside for bills expected in January, if possible.
Make out a budget of your household income and outgoings to see how much you can afford to spend this Christmas but identify the priorities first eg Electricity, Heating, rent, Mortgage for December.
Make a list of who you ' need' as opposed to 'want' to buy a Christmas gift for
Make a list of food items that you will require. Remember shops will be opened again two days after Christmas day so to avoid wastage only get what you need for the days shops are closed. When buying food and drink be realistic.
If it is your turn to do Christmas dinner for all your family perhaps spread the cost by suggesting different people to bring certain components of the dinner eg starter, desserts, bring your own bottle, vegetables etc
Remember everyone is in the same situation these days and it may take someone with initiative to suggest doing Kris Kindle. Set a limit value and everyone will get a gift. Particularly good with larger families.
There are some bargains now in the shops particularly in the supermarkets make a list of essentials and see if you can buy weekly leading up to Christmas so it will not be such a heavy expense nearer the time. Eg. Treats (boxes of biscuits, sweets for children etc)
Pay cash if you can. Leave your credit card at home
Don't panic if you have no gift for the surprise visitor. Simply recycle and rewrap a gift you have received and not used.
If you are on a low income and are under pressure to borrow for Christmas or are worried about making ends meet this Christmas contact the MABS Helpline on 076 107 2000 or log on to the www.mabs.ie
Do remember that January follows December. You do not want the ghost of Christmas spending to haunt you in the New Year.