Christmas is a time for family, friends and loved ones to get together, but it seems that in many cases, certain family members are actually called upon to help cover the cost, with grandparents in particular often footing the bill.
That's according to research from Scottish Widows' independent think tank, The Centre for Modern Family, which discovered that 43% of grandparents help their families fund the festive season, spending a collective £932 million in the process.
This includes an average of £140 spent on festive food, gifts and decorations to help ease the festive burden on their families, which is in addition to spending over £400 on gifts of their own. That equates to an average of some £550 each, approximately the same as a month's state pension payout, so it's little wonder that many grandparents admit that they struggle to cover the cost.
Indeed, 24% admit that they feel more financial strain each year, and didn't expect to have to support their family as much as they do. As a result, 36% said they make extra sacrifices themselves to compensate for the additional festive expenditure, with many forced to change their spending priorities.
Of those who have had to make sacrifices, 90% said that they've held off on buying treats for themselves until after the festive season, while 87% have cut back on expenditure such as new clothes. However, 79% said that they've had to dip into their own savings pot and 66% have even cut down on the weekly food shop, while 64% have been forced to turn the heating down or even off to save on gas and electricity bills.
Others have sacrificed going on holiday this year (55%) and some have even sold their possessions (32%), highlighting the lengths many grandparents will go to to help ensure their loved ones have a happy Christmas.
It seems that many grandparents feel compelled to help the younger generations as they don't think their family could afford to pay for Christmas otherwise (41%), and 29% thought that the family wouldn't get together at all without their help. But it isn't just during the festive season when grandparents come to the financial rescue, with many supporting their loved ones throughout the year as well.
Additional research found that older generations contribute almost £35 billion throughout the year to help keep their families afloat, equating to an average of over £2,000 every single year, with 15% saying they make regular payments to their children to help pay for things such as rent, the mortgage and household bills. However, 85% don't plan for these outgoings and 53% feel under financial stress, with 14% admitting that this is wholly related to the financial support they provide to their loved ones.
"Our latest research shows a worrying trend of increased financial pressure on grandparents at this time of year," said Jane Curtis at Scottish Widows. "It's concerning, although unfortunately a rising reality, that some grandparents are making a conscious decision to prioritise Christmas for the family over essentials like food and heating.
"Money can be a difficult subject to discuss at any time of year, but unless families have open and honest conversations, it's difficult to create a two-way-street and support one another. We'd encourage anyone who is feeling financial pressures to talk about it with their family, and/or seek help and advice from organisations such as Citizens Advice and Money Advice Service."
If you're one of the many grandparents struggling to help your loved ones pay for Christmas, just what can you do? Well, as Jane says, having open and honest conversations with family members could be the first step to easing the burden, and if you're really struggling, seeking independent support is vital.
It could also be a good idea to start taking a look at your own outgoings and seeing where changes could be made, thereby helping your own finances as well as giving you the chance to help your children a little more. Switching to a cheaper gas and electricity tariff, for example, could save you hundreds of pounds a year, which could go a long way to funding the festivities. Taking a look at your insurance obligations could be another option, or if you're in need of a really significant income boost, it could be time to think about equity release.
You'll want to make sure that your money is working as hard as possible too, and that all comes down to having the right savings account. Some of the biggest high street banks are still paying paltry rates of interest, despite many of them having just raised their rates, which means it could be time to consider challengers. You may even want to think about opening a regular savings account that could ensure you build up a decent pot over the next 12 months that can go towards next year's Christmas celebrations, and hopefully, you won't be jeopardising your own finances to help your family's.
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