The third Monday of January has come to be known as Blue Monday – a day deemed to be the most depressing of the year. In 2018, it falls on 15th January. Poor weather and dark evenings, the excitement of Christmas and New Year coming to an end, the failure to keep resolutions, and running out of money are all commonplace problems at this time of year. When all of this is happening at once, it can be hard to feel upbeat, and even harder to do something about it.
Many households will be receiving their first post-Christmas credit card bill and statement around this time, which may cause a bit of financial panic. Those who are paid monthly are likely to have around two weeks left until their January payday, meaning that many are feeling the squeeze. It’s easy to see why many feel down around Blue Monday, particularly when you consider the prevalence of Christmas debts, and the effect this issue can have on mental health.
Christmas debt in the UK
When it comes to worrying about debts after Christmas, you are not alone. Around 7.9million people in the UK are likely to fall behind with their finances in January due to Christmas expenses. This can be down to accidental overspending, putting too many purchases on credit cards, and a failure to save in the run-up to the festivities. Christmas food and travel expenses can be difficult to budget for on top of the gifts and decorations, and many people fail to realise exactly how much they’ll need to spend. This can cause a bit of a shock in January when finances become tight.
Getting caught up in the excitement of Christmas and adopting a ‘deal with it next year’ attitude is common. Now that ‘next year’ is here, however, it always tends to feel much worse than anticipated. The knock-on effect to your household finances can be significant. Research by uSwitch found that Brits borrowed an average of £452 each over Christmas and 50% of respondents were concerned that they would not clear the debt by December 2018.
How debt can affect your mental health
If you’re feeling a bit down, then your finances may be part of the problem. There is a clear correlation between debt and poor mental health. This is something that should be understood and addressed, and there are many free-to-use resources out there to help you get the support you need. Poor mental health can cause financial issues, and problems with money can also exacerbate or cause mental health problems. It’s a vicious cycle that can only be broken by seeking help and regaining control of your finances.
MoneySavingExpert has a free guide about Mental Health & Debt, which is full of useful, easy-to-digest information. You can also find support via mental health charities such as Mind. If you can, talk your problems through with a close friend or family member that you can trust – they may have experienced the same issues themselves.
Taking back control of your Christmas debt issue, rather than allowing it to lurk behind you, is one way to ease the strain of Blue Monday. Ask those close to you and/or professionals for support if you need to. Here are our tips about how to crush the Christmas debt issue not just this year, but also for the years to come.
1. Sell unwanted gifts
To ease the financial pressure in the here-and-now, selling any unwanted gifts or other items you’ve had sitting around for a while can really help to see you through to payday. Easing the pressure in the short-term can help you to focus on making more long-term changes to solve the issue.
You can sell items online on sites like eBay, Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace. While these may be convenient and easy options, it’s likely that you’ll want to sell any unwanted gifts more discreetly, just in case the giver of the gift stumbles upon your listing! If you are selling anything of value, such as a watch, jewellery, electronics or even designer fashion, you can bring them into any of our 180+ H&T stores to receive a fair price in cash. We buy a wide variety of items from mobile phones and tablets to art and antiques.
2. Seek support and regain control
Regain control over your finances by not only focussing on reducing your Christmas debt, but on your whole household budget. A healthy budget can be achieved with support from others and by using online resources, such as finance forums. Gaining more control over your money as a whole means that you’ll be less likely to fall into the same pattern of Christmas debt this year, and should help you to avoid the main stresses this can bring.
If you feel that your mental health is affecting your ability to deal with money issues, or if you feel that your money issues exist because your mental health is holding you back, please speak to someone. Your doctor should be able to refer you to wellbeing services, or alternatively you can refer yourself. Search for mental health charities and services in your area using Google, or reach out to trusted friends and family who may be able to point you in the right direction.
3. Plan for next year
It’s never too early to start financially preparing yourself for next Christmas. Although you may be determined to avoid this issue next time around, the stresses of Christmas debts can sneak up year after year, so it’s certainly worth putting in some early groundwork. It can be something as simple as keeping leftover wrapping paper and cards for use next year, making a habit of saving your small coins, or taking advantage of supermarket saving stamp schemes. If you are unable to save larger amounts of cash while you’re paying off Christmas debts, smaller solutions like these can help to take the pressure off when the festivities roll around once again.