The Christmas tree is up.
The house is warm and cosy.
Tonight, John and I had ‘the chat about the turkey’. You know, the one that goes like that:
‘John, are we having turkey for Christmas?’
‘I don’t know; how about having chicken?’
‘Let’s have turkey. We did cook it well last year and the boys enjoyed it.’
‘Okay; I order it tomorrow.’
We also have been having ‘the Christmas presents’ conversation. This one is about what to buy for the boys, whether it is better to buy something symbolic and give them money, whether and how utilitarian we can be about the presents.
These are out trivial concerns; our middle class worries.
It wasn’t always like this for me.
I remember one Christmas, twenty three years ago, when I had no money at all.
I had no money to go back to Bulgaria and spend Christmas with family.
I had no money to rent a nice place.
I had no money to cook a proper meal.
So, I spent Christmas completely on my own, in a cold and grotty apartment, watching TV and reading Aldous Huxley. Oh, and having a chocolate biscuit from time to time.
What a Christmas this was. Once it was over, I promised myself I’ll never have another one like it. I’ll never be cold, uncomfortable, lonely and yes, hungry, again.
I’ve kept my promise.
Still there are too many people who are facing Christmas with very little or no money at all.
There are many people, whose concerns are not about how to choose between chicken and turkey; who don’t have the luxury of deciding how many presents to buy and whether to put a cheque in the Christmas card.
Their problems are about being warm for couple of hours, about having a meal. There are people who may have to choose between feeding their children and eating themselves.
Sometimes I look around me, I read the news and I can’t believe that we live in the UK – the sixth wealthiest nation in the world – in the twenty first century. Do you know that the number of severe malnutrition cases in England doubled between 2008/09 and 2012?
Now, what are the choices for someone who has little or no money at this time of year?
The way I see it, there are five choices: go without, steal, borrow, earn or go to a charity.
Still, most people in this situation are likely to go with ‘borrow’ and/or go to a charity.
Because, it is possible to go without if you are on your own and this is really temporary.
I won’t even discuss stealing though some, I’ sure may get so desperate that they resort to that. Stealing bundles into on hardship and lack of morality.
Borrowing is an option. Some will borrow from family, others will approach friends. Problem is that when you hit hard times your options for borrowing shrink as well.
I remember having no money at all when I was at university and ending up pawning my type-writer. I was very careful when doing this: I always made sure there is enough money coming in to get my typewriter – and the possibilities for making an income – back.
Borrowing a hard and risky option to take. If this road cannot be avoided, it is important to make sure that you follow these four rules of borrowing (particularly if you are using short term loan providers):
#1: Before you borrow, make sure that there is definitely money to pay the loan coming in;
#2: Make sure the lender is operating within proper regulation. This way, although the interest you may be charged can still be scary, at least you’ll know that it is capped at 0.8% per day of the amount borrowed and that any default charges can’t be over £15.
#3: Avoid lender that brag about not doing credit checks or offer very large amounts, very quickly. This smells of trouble from about two miles.
#4: Make sure that there is definitely money to pay the loan coming in.
Yep, you are not misreading it: I really put one of the conditions in twice. This is because it is very, very important.
Call me an optimist, but I think that there is still time to earn some money before Christmas is here. Sometime ago, I published an article about fifteen different ways to make money enough to fill in your fridge (up to £300 per month). And you know what? They work.
Some of them you can start immediately if you have any energy and determination left to try. It is a season when people who can afford it can do with some help.
So take a walk and spot the gardens that need clearing; than speak to the owners and offer to do them.
Notice which houses can do with minor repairs you can do and offer your services.
Or take a stroll in the local park between 8am and 10am and ask whether any of the dog owners there need help with their dog.
With any luck, you will be able to make enough money for a modest celebration.
Yet other people will be able to celebrate only because of the generosity of others. They will be visiting foodbanks, community organised charity giveaways and church lead charity events. (Please note, that you can’t just turn up at a food bank and ask for help; you need to be referred by a Citizens Advice Bureau or a Job Centre).
It is our duty – the duty of the ones who are more fortunate at the moment – to make sure that we give generously. If you are in a position to give, there are two options:
Donate money. This is what we do and out charity of choice is The Trussell Trust: it supplies over 400 foodbanks across Britain. In fact, I just made my donation (and aided it so the government adds to it). You don’t need to donate much – just £5 or £10 can make someone’s Christmas a pure culinary magic. It is easy to donate: just go on the website, click on ‘Donate’ and choose your method of donating.
Donate food. I suppose for many people this will be more affordable and easier to do. Thing is, that people who need food don’t necessarily need what we don’t want. If you’d like to check what food is sought by the foodbanks have a read at this article on The Skint Dad Blog.
Whether you decide to donate money or food be generous. And remember that Christmas is a time for giving, charity and sharing.