Planning for Christmas
Date last updated: 9 December 2019
Planning for Christmas
During the holiday season, there can be extra pressures for many parents. Budgeting, making arrangements with your child’s other parent, and perhaps coping with being apart from your children over the holiday period can all be a challenge.
However you spend the holiday period, this time of year can bring lots of fun for you and your family. Our community of single parents and our advice and information pages can help you plan the festive period and meet any challenges that come up.
For more ideas on having fun, establishing new traditions and saving money at Christmas, check out our single parents’ single parents’ ideas for a happy Christmas. If you are about to experience your first Christmas as a single parent, see our tips from other single mums and dads to help you.
- Our factsheet ‘Making ends meet’ has lots of advice on budgeting, as well as ideas from other single parents on how to save money.
- The Money Advice Service have a free online Christmas Money Planner that can help you budget for the festive season.
- For a guide to managing finances and debt, read our factsheet on Dealing with debt.
If you are on a low income, you may be able to claim a one-off discount from your electricity supplier under the Warm Home Discount Scheme. Some suppliers have already closed their schemes for this winter but others are still currently open, so it is worth contacting your supplier to ask. You can also apply for a Cold Weather Payment if you receive certain benefits, such as Income Support, ESA, or Universal Credit.
Benefits over Christmas
If you would receive a benefit or tax credit payment on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, or New Year’s Day, you should be paid the last working day before, which is Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve.
- Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, and Universal Credit due to be paid on 25 December and 26 December should be paid on 24 December 2019.
- Tax credits due to be paid on 25 December, 26 December and 27 December will be paid on 24 December 2019.
- Tax credits due to be paid on 1 January and 2 January 2020 should be paid on 31 December 2019.
- If your Child Benefit payment is due on 25 or 26 December 2019 it’s likely you’ll be paid on 24 December 2019.
- If your Child Benefit payment is due on 1 January 2020, it’s likely you’ll be paid on 31 December 2019.
Universal Credit in December
A word of warning about universal credit payments in December. Many people receive an early payday before the Christmas break. But if you receive two salary payments fall within the same month, it can look like you’re earning a lot more than you actually are and lead to a reduction in your Universal Credit payment in January. Please watch out for this and if you think this might affect you, please call the Gingerbread helpline for advice.
If you are claiming Universal Credit and you think your employer may pay you early for Christmas, make sure they have seen the guidance on page 4 of this HMRC bulletin on paying staff in December.
Coping with money problems
Read our information page on ‘Money in an emergency’ for advice about how to access local welfare funds and other emergency financial assistance.
If you run into serious problems with money at Christmas, help is available for food and children’s gifts. It is worth contacting your local Salvation Army centre, as some of them can donate gifts to families in difficult circumstances at Christmas. Similarly many community groups, local newspapers and radio stations run Christmas toy appeals.
To find further information:
- look in your local newspaper
- listen for adverts on your local radio station
- ask at local churches
- contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
If you’re worried you won’t have enough cash to buy food, there is a network of food banks operating across the UK, which are there to help. You can contact the Trussell Trust to find your nearest foodbank.
For more information on foodbanks and local support, contact:
Planning contact arrangements for your children
If your child has contact with their other parent, you might want to plan ahead if your child will spend time with them over Christmas. If your children are old enough, you could include them in the planning to help them feel more secure about how things will work out.
We have lots of extra advice and information that might help you organise arrangements over the Christmas period, including our frequently asked questions about contact arrangements and our frequently asked questions about holidays.
Times when your children are away
Connecting with other single parents locally
Consider getting in touch with other single parents who will be happy to share the ups and downs of Christmas.
It's what you do
Don’t try too hard or worry too much. My children are adults now and they talk fondly about what we did, not what they got, at Christmas. And that was mostly/nearly free - decorating the house, driving round town to see the lights and visiting the Christmas section of the local garden centre to each choose a new bauble.
Mum, 2 children
Make plans in advance if your little one is with someone else. Don't sit at home alone, stay busy!
Mum, 1 child
Bring and share
Have a bring-and-share Christmas lunch. My family do this and works well. It can unburden you with the cost of the food.
Mum, 1 child
Go easy on yourself
The best advice I can give is to go easy on yourself. It’s just one day – try to forget what everyone else is doing. Focus on yourself and your children.
Spending time together is what matters
Having my children’s laughter around me… well, that’s the gift that can never be bought!
Mum, 2 children