Planning for Christmas

Date last updated: 11 December 2020

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.

Managing money

  • 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.

Staying Warm

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.

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.

Food Banks

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

If you find it challenging when your children are away from you during the festive period, it may helpful to get in touch with other single parents in our online forum or on our Facebook page.

You may also wish to try websites such as or, where you can chat to other parents and get advice and support.

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.

Gingerbread groups can be a great source of local support and many organise activities or social events for both you and your children. You can find your nearest group on our map and postcode finder.

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

Stay busy

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

Help Over Christmas

The Gingerbread helpline is closed from 1pm 24th December to 10am Wednesday 2nd January. If you need advice or support there are many organisations that are open over the Christmas period. See our page on getting help over Christmas.

Help Over Christmas

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