Research suggests that financial troubles often go hand-in-hand with mental health issues which is how the pairing came about.
PayPlan knows from its own experience as one of the UK’s largest free debt advice providers that people feel a financial pressure at Christmas, with inquiries dropping by a quarter in December 2015, before rocketing 37% in January.
Jane Clack, money adviser at PayPlan, points out that it highlights a worrying trend: “Every year, we see a very clear debt cycle,” said Jane. “People often start to struggle in the summer as they fork out for the annual family getaway and try to keep the kids entertained over the school holidays.
“There’s then very little gap before Christmas advertising campaigns begin. We hear from many individuals who get swept up with the whole idea of a big Christmas. It’s so easily done and we completely understand the pressure people face at this time of year. Of course, the harsh reality then hits in January, as our figures show. Looking at the last three years, inquiries have gone up by an average of 50% in the first month of the year.
“In 2015, a YouGov study showed a fifth of people were paying for Christmas using credit cards or Pay Day loans. The truth is that many are having a Christmas they simply can’t afford.”
In an attempt to help change people’s mindset about debt, PayPlan and SANE have launched a new online campaign. It features an animated Christmas poem that explains the pressures people put themselves under to be able to deliver the ‘perfect Christmas’ but questions whether the consequences are really worth it. The aim of the campaign is to highlight the reality of a debt problem and the support available to people struggling with their finances and their mental health.
One person who knows the financial pressure of Christmas all too well is Jacquie Leatherbarrow, a mum of two from Dorset. She began to struggle with money after relocating to the area and finding the cost of living was higher than expected.
“We made paying the mortgage our priority, but everything else was a struggle,” said Jacquie. “The pressure gets to you and you worry about every phone call and knock at the door.
“Scrimping on Christmas just wasn’t an option. It had always been a big family event and I didn’t want the kids to suffer. I took out credit to try and keep standards up. I would just not think about having to pay it back until after we’d taken the tree down.
Including Christmas, I managed to rack up £15,000 worth of debt. We just couldn’t cope and we ended up using a food bank to feed ourselves, which was when I called PayPlan.
“I certainly regret leaving it so long to get help and getting swept up in the festivities. You don’t have to spend a fortune to have a good time and if you speak to someone about your problems earlier, you can actually enjoy Christmas more with a weight off your shoulders.”
PayPlan and SANE are hoping the campaign will get people to stop and think before being swept up by the festivities.
Welcoming the partnership, SANE’s chief executive Marjorie Wallace said: “This winter, SANE is partnering with PayPlan to reach out to anyone struggling to cope with financial difficulties and mental illness. For those who find themselves in trouble, the most important thing is to seek out professional help as soon as you can.
“At SANE we provide emotional support and information through our helpline SANEline and other services. We can help people explore their options regarding their mental health and point them in the direction of local services and free debt advisory organisations like PayPlan.”
For more information and free debt advice, visit www.payplan.com/happynewyear or call 0207 760 8976.