KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON THIS CHRISTMAS
Research into the state of the nation’s ‘Christmas spirit’ in the face of economic hardship has revealed that families are adopting the quintessentially British maxim, ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’.
According to the findings of a study by OscarUK.co.uk, the leading concessions website for over 50s, over half (55%) of families say they will go back to the traditional values of the festive season to help them emerge from this year’s celebrations with happy memories and finances intact.
Although two in five people (40%) said they would be cutting down on Christmas this year as there isn’t the cash for mountains of presents and all the trimmings, almost a third said they didn’t need money to have a great festive season. Being with family and friends (44%) is what makes a happy Christmas.
Over half of those surveyed were looking to cut back on spending by making their own Christmas presents for loved ones and planning a Christmas they could genuinely afford. Over a quarter (27%) had wisely already budgeted for festive spending.
Peter Simpson, Managing Director at OscarUK commented: “The message of Christmas is the same underneath the tinsel and the TV ads. We found that people are facing up to Christmas by prioritising what’s important, and it seems that being with family and friends is at the top of the list when it comes to Christmas wishes.
“The festive season can bring a great deal of stress for some people as they struggle to deliver an even more special Christmas than the year before, but what’s clear from our research is that in these tough times, people are resisting the pressure to over-commit financially and focusing on keeping control.”
Indeed, shopping trends on the high street reflect the desire to re-capture the values and pleasures of Christmas past and the nostalgia it brings. Traditional toys are making a comeback according to legendary toy shop, Hamleys, with Pudding the teddy bear, retro editions of Monopoly, Cluedo and Risk, and traditional rocking horses tipped to be best-sellers.
Oscar UK, which brings together thousands of concessions, benefits, savings and offers on its website www.oscaruk.co.uk, has developed the following Keep Calm and Carry On Christmas tips for scaled down festivities but maximum fun.
Make your own rules: Don’t be pressured into extravagant dining and expensive gifts to match previous year’s celebrations. Plan a Christmas to match your pocket.
Identify priorities: Think about the happy memories of past Christmas celebrations and what made them so special. Remind yourself of these special moments when you’re getting anxious about preparations.
Set Expectations: Everyone is feeling the pinch and so by scaling down expectations for no-one will be disappointed.
Invest time not money: Think about ways to make the season special without lavish spending and focus on time together. For example, get crafty and creative this Christmas and make gifts. Or, share a meal and each other’s company instead exchanging presents.
Involve Others: If you are hosting Christmas lunch, why not ask family and friends to each bring along a contribution. Suggest a Secret Santa for gifts for relatives or friends and set a small budget to make sure people don’t break the bank.
Says Simpson: “As a nation we are very resilient to tough and stressful times and what this research shows is that despite a lean economic year, people are looking forward to a Christmas doing what matters most, and that’s being with family and friends.”
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An increasing number of the over 60s are picking up extra income by renting out a room in their house. This can make a lot of sense if, for example, children have left home (although they do seem to return!) yet you do not want to down-size or move. We have previously looked at ways of raising money on one’s home, by various mortgage schemes and equity release, but renting out a room may be less onerous. This scheme allows one to earn a tax-free income, even if you yourself are renting your home.
If you do rent out a room in your home, you can get up to £4,250 tax free income. A government scheme called Rent A Room was specifically designed to encourage people to take in lodgers. The basic rules are:
· You let out a room or part of your main property (it can be more than one room but not a self-contained flat).
· It must be furnished, an unfurnished room or rooms don’t qualify.
· You don’t have to own your home, if you have your landlord’s consent you can take advantage of the scheme as a tenant.
· If you don’t normally fill out a tax return and the income from letting is below £4,250 (around £350 a month) you don’t even have to do anything, the tax exemption is automatic.
· If the amount you earn from the let is above £4,250, just let your tax office know.
If you usually fill out a tax return then the scheme may not benefit you. You cannot offset any of the expenses of renting the room against the income, so wear and tear, insurance costs, any furnishing or decoration cannot be deducted from the income.
There are several websites which specifically deal with finding rooms and tenants under this scheme, or of course you could try the local paper or a more general community website.