Editor: This Christmas is a Huge Opportunity

Christmas this year will be different for many people on the breadline, so if you're not among them, there are positive ways you can make it different for you (and them) too

Ollie Smith 22 December, 2022 | 10:44AM
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Christmas charity

In my column last week I discussed what some might call the "cult of gift giving". In short, it’s great to show love at Christmas through presents, but there are certain behavioural reasons we spend needlessly, waste recklessly, and obsess over perfection. I know I do!

This year will be different for a host of reasons. For one, budgets across the UK are very squeezed, and families who would otherwise want to put on a real show won’t be able to. Research already suggests that the credit card budget crunch typically felt by families in January is front-loaded this year, as people struggle to pay for essentials. 

As such, while I sit at home fretting about waste and excess, it's apparent some won’t even be able to have the heating on. It’s a privilege to worry, and a nightmare to live the reality.

If this Christmas is going to be different for people on low incomes, it could be different for people at the other end of the spectrum too. This isn’t a great big call for a socialist Christmas, but it could be a prompt to think differently about the next two weeks for you and yours.

If you are comfortable and have the time, this is a huge opportunity. It’s an opportunity first and foremost to help others, but it’s also an opportunity to learn. If you’re wondering what an alternative Christmas could look like, I’ve got some ideas:

Send a Card

"There are mail strikes," I hear you say. Email Christmas cards are just as good. The best bit is you can personalise them, which makes up for the lack of hand-written signatures.

Let’s Zoom

This year I’m trying to catch up with people I care about over Zoom. If you can think of people you haven’t caught up with who deserve a chat, Zoom gifts you an easy opportunity.

Prime Someone

It won’t surprise you to hear me say I’m reluctant to give money to Jeff Bezos this Christmas (I've tried to spend as much money as I can in independent stores this year), but if you’re looking for a way to do good quickly, Amazon Prime is pretty unbeatable. Someone in need might appreciate it.

Give Cash or Food

Nobody carries cash these days, right? But to those experiencing homeless it’s absolutely vital, and could make the difference in getting off the streets for the night in freezing temperatures. Even a couple of quid could help someone stay warm. I've purposely taken cash out for this reason. If you don't feel comfortable giving cash, offers to purchase warm food may be very much appreciated. If you find yourself fielding very specific requests from someone vulnerable for a particular meal, remember homeless people are human beings, and have food preferences, allergies, and health needs like the rest of us. 

Give Time

There’s the classic soup kitchen shift on Christmas Day, but there are other ways of giving your time to people in need. The UK has a proud history of volunteering, and a quick Google search will tell you more. If you've run out of time to sort it before Christmas Day, the conundrum may just have gifted you your first New Year's resolution.

Give Donations

It might not be showy or materialistic, but donating on others’ behalf is unlikely to be dismissed as a terrible gift idea. There are plenty of causes worth giving to – and you don’t have to give that much to make some kind of impact. This year Morningstar is supporting NSPCC and The Trussell Trust. Both help very vulnerable people indeed.

Open The Curtains

If I am to summarise my experience of Christmas, it’s being sat in my parents’ home with the curtains shut, the telly on, and a pile of presents on the floor, with the bin bag not far away. The curtains are quaint and cosy, but they’re also metaphorical. They signify the comfort of Christmas, and the inwardness that characterises that most special of moments with our families.

This year, however, it’s important to open up beyond our living rooms. I’d be delighted to hear how you’re spending your time, so do drop me an email if you have time. Inspiration is a two-way street, after all…

Ollie Smith is UK Editor at Morningstar

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Ollie Smith

Ollie Smith  is editor of Morningstar UK

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