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How to avoid the financial stress Christmas brings

Newshub logoNewshub 19/11/2018 Bridget Grace
a close up of a light © Video - Newshub, Image - Getty

Christmas is just over a month away, and it's a time of year that's meant to be special - but for many families it's a time of financial stress.

The Salvation Army says one in five Kiwis can't afford Christmas this year, and has launched its annual Christmas Appeal on Monday to help those in need.

Courtney Buchanan was doing okay, but a redundancy and repeated melanoma diagnoses left her family of eight struggling to make ends meet.

"I couldn't give my kids a Christmas present or let alone much food," she says.

She's not alone.

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A survey by the Salvation Army has found 23 percent of Kiwis can't afford to celebrate the festive season and nearly half agreed that Christmas is a time of financial struggle.

When asked what is the gift they'd most like to receive, 8 percent just wanted a job and 5 percent wanted basic needs.

"We've got this gradual increase of people we call the working poor - not a good name - and because it's a fixed income, at any stage they might lose their jobs or be faced with redundancies," says Salvation Army head of welfare services Major Pam Waugh.

Major Waugh says they are seeing many people who are just one paycheck or one job loss away from hardship.

Last year, 17,000 Kiwis sought help from the Salvation Army in the lead-up to Christmas, and that's expected to remain the same this year.

After two long years, Ms Buchanan's husband got a job and their family managed to get back on their feet. She has a piece of advice if things do get too rough.

"Ask for help: you'd be surprised at how much help is actually out there," she says.

The managing director of a financial planning service says don't succumb to the Christmas pressure.

"Set your budget of what you're going to spend for the Christmas period," says financial planner Hannah McQueen.

Ms McQueen's tips for getting through the festive season include getting only practical gifts that people actually need, doing a secret Santa, being careful with credit cards, and keeping an eye on food expenses.

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