I am proud to introduce another post from Mrs RPS. This time she’s thinking about Christmas past, present and future. Keeping calm and carrying on.
So here we are again, the annual frenzy of purchasing, wrapping and sending of Christmas paraphernalia which, in our house, seems to have fallen to me over the years, nay decades. However, this year is different, and not in a good way.
My darling husband has become one of the first victims of our Con-Dem Government, and is to be made redundant early next year. There is no chance of a reprieve, no suddenly discovered mistake that can easily be rectified, no magical dream job galloping over the horizon. No, instead we as a family face a very uncertain future.
My greatest fear is the most obvious one – how will we manage for money? Our situation is comfortable by many people’s standards, but not affluent. We have a home that we love, big enough for all of us to fit in (not always the case in our family history – we had to weather the negative equity years of the 1990s in a 2up, 2down) and set in a beautiful part of rural England.
Providing the foundation for this comfort is a substantial mortgage which has taken a significant chunk of Mr RPS’ monthly salary, along with the council tax, household bills etc.
Our children have worked hard at school and so have reached university or are on the way there. To cushion our oldest against student debt we have given him a weekly allowance and have planned to do the same with our daughter if she starts higher education next year. We have helped with deposits, bonds etc. for student accommodation and parted with cash to help purchase family birthday presents, rail tickets and the usual student expenditure.
We have maintained the principle that life is not a free ride and that part-time work is the best protection against student poverty. Both our older kids found weekend jobs in their teens and consequently value the satisfaction engendered from earning one’s pay. No doubt our youngest will follow suit.
We also take an annual summer holiday, always in this country, we run two cars from our own purse and we subscribe to such meritworthy charities as The National Trust, English Heritage and the RNLI. Neither of us smokes or drinks alcohol and our idea of a great evening is a video and a bar of chocolate.
Thus, Dear Reader, I am hoping that you will conclude that we do not indulge in hedonistic frivolities but display a sober and cautious approach to spending worthy of my Quaker ancestry.
We’re an ordinary family dealing with – for us – extraordinary circumstances.
So how do we approach Christmas, considering that come February we lose the vast majority of our monthly income? Do we throw caution to the winds and spend at the rate that we have done in the past? I’m sure our elder daughter would love a laptop and our youngest an iPod touch. And our student son would really appreciate a few hundred quid.
Or do we take the ascetic path and adopt the notion that Christmas is cancelled? Would we really miss the abundance of presents and the traditional Christmas blowout of turkey and all the trimmings? Well, yes, actually we would.
So I have decided to follow the wartime adage of Keep Calm and Carry On. Our children will have presents, though perhaps not as trendy or expensive as their peers’. We have bought gifts for family and friends, but on a controlled budget, and at a discount when possible. We will buy for each other, but not as expensively or as extensively as before. And we won’t be visiting the January sales either.
At the end of the day, we’ll still have each other.