Consumer: Time to take the stress out of the festive season

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Children may be busy writing letters to Santa, but the last thing they want to do is see their parents miserable because of the cost of Christmas.

Christmas used to be the most magical time of year.

Many moons ago, the Christmas tree would arrive on December 1, involving a family trip to the woods to find just the right sort of branch. It would be set it in a nice sturdy plant pot, sprayed silver and decorated so that no part of the tree was more than a centimetre away from either a bauble or a piece of tinsel.

And then, of course, there are the presents. And the food, and the booze you must get in just in case... and that teeth-grindingly dreadful pilgramage to the supermarket, where not one but two trolleys need to be somehow filled with things you’d never normally eat and you’ll buy two or even three boxes of these things just in case the world ends before the big day.

There’s no doubting Christmas is a magical time, especially for the little ones, but it can also be a rather costly affair. Today though, it seems children are worrying about money, rather than whether Santa Claus actually exists. Since the recession kicked in and high street and heating prices went up, families have found it tough to cope.

Many parents are being forced to make cutbacks again this Christmas. But worryingly, according to a survey by Vouchercodes.co.uk, one in eight children admit they’ve heard their parents arguing about money. And more than a third of 11-16-year-olds regularly worry about how much cash their family has, and avoid asking for Christmas treats because they’re concerned about the extra pressure they’ll be putting on already stressed mums and dads.

So if you’re snapping because money is tight, try to make sure the kids aren’t around. Think back to your own childhood - I’m sure it wasn’t filled with a nauseating number of lavish gifts - the season just felt special. Get little ones involved with the decorating and baking, and on the big day itself, glug back some mulled wine and let yourself relax and enjoy the day.

What’s the worst that can happen? Dinner might be late (isn’t it always? It’s tradition!), the lounge might be a mess (who cares?), but giving your time to your family and chilling out with the clan will make for a much more memorable Christmas Day than stressing out and maxing the credit card so everyone is inundated with presents they probably don’t really need. According to the same survey, two in five children believe family time is more precious than presents.