A father of five has set up a GoFundMe to raise £2,000 to pay for Christmas gifts for his family, after his girlfriend’s difficult pregnancy meant he had to take time off work.
32-year-old Ben Buckley wrote: “I’m not going to be getting paid like I expected to be. where now in a huge panic about Christmas and have no clue how we are going to provide our kids with a Christmas at all I’m been paid just enough money to cover the rent and bills. This should be a happy time for us all but under the surface of it all for mee and my partner it’s nothing but anxiety and worry about what’s to come and what we are to tell the kids and many other things. I don’t normally do charity I give to charitys but don’t expect to be given to by them but this time round I’m grasping at straws. I beg and plead for some help so I can give my children a happy Christmas.”
Ben and his girlfriend Kirsty have already surpassed their £2,000 target and will be able to have the fancy Christmas they’ve been dreaming of.
But as you can probably imagine, they’ve been subjected to a world of criticism from people who feel a GoFundMe is an extreme measure when it comes to paying for non-essential Christmas gifts and festivities.
One comment read: “You are shameful! £2000 on xmas? And begging for it!! I spend £100 each on my kids and they have a great Christmas. Cant believe the muppets that have donated to you. Disgusting. Hope you’re kids are thoroughly embarrassed by you!!”
It’s easy to see why the pair have come under so much criticism, particularly when you look at how many people are unable to so much as put the heating on or afford even the most basic of Christmas dinners. However, I personally think that Ben and Kirsty’s desperation to shower their children with gifts despite their financial struggles speaks volumes about the ridiculous pressure people feel to celebrate Christmas in style.
In Ben’s eyes, failure to buy presents for his kids would result in an unhappy Christmas, and I find that mentality far more upsetting than the thought of kids going without gifts this festive season.
There are so many children out there who won’t be receiving hundreds of pounds worth of presents this year, but presumably very few of them will grow to resent their parents for their inability to afford the latest toys and games.
And yet, Ben and Kirsty’s fear of being festive failures is fairly understandable. Christmas only lasts for 24 hours but for months leading up to the big day, we’re bombarded with adverts telling us how to make it magical, social media posts from friends whose homes look so much more festive than our own, and flash sales that pressure us into buying things we can’t necessarily afford – even when it’s half price.
We have to buy a Christmas jumper even if we would rather spend that tenner on something else, find a Secret Santa gift for a colleague we don’t necessarily know or like, and spend hours crying in changing rooms in a quest for a Christmas party outfit that’s sure to impress.
When Christmas day comes, we’re expected to have a cosy winter wardrobe, a beautifully-decorated tree surrounded by dozens of perfectly-wrapped presents, and a luxurious roast dinner complete with all the trimmings.
And all this pressure can result in people overspending and getting into debt simply to impress other people and avoid festive FOMO. According to research from National Debtline, five million Britons suffer from money worries and stress in the run up to Christmas, and one in three adults pay for Christmas presents with credit rather than cash.
More than three quarters of households with children say they make financial sacrifices in order to buy Christmas presents, compared to just 45 per cent of those without. And when we say ‘financial sacrifices’, we’re not talking about giving up non-essential spending here. Just over one in eight families who are making these sacrifices delay paying household bills to buy presents, while one in ten postpone their rent or mortgage payments.
Not only is there pressure to spoil our loved ones at Christmas, many people feel obliged to spend money they don’t even have on people they don’t even know well enough to select the right gift for them.
Martin Lewis has talked extensively on this topic, calling for an end to unnecessary gift giving.
He said: “Christmas has become a retail festival and it shouldn’t be. Christmas should be joyous but it causes some people unhappiness, debt, and worry. Many people feel obliged to buy gifts for others that they know they won’t use, with money they don’t have, and cause themselves stress they don’t need.
“We do tit-for-tat giving which means people end up with tat. Some people say to me ‘hold on – what about the gift of giving?’ but I have to be honest and say that can actually be selfish. And here’s why – it can mis-prioritise people’s finances and create a financial burden.”
— Martin Lewis (@MartinSLewis) September 26, 2018
He then goes on to explain that if a person who is relatively affluent gives a present to someone who isn’t quite so well off financially, the person who receives that gift feels obliged to give a gift in return – even if they can’t afford to do so.
Martin Lewis doesn’t talk about re-gifting in the video above, but I think that’s another ugly outcome of Christmas culture that’s increasingly being driven by consumerism. What’s the point in giving gifts if all you’re doing is swapping unwanted presents back and forth between yourself and your friends? That’s not the ‘gift of giving’, surely? It’s all so thoughtless and impersonal and robotic.
You might have guessed that I’m really not-that-into Christmas. I love that it makes other people happy, I would never try to spoil other people’s fun, and if I ever have kids I’m going to try and make it really special and magical for them. But I’m just not that arsed about it and no matter how many times I listen to Step Into Christmas, I just can’t seem to find the motivation to invest big money in the festive season.
And yet, the pressure people try to place on me to spend money on Christmas traditions is just… a little bit bizarre.
“What do you MEAN you’re not going to have a tree?” someone asks every year without fail.
“I just don’t really have space for one. And I’d have to buy one and I’m just not really that bothered,” I replied.
I’m then accused of being a Scrooge and told that I simply HAVE to buy myself a Christmas tree, as if all the reindeer in the world will fall to the floor and start violently convulsing if I don’t. I really don’t know why other people concern themselves with matters that don’t have an impact on them whatsoever, but they do, and so here we are, spending money we don’t want to part with in a desperate attempt to avoid awkward conversations with those around us.
The pressure is so real that this morning I actually started contemplating getting a tree, partly so people will get off my case.
“I guess it would look nice,” I said to myself. “If I get a really big one and decorate it all fancy and share some photos of it on Instagram, I bet I’ll get some likes.”
How ridiculous is that? I’m contemplating buying a Christmas tree in exchange for Instagram likes and the silence of people who probably won’t even step foot in my apartment to see my extravagant winter wonderland in the flesh.
I can appreciate a cosy living room decorated with glistening fairy lights, I love a delicious Christmas dinner, and I enjoy giving and receiving thoughtful gifts with people I genuinely care about, but I can’t stand the suffocating pressure to spend ridiculous amounts of money at Christmas, regardless of whether you need, want or can afford to splash your cash.
A few years ago, I worked at a company on the other side of Manchester. When the Christmas party came around and I realised I’d probably end up spending £40 or more on a taxi home, my dad kindly offered to pick me up at 10pm. My boss at the time shamed me for leaving early and spoiling the fun. He accused me of “only going to the party for a free meal”. That’s precisely what I was doing because he paid me very little and I couldn’t afford a wild night out AND a taxi home at the end of it. His bratty sense of entitlement and the expectation that I should stick around just to appease those around me made my blood boil.
Ben Buckley’s story has been covered in multiple tabloids and in the Daily Mail comment section, ‘Stu’ wrote: “A happy family Christmas doesn’t need to be about outlandish presents, it’s about family unity, being together, sharing a meal, playing party games etc. Some of my happiest Christmas memories after the end of the war in 1945 had nothing to do with extravagant presents and all to do with a sense of family together, as children we had great fun and laughter and enjoyed the simple pleasures.”
What a lovely comment! But then again, Stu’s words inadvertently highlight the issue of the resounding pressure to enjoy Christmas even if you don’t have a happy family that get along, but I’ll save that miserable can of worms for another time…