A single parent’s guide to Christmas

Christmas bells and festive cheer, adverts and shop windows trying to sell sparkly treasures to your children…

While the kids excitedly count down how many sleeps till Santa comes, many single parents worry about how much there is to organise and the number of presents to buy. It can be difficult juggling money and time while balancing any stress levels.

We asked single parents their tips to help you enjoy Christmas and avoid some of the stress.


  • Set a budget and stick to it. Look at your finances and decide what you can afford to spend. Don’t forget to factor in the extra you may need for food, fuel, phones, social events and travel.
  • Christmas 2020 may be the last thing on your mind now but it’s a good idea to start saving now for next year.
  • Look out for bargains and discount codes which can be found by Googling the name of the gift you’re looking to buy or the shop you want to use followed by ‘discount code’.
  • Lots of big shops have loyalty cards that you can redeem to buy gifts including experiences and magazine subscriptions not directly linked to the shop.
  • Kidstart is linked to many big shops and offers discounts and special deals to members while also donating a small % of what you spend either to your kids’ savings account or a charity of your choice.
  • If you have any generous friends or family asking for gift suggestions for your kids, you might want to consider gifts that would help you spend less, such as clothes, cinema tickets, sports equipment, subscriptions or things they need for their favourite hobbies.

Christmas dinner

  • Using the ‘scan as you shop’ or ordering online could help you keep track of your spending and stay within budget.
  • If you are struggling to buy food over the holidays you can get help from your local food bank. You may have to be referred by your local Jobcentre Plus or Citizens Advice Bureau but contact the foodbank directly for more details.
  • There are lots of community meals and events happening across the country for you to join or volunteer at. Check local groups on Facebook and supermarket notice boards to find out what is on near you.

Benefits over Christmas

If you would normally receive a benefit or tax credit payment on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, or New Year’s Day, you should be paid the last working day before, which is Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve.

My payment is dueMy Universal Credit is paid onMy other benefits will be paid on
Tuesday 24 DecemberTuesday 24 DecemberTuesday 24 December
Wednesday 25 DecemberTuesday 24 DecemberTuesday 24 December
Thursday 26 DecemberTuesday 24 DecemberTuesday 24 December
Friday 27 December Friday 27 December Tuesday 24 December
Tuesday 31 December Tuesday 31 December Tuesday 31 December 
Wednesday 1 January Tuesday 31 December Tuesday 31 December 
Thursday 2 January Tuesday 31 December Tuesday 31 December 

NOTE-Lots of people will get paid early before Christmas. If you get paid early, it can seem like you’re earning a lot more than you are, which could reduce your January Universal Credit payment. You can ask your employer to follow guidelines to avoid you being affected by this. Show them HMRC guidance (page 4). For further advice on this call the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 023 2581.



  • Arrange any extra childcare needed for over the holiday period well in advance.
  • If your childcare costs increase a lot during the holidays you may be entitled to extra working tax or universal credit. Contact HMRC report this change for tax credits or, if you get universal credit, report it on your online account.
  • If you don’t have any childcare, you could meet up with friends and go to the park together, have a day out or visit each other so that you can have some adult conversation while the kids play. Or watch each other’s children to allow you and a friend some time to yourself.

Contact arrangements  

  • Juggling plans to see friends and family can be difficult, especially if there’s travel involved. If your children usually spend time with their other parent, try to agree how this can work best for everyone during the holidays.
  • If you are concerned that your child may not be returned to you after a visit, call the police.
  • If you’re concerned about your child not returning from another country contact a service like Reunite International for advice. 



Some parents have told us that they feel lonely and miss their children so much during the time they’re with other family that they’re not able to relax and enjoy the time to themselves. This is understandable, especially if this is the first Christmas you’ve been separated.

  • You might want to enjoy the time at home watching a film, relax in a bath, or meet up with friends.
  • You might want to find new people to talk to or spend time with, reignite an old hobby, or learn something new. There are websites such as meetup.com that you can search for groups in your area with similar interests.  

You can also chat online with other parents on Netmums or Mumsnet. Some people find having time to themselves looking at social media a good way to relax.

  • Just remember social media isn’t a reflection of reality. We’re not all carving up the perfect homemade Christmas.

Different people find different things work best for them and their family, you’re the expert of yourself. Most importantly, try to relax and enjoy it. 

If you need immediate help over Christmas 

  • If you are in immediate danger call 999 
  • For health advice when your GP and dentist is closed call NHS 24 on 111  
  • For personal crisis support, call the Samaritans on 116 123 
  • If you are feeling low or depressed call Breathing Space 0800 83 85 87 
  • If you are, or have been, affected by domestic abuse, call Scottish Women’s Aid  0808 2000 247or find your nearest Women’s Aid service here 
  • For housing issues, contact Shelter on 0808 800 4444 or webchat 


The One Parent Families Lone Parent Helpline is closed from 24 December 12.30pm. We reopen on 3 Jan 2020 between 9.30 and 4pm.Free phone 0808 801 0323. 

Posted in Family Support, Features, Information & Advice, News.


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