Blue Monday. How does it feel?
Today is Blue Monday, the so-called most depressing day of the year. The Wales Co-operative Centre launches a new Welsh Government funded website today designed to support people to manage their money more effectively. Wales Financial Inclusion Champion Katija Dew looks at some practical approaches we can take when we are suffering the post-Christmas financial blues.
When Dr Cliff Arnell of Cardiff University launched his ‘Blue Monday’ formula to predict the most depressing day of the year back in 2005, he managed to encapsulate what most of us already knew – that the post-Christmas, post-New Year lull can be the toughest part of the year. For those of us still finding it hard to manage our debts this feeling repeats until we are able to break that cycle.
Dr Arnell’s formula is complicated but common sense. It includes factors such as the weather, time since Christmas, our likely success (or otherwise) with our New Year resolutions, motivational levels, our need to have something to look forward to and, our levels of debt and our ability to manage or pay those debts.
It’s no coincidence that holiday companies promote their summer breaks from Boxing Day. The post-Christmas lull is the time when many people look to escape the drudgery of a new work year and the stress of mounting debt. With the amount of debt we carry as individuals throughout Britain, the post-Christmas lull for many people has transformed into New Year misery.
Christmas is a danger time for debt. High credit card bills for presents and even the Christmas day turkey and trimmings are often cited for increasing the burden. But, in this age of austerity many people with existing debts will have reduced their seasonal spending in an effort not to go further into the red. This may add to the feeling of helplessness. According to UK debt statistics from Credit Action, in November 2012 the level of outstanding personal debt in the UK stood at £1.42 trillion and the average household debt stood at £5194 per household.
To misquote New Order, if it ‘wasn’t for our misfortunes’ the first month or two of our year could be considerably brighter.
There are many excellent support services and charities in Wales that help people cope with debt. But, we know that there are people that are worried about their situation who don’t always find their way to the support that is available. The new website launched by the Local Government and Communities Minister, Carl Sargeant AM today will mean than more people can begin to manage their money better. Moneymadeclearwales.org offers impartial tips and advice on debt management and it signposts users to a range of specialised support services. The website also offers staff at those support services a forum for sharing best practice, materials and learning.
This Welsh Government funded website was created by the Wales Co-operative Centre in collaboration with support agencies who are experts in the field of money and debt advice. It is designed to be accessible and easy to use – even for people who are not confident with online resources. In fact, we were able to employ the expertise within the Welsh Government funded Communities 2.0
digital inclusion programme to ensure that the new website is accessible to users who are learning to use digital resources as well as those used to accessing information over the internet.
What practical measures can be taken now by people struggling to cope with debt? The first piece of advice is don’t panic. There is information and advice out there to help. The free and impartial services do not charge or judge. These resources are there to help. Secondly, be honest with yourself about your money. If you have cause for concern about managing the bills you have then look at the moneymadeclearWales website for initial guidance and follow the links to expert help. Next, join a Credit Union. They are financial co-operatives managed by the people who use them and offer an easy way to save, low interest loans and other benefits. Accounts can usually be opened for as little as £1. For many people this is the best pound they’ve ever put aside. Always try to avoid borrowing more. Instead, existing payments should be restructured so that they are affordable and advice is available to help with this. There is guidance on additional borrowing on the moneymadeclearWales website. Finally, avoid the fee charging debt management agencies advertised widely on TV and in the press. Paying their fees means less money to pay your bills.
We hope this new resource will help all of us who are working towards a financially healthier 2013 ensure that the fourth Monday of January next year is a happy Monday and not a blue one.