Christmas is usually a time for an abundance of presents with huge feasts and full bellies - but for 8.4 million Australians it will be a “financial nightmare”.
There will be no gifts under the tree this year for half a million children under 10, Salvation Army research revealed.
The study, released on Wednesday by the Salvation Army, showed 1.8m Australians expected this Christmas would leave them in "worrying debt", with many forced to sell items to pay for festive celebrations.
Almost half (45 per cent) of the survey’s respondents admitted to eating or buying “too much food” for Christmas Day – a stark contrast to half the people the Salvation Army supports regularly skipping meals due to extreme financial hardship.
About 70,000 Australian families will seek support from the charitable organisation in the weeks before Christmas, and in the critical month afterwards, to make ends meet, The Salvos estimated.
One of those families doing it tough this year are the Wilsons, of Miller in Sydney.
Connie Wilson was forced to leave her part-time deli job after being diagnosed with breast cancer last year.
The 46-year-old mother told the Sydney Morning Herald there was “no way” she and husband Michael could afford to buy presents for their four children this Christmas.
After rent and car repayments are paid, the couple spends their remaining weekly budget of $350 on bills, groceries, medical expenses, and school supplies for their children aged between eight and 14.
After that, there is little left over for anything else.
"It's hard to put any money aside to get gifts," Mrs Wilson said.
"It makes me feel so guilty because I can't give them what other kids get. That's a really hard thing for a parent."
The Salvation Army’s Major Paul Moulds said Christmas was one of the Salvos’ busiest times of the year, with Aussies experiencing hardship feeling the pinch the most.
“It reminds us how difficult circumstances are for some people, when people tell us that they’re having to sell things just to scrape up enough money for Christmas, and others say that some children in their household will not even get one present this Christmas,” he said.
“Our biggest challenge at Christmas is finding ways to meet the needs of the huge number of people coming to us for care and assistance.
“We need the support of the public more than ever so we can support them.”
To donate to The Salvation Army Christmas Appeal, visit salvos.org.au or call 13 72 58 (13 SALVOS).