THE head of a debt counselling service today issued a stark warning about relying on credit to fund Christmas.
Christians Against Poverty, which helps people with spiralling debts, wants people to do their seasonal shopping with a “clear strategy”.
Fred Finch, Sunderland CAP centre manager, said: “These are difficult times for a lot of us and the temptation is to say, ‘at least we’ll have a great Christmas’ and use that as an excuse to spend what we haven’t got.
“If you’ve already caught yourself saying this, we want your alarm bells to be ringing loud and clear.
“Over indulging on presents for everyone in a mile radius is no longer in fashion.
“Most of us have seen our income squeezed significantly and will be scaling back so we must not feel the pressure to over consume.”
Half of those with out-of-control debt who contact CAP have at some time taken out a loan to cover the cost of the festive season, according to the charity’s national client statistics.
Mr Finch said many of those then went on to lose their homes, were unable to feed and clothe their children, suffered mental health problems and even considered suicide.
“We just want people to enjoy Christmas as the time of hope and celebration it ought to be and not herald the start of a terrible downward spiral,” he said.
Sunderland’s centre opened in April this year in partnership with Bethshan Church, in Park Road.
It gives free face-to-face debt counselling to the local community, not just Christians, with members visiting people in their own homes.
They help them set budgets, contact creditors and offers holistic support until the client is debt free – often within five years.
The Wearside centre is one of 190 such church-based centres in the UK.
For more information, call 0800 328 0006 or click here.
CAP’s top tips for avoiding festive debt:
* Decide what you have to spend.
* Make a list and be realistic.
* Paying in cash may help you keep control.
* Let your children see your careful planning – you’ll be teaching them a valuable life-long lesson.
* Manage expectations early. If things are tight don’t be afraid to say so to family members.
* See if relatives will club together with you to buy children what they would like, rather than individually over indulging them and all feeling out of pocket.
* Never take out a Christmas loan. Remember the possible consequences could be disastrous for you and your family.