Hundreds of thousands wake up to Christmas debt, say charities


Charities who specialise in dealing with debt are expected to have one of their busiest Januarys on record, as hundreds of thousands of consumers come to terms with their festive spending.

Citizens Advice predicts that more than 370,000 people will seek advice on financial affairs during the first month of 2017.

In addition, the Money Advice Trust (MAT) said more than five million people – or 11 per cent of consumers – could run into financial difficulties when Christmas debt hits.

It said its National Debtline service had already had its busiest December in four years, taking 715 calls a day over the four week period and helping more than 40,000 people online.

The MAT warned that “perilously few” shoppers had set a budget in the run-up to Christmas.

In a survey, just a third (32 per cent) had set a budget they plan to stick to, and even less (12 per cent) claimed to have a strategy to repay debts.

“January can be a difficult month for household budgets – and it is easy to see how many people fall behind when the bills for Christmas spending begin to land,” said Joanna Elson, the chief executive of the MAT.

“Unfortunately our research shows that perilously few households have a plan for how to repay the debts they currently owe – and many could fall into serious difficulty as a result.”

Earlier this year, the Bank of England (BoE) claimed that unsecured debt, including uncontrolled spending on credit cards, is rising at its fastest pace in 11 years.