Don’t rely on credit for Christmas

FENLAND’S debt counselling charity Christians Against Poverty has issued a stark warning of the dangers of relying heavily on credit to fund Christmas.

With less than a month to go before the big day, the organisation, which helps people with spiralling debts, wants people to do their Christmas shopping with a clear strategy.

Fenland CAP centre manager Sue Bradshaw 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 mustn’t 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 own national client statistics.

Many of those then went on to lose their homes, be unable to feed and clothe their children, suffer mental health problems and even consider 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,” she added.

The local centre, based in March, which opened in September 2008, gives free face-to-face debt counselling to all quarters of the community, not just Christians. The service is unique because the charity visits people in their own home, sets a budget, contacts creditors and then offers holistic support until the client is debt free – often within five years.

Fenland is one of 190 such church-based centres tackling UK poverty head on.

To find out if CAP can help you with your debt, call 0800-328-0006 or visit www.capuk.org

CAP’s Top Ten Tips for Avoiding Festive Debt

1. 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.

2. Manage expectations early. If things are tight don’t be afraid to say so to family members. You’ll probably all be in the same boat and it may lead to a happier Christmas for them too!

3. 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.

4. Buy fewer presents but more cheaper trimmings like paper chains and Christmas crackers. They all add to the fun without costing very much.

5. Never take out a Christmas loan! Remember the possible consequences could be disastrous for you and your family.

6. Try to make presents as opposed to buying them.  For example, delicious homemade biscuits or fudge make a lovely gift as does a voucher to make your friend their favourite cake, or babysitting for an hour. All show you’ve spent time and care.

7. Remember - you can’t buy love.  Don’t feel guilty if you can’t afford the latest present for your children.  Your love and affection will last longer in the memory than any toy can.

8. Don’t fall into the trap of reciprocal gift giving and don’t buy out of obligation.

9. Don’t overspend in the January sales, in spite of how good a bargain you might see.  Make a budget and stick to it and if possible, leave those credit cards at home.

10. Enjoy all the low cost things on offer– the lights in town, get togethers, making mince pies, playing family board games, seeing your kids in the school nativity - and have a very Happy Christmas!