One in seven (14%) households can’t afford to heat their homes as much as they need this festive season due to the cost of living crisis.
Research commissioned by National Debtline found that 2.7 million UK adults (5%) are set to choose between buying food or presents, while four in 10 (4%) plan to use credit for Christmas spending.
The charity’s research lays out the stark picture facing many people this Christmas. With nearly one in four people in debt (23%) saying they feel embarrassed about their situation, the charity is calling on borrowers to make a plan this Christmas and seek free advice about their finances.
National Debtline’s findings show the impact the cost of living, including rising energy prices, continues to have on household finances. It found one in seven (14%) UK adults say they won’t be able to put the heating on as much as they need this December. For people in debt this rises to one in five (21%).
A third of those questioned planned to cut back on the number of presents they buy, with this figure rising to 43% for people in debt. About 6.1 million (13%) are only planning to buy presents for children, with this rising to more than one in six (18%) for people in debt.
Credit use rising
With household finances more stretched than ever this year, many people are turning to credit to cover festive costs. National Debtline found 24.3 million UK adults (40%) plan to use credit this Christmas to pay for presents, rising to 66% for people in debt. A quarter (25%) plan to use a credit card, rising to two in five (40%) for people in debt.
Meanwhile the rise of buy now, pay later has led to 4.7 million (10%) planning to use these products for festive spending, with this rising to one in four (24%) for people in debt.
The charity’s research also explores the emotional impact of being in debt. One in six (18%) people in debt said they have not told anyone about their situation – and one in 10 (10%) fear telling their partner or a loved one.
To encourage people to open up about their finances this Christmas, National Debtline is highlighting the positive impact talking about money can have on someone’s wellbeing. Seven in 10 callers to National Debtline report a positive impact on their emotional or mental health, however nearly four in 10 people (37%) who contact the service wait over a year before seeking advice.
Don’t ignore debt
David Cheadle, acting chief executive at the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline, said: “This Christmas, the cost of living is set to be felt more than ever with millions of people struggling to heat their homes and many experiencing money worries alone, feeling they have no one to turn to for help.
“It shouldn’t be this way. No one has to go through debt problems on their own. I would encourage anyone worried about money to pick up the phone this December and speak to one of our National Debtline advisers. They know first-hand the difference speaking about your money worries can have – and taking this first step to dealing with your situation will give you some peace of mind this Christmas.
“We remain deeply concerned about the long-term impact that rising arrears will have on household finances going into 2024 and beyond. After missing the opportunity to help people in debt in the Autumn Statement, we are continuing to press the Government to introduce a Help to Repay scheme for energy arrears – and extend the Household Support Fund which is providing crucial local support.”