Consumers feeling the pinch as Christmas approaches

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British consumers are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet over the Christmas period. Research shows that the situation is so bad that many people can not even afford to buy Christmas presents for all their loved ones. Are you going to struggle to make ends meet this Christmas?

Every year, millions of pounds are spent on the nation's high streets in the run up to Christmas, and this year it will be no different. However, a survey of 3,000 people by Life Assistance Firm CPP indicates that one third of British consumers had such severe financial problems in the past that they were unable to buy any Christmas presents at all for their loved ones. What is more, 10% of people admitted to turning up on Christmas Day empty handed.

In fact, many people have resorted to making their own homemade presents and about half have had to tell friends and family that their presents will arrive late.

The survey also revealed that stress levels have rocketed as Christmas approaches. Three quarters of people are already dreading Christmas because of the financial constraints it puts on them and for two thirds of people this stress also affects their working lives.

While money is the biggest worry for people in the run up to Christmas, it is not the only source of Yuletide stress. Deciding what to buy people and battling with the crowds in the shopping rush are major worries. Another is deciding who to spend Christmas Day with. One in ten people would prefer to spend it with friends rather than family and six out of ten would prefer to go away to escape the hassle all together.

According to the survey, the top ten stressful things about Christmas are:

  • Spending too much money
  • Deciding what people might like as presents
  • Shopping for presents and dealing with the crowds of people
  • Worrying about spending time with the family and preventing arguments
  • Putting on weight
  • Cooking for all the family
  • Eating and drinking too much
  • Deciding where to spend Christmas

If you, like many of us, are borrowing or using your credit card to cover your Christmas costs, there are a number of ways to cut the cost of Christmas credit. If possible, do not use your credit card as interest rates can make it a prohibitively expensive.

You should still have time to arrange and take out a bank loan in time for Christmas, which is a much cheaper option. If not, switch credit cards and take advantage of the interest free period on balance transfers that most cards offer. If you can not arrange this before Christmas, do so immediately in the New Year. You can read more about how you can cut the cost of Christmas credit here.

Also be aware of the of the dangers of identity fraud over the Christmas period. Last week's revelation that the Child Benefit Agency lost discs containing personal and financial details of abut 25 million people means that many British consumers are at risk of identity fraud.

“While the Christmas period can be stressful in terms of filling stockings, don't take your eye off the ball when it comes to the security of your bank account and personal details. Debit, credit and online spending are all estimated to increase this Christmas and people should make sure that they protect and safeguard their personal information during the festive season. Filling stockings is a priority, but do it safely,” says Nick Jones, communications manager at CPP.

To read more about identity fraud and how to protect yourself check out our recent feature article on the subject here.

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