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Credit Cards and their Christmas Love Affair

There are many things we won’t be able to predict this Christmas. First, of course, there’s the weather – will we be treated to a white Christmas or will it be the now-customary grey skies that greet us on Christmas morning? Then there are our favourite programmes’ Christmas specials – will they live up to the hype, or will we be left disappointed at cheap gimmicks and rushed storylines? And for those so inclined to be following the football, will the onslaught of December fixtures make or break our team’s season?

While the answers to those perennial questions will only become apparent as we stride further into the festive season, there is one thing that is much clearer cut when it comes to Christmas. According to figures released by the building society Nationwide have highlighted that yet another steep incline in credit card usage is occurring as we speak – something they believe will continue to surge until the night of the 23rd, when many of us are contented with our haul (or simply admit defeat).

Last year, the 23rd accounted for £4.2m in credit card sales alone, with each transaction averaging at almost £60 a time. It appears that it isn’t just our waistline that gets piled on with pounds but our outstanding balances, too. Supermarkets accounted for £170 per customer on average during last December, 26 per cent more than the usual average, highlighting the extent of the gold rush that retailers experience during the final month of the year.

The ease that we seem to part with money over Christmas is something that ultimately leaves many of us with serious amounts of outstanding credit to pay and very little money to repay it with. While overbuying food and overspending on gifts may seem like part and parcel of the Christmas spirit, it is this hyper-consumerism that is hugely damaging to a large portion of our society. Credit cards, although extremely useful in getting us out of tight spots or providing security when using them online, can quickly turn into nightmares before the tree has even been taken down.

A common misconception is that these types of credit and debt problems are reserved for those of us in the lowest income brackets, but in 2014 (and 2015) these problems are non-discriminatory. Spending outside of our means is not something exclusive to those who do not have much of it; in reality, it is actually quite the opposite. It is important not to let the stigma of financial difficulty prevent you from seeking help and advice when you really need it.

It’s inevitable that we’ll overspend during this time of year and equally inevitable that much of this will be using credit cards, but staying within some sort of manageable budget is necessary to avoid serious trouble in the New Year. Here at Council Tax Advisors we are all too familiar with how badly these types of issues can affect people – the psychological blow of starting a new year on a financial low is a lot more serious than people may realise.

For more information on the risks of high credit card spending this Christmas, or to seek advice on how to combat your existing debt issues, contact one of our team of experienced advisors today.