Householders throughout Burton and Uttoxeter have been warned of the dangers of "Christmas on credit" as post-festive season bills pile up.
Last year, Citizens Advice found that 4.3 million people - nine per cent of those in the UK - had amassed debts equivalent to three months or more of their income (around £6,500).
The Money Advice Trust puts much of the problem down to "presents on plastic" which is the practice - particularly around Christmas - of paying for gifts on credit cards.
Issues arise when the bills for the credit cards arrive following the festive period and provide a severe reality check for those just hanging on and in dire need of another payslip.
The debt advice charity found that 34 per cent of people (16.9 million) in the UK borrowed or had planned to borrow to cover Christmas present costs this year.
Of these, 76 per cent (12.8 million people) borrow on credit cards, with others borrowing from bank overdrafts (2.9 million), catalogue credit (2.6 million) and store cards (1.9 million).
The charity’s research shows that only one in four people in the UK set a budget for Christmas spending, and fewer than one in five (18 per cent) keep track of their festive funds.
On top of all this, it found that more than one in five (21 per cent) borrowed or had planned to borrow to put food on the table over Christmas - an estimated 10.4 million people.
More than three quarters (78 per cent) are borrowing on credit cards (8.1 million people), with bank overdrafts (1.6 million) and store cards (712,000) also being used.
Joanna Elson, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, said: "It is crucial that households do not overreach."
She said: "Millions of Britons are putting Christmas on credit, and while many will be able to pay this extra borrowing off, we know that a large number will fall into debt problems in the New Year.
"The welcome economic recovery is creating more confidence – but it is crucial that households do not overreach, particularly as rises in interest rates are on the horizon.
"If you are worried about your finances, there is still time to avoid falling into difficulty.
"Anyone who finds that Christmas does tip their finances over the edge should know that free advice and support is available from National Debtline.
"We have to make sure that new year debt problems are not made worse by commercial debt management companies whose high fees and charges can make bad problems worse."
The Citizens Advice Bureau has published 10 tips on "how to avoid a Christmas debt hangover" with the core focus being planning, budgeting and organisation.
The charity advised: "Christmas is a time of giving, but you don't want to give yourself a headache in the new year with bills and debts you can't afford.
"It’s all too easy to overspend – there are tempting offers and pressures to buy, but you must decide how much you can afford before you start spending."
Its steps are:
- Plan early for Christmas - be realistic and budget accordingly, including how much to spend per person
- Don't forget everyday bills - keep track of utility bills, mortgage payments, supermarket trips
- Don't bank on an overdraft - don't run up an overdraft without talking to the bank first
- Keep things simple - If you can afford to pay for items outright, do so, don't be persuaded by other details unless they really do work out cheaper
- Shop around - Try as many different places as possible to find the best price, and be wary of taking out warranties, the cost of repair can often be cheaper
- Buy safe to be safe - Don't buy from unauthorised traders and don't borrow from unauthorised lenders, the initial savings and convenience can prove to be a false economy
- Read the small print - Check for hidden extras in credit agreements, ensure monthly payments are within your budget
- Do your own credit checks - Shop around and compare terms for credit cards, some charge high interest but interest-free periods for discounts
- Be organised - There's a lot to remember over Christmas, make sure you make payments on time if you have borrowed money, even if it is only the minimum payment
- Start planning and saving for next Christmas - Once Christmas is over it's worth looking at what you did well and what you didn't, learn from your mistakes
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said that debt was restricting people's life chances and aspirations.
She said: "Helping people escape unmanageable debt is crucial to a fair economy.
"Being able to borrow money helps people make significant investments in their lives - such as getting on the housing ladder or going to university.
"But when debt becomes excessive it can hold people back from taking calculated risks such as starting a business or training for a new career."
Where to get debt help:
Free, independent and confidential advice 24 hours a day online at www.nationaldebtline.org and on 0808 808 4000, Monday to Friday 9am to 9pm, Saturday 9.30am to 1pm (National Debtline phone lines will be open until 1pm on Christmas Eve, and will then re-open at 9am on 2nd January).
Mid Staffordshire Citizens Advice Bureau:
Suite 8, Anson Court Horninglow Street, Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, DE14 1NG, www.citizensadvice.org.uk/east-staffordshire , firstname.lastname@example.org , adviceline 03444 111 444 (Monday-Friday 9am-5pm). Bookings available between 9.30am-2.30pm Monday-Thursday.
Citizens Advice South Derbyshire and City:
114 Church Street, Church Gresley, Swadlincote, DE11 9NR
Advice Line - 0300 330 9002
Text Relay - 03444 111 445
Burton Debt Centre - Part of Christians Against Poverty
Call 0800 328 0006 for free from landlines and mobiles in the UK. Lines are open 8.30am-5pm, Monday-Friday.