By Dermot Murnaghan
Co-presenter of BBC One's Hey Big Spender! programme
If you shuddered when you received the credit card bill for your Christmas excesses, or perhaps even tried to ignore it, you were not alone.
Dermot Murnaghan: "For anyone who has any kind of debt, this programme is essential viewing"
We have become a nation of big spenders and credit junkies, with borrowing at an unprecedented high.
At the end of 2003, borrowing had risen to £4,426 for every adult in the UK, not counting mortgages.
This is approximately a third of the average annual income.
It compares to £3,383 in 2002, and is almost double what is was in 1998.
Together, we now owe £930 billion including our mortgages.
And the figures get more frightening.
A survey of its clients by Citizens Advice in May 2003 revealed that one in 10 people with debt problems owe more than £30,000 on top of their mortgage debts.
Face the facts
Newspaper headlines have painted a bleak picture and screamed disaster. But does it really matter?
HEY BIG SPENDER!
Wednesday, 28 January, 2004
2100 GMT on BBC One
Press red during the programme for more information
Interactive discussion following the programme
Hey Big Spender!, broadcast on BBC One, Wednesday, 28 January 2004 at 2100 GMT, examined what debt really means to the nation and was essential viewing for anyone who has got a mortgage, loan or credit card or is in any kind of debt.
The programme assessed how worried we should really be and offered practical advice.
We even took up the challenge to offer you the financial tips that could help save you the cost of the BBC licence fee - perhaps much more.
These top tips - arrived at in consultation with 100 financial experts - were revealed gradually throughout the programme and are now published here on the website.
Many of us do not consider ourselves to be in debt, even if we are.
Yet Citizens Advice sees one million people a year with debt problems - most of whom do not know how much they owe.
A significant number owe 14 times their salary.
The number of bankrupts is reaching record levels.
Are you addicted to shopping?
We are more in debt than the rest of Europe, spending twice as much than continental Europe on our credit and debit cards.
The BBC's business editor Jeff Randall says: "it's a huge problem. People have got used to living beyond their means.
"It can't last. The good times will have to come to an end - and then we'll suffer."
REASONS FOR RECORD BORROWING IN 2003
low base rates
strong house price growth
The programme cut through the financial jargon, putting our studio audience through its paces in a series of specially devised experiments.
It analysed some of the reasons why so many of us owe more than ever before.
We asked why our attitudes to money have changed and what we can do to keep control of our finances.
Financial experts were on hand to give "money makeovers" to some of our volunteers in the studio.
And you also asked your own questions on making the most of your money and coping with debt, which were put to our experts in an interactive discussion straight after the main programme.
Whether you are a big spender or super saver, see if our top tips really can save you the cost of the licence fee.
Hey Big Spender! was broadcast on Wednesday, 28 January, 2004, at 2100 GMT on BBC One.