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 Tuesday, 24 December, 2002, 18:34 GMT
Beating the Christmas debt blues
Citizens Advice Bureau sign
Citizens Advice Scotland expects a surge of inquiries
Scots facing mounting debts over the festive period are being offered some seasonal advice to ease the burden.

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) is gearing up for a surge of inquiries from people who have got in over their heads at Christmas.

Consumer debt is now the single biggest problem brought to Citizens Advice Bureaux north of the border.

Debt is an especially poignant issue around Christmas

CAS spokesman
Scotland's 70 frontline bureaux offices dealt with almost 60,000 new debt enquiries last year, covering debt totalling 70m.

Across the UK it is predicted that shoppers will put more than 7bn on their credit cards.

It is expected that more than 1.75bn of that figure will still be owed on plastic by the end of January, costing 21m in interest alone in the space of a month.

A poll this year suggested that a quarter of those living in Scotland thought they would be overdrawn over the festive season - a figure which rose to 43% for the 18-24 age group.

Low income

Citizens advice Scotland said there were "deep-rooted" problems behind debt north of the border.

A recent survey of CAB clients found that 25% of Scots blamed the loss of a job for their debt problems, almost 4% higher than the figure for the UK as a whole.

The number of Scots blaming a low income was more than 10% higher than in the rest of the UK - 30.2% compared to 18.9%.

McArthur Glen shopping centre
Many people expect to get into debt over Christmas
There was also a significantly higher percentage of Scottish CAB clients in debt who lived in council accommodation.

This meant they were less likely to be able to access mainstream credit, which is often secured against a property.

"Those forced to rely on non-mainstream lenders invariably get the worst deal," said a CAS spokesman.

"Debt is an especially poignant issue around Christmas.

"But we know that in January and February there will be a surge of clients who fear they have got in over their heads."

The CAS tips to avoid debt are:

  • be realistic about what you can afford and do not be persuaded to take out credit for something you could buy outright unless it really does work out cheaper

  • remember to pay interest-free credit back within the time limit

  • shop around and compare terms if you are going to use a credit card, as some store cards charge interest of more than 30% a year

  • read the terms and conditions of any payments

  • extended warranties can be poor value

  • do not run up an overdraft without talking to your bank first.

  • if you do takeout a loan, don't make the common mistake of looking only at the monthly payments required under a credit agreement. Work out the total amount payable and check that the monthly instalments are within your budget.

See also:

13 Dec 02 | Business
28 Nov 02 | Business
12 Nov 02 | England
24 Dec 01 | Scotland
12 Jan 03 | Scotland
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