Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

One in 10 Northern Ireland people say they can afford Christmas

Just one in 10 people believe they will be able to cover the cost of Christmas next month and over a third haven’t cleared their credit card bills from last year.

With just 27 days until Christmas, and retailers counting on us to shop in 26 of them, families are feeling the pinch.

When questioned earlier this month by LucidTalk polling for the Belfast Telegraph, a massive 88.7% of people were either experiencing or anticipating financial pressure as a result of the festive season.

Those surveyed were asked which of a range of options applied to them and were only allowed to choose one. The first option was “I will be cutting back on Christmas spending this year”, and nearly 47.9% agreed that they would.

In the case of pensioners over 65 more than half, 54.7%, were planning to cut back on spending.

Another 7.3% of the population already believed that they would have to resort to a pay-day loan company or other short-term money lender to cover the bill for Christmas.

Most people only take out pay-day loans, which carry penal interest rates of up to 1,000%, at the last minute to meet an emergency. So this figure may soar as the Christmas bills come in and people fall short in January.

When it comes to taking out short-term loans, men are more likely to do it than women — the comparative figures were 8.9% and 6%. This may reflect the fact that more men are in full-time work, with wages to guarantee the loans.

Research by the insolvency trade body, R3, has found that, across the UK 5m people are considering taking out a pay-day loan in the next six months. This is a rise of 50% over last year. One in four 18 to 24-year-olds is likely to seek a pay-day loan.

Our poll concentrated on the Christmas period but here too the strain is being felt most acutely by the young — with 42% of those considering a pay-day loan aged between 18 and 24.

The fact that the figure may rise, and that Christmas is a major source of long-term debt, is illustrated by the next option “I haven’t yet cleared off my credit card and/or other loans since last Christmas” — 33.5% of people said they were in this position.

A considerably higher proportion of private sector workers (44.4%) were still struggling with last year’s debt compared to their public sector counterparts (32.8%). This may highlight the pay gap between the two sectors which currently stands at 45%.

The last option, “Paying for Christmas is not a major problem for me” was true of just over one in 10 people (11.2%), constituting a tiny minority.

Perhaps ironically people who said they had no religious belief were marginally more likely to be able to cope. 16.4% of non-believers professed no worries over the cost of the Christian festival.

There was a spirit of bah humbug amongst some respondents. “There should be no Christmas decorations before December” was a common sentiment.

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