Two-thirds of people worrying about cost of Christmas in Northern Ireland
Almost two-thirds of people in Northern Ireland are worried about the cost of Christmas, new research has found.
It also emerged that consumers expect to spend £592 on this festive season - up £21 on 2014 - while over half of those questioned admitted they would only get by if they borrowed money.
The findings, which were launched today, form part of the Irish League of Credit Unions' (ILCU) annual Christmas Spending Survey.
It says that as December 25 approaches, many hard-pressed parents, who are trying to give their families a celebration to remember, can feel immense pressure.
Irish League of Credit Unions spokesman Brian McCrory has urged people to keep a close eye on their finances.
"We all need to remember that Christmas really is about giving... not robbing the family finances," he said.
"People can be savvy when it comes to shopping at this time of year.
"Starting early to avoid getting caught up in panic buying, for example, can really help keep costs low and provide the family member with sufficient time to search for the best deal.
"Online can be great for locating some great value, but keep an eye on the mail, courier or delivery costs."
Mr McCrory said that setting a Christmas spending budget is extremely important, as is writing a list.
"This will allow people to be in a better position to keep a tight rein on the Christmas shopping costs," he said.
"Avoid pay day loan companies and moneylenders, but if you feel that you need to borrow, speak to your local credit union first."
With the Christmas period almost in full swing, credit unions in Northern Ireland are urging the public to avoid borrowing beyond their means to avoid debt in 2016 and to particularly avoid using pay day loan companies or moneylenders.
They are also stressing the importance of knowing your financial limits and avoiding unnecessary debt.
Similarly, the community organisations are reminding people that even though Christmas 2015 has not yet arrived, they should already be speaking to their local credit union about putting a savings plan in place for next year.
According to the new ILCU research, 64% of consumers in Northern Ireland do not feel any more positive about their financial situation in the run up to Christmas 2015 than they did this time 12 months ago.
When it comes to managing money, 60% said they found it particularly difficult to cope with the costs of running their home at this time of the year.
Of this group, 75% said that heating their home is the most difficult expense to cover, while 67% said that they find food costs most difficult.
The data shows that the average Christmas spend this year will rise to £592, up from £571 in 2014, with middle aged adults expected to spend the largest amount of money.
Northern Ireland's men (spending £613) are expected to fork out £49 more than women (£564).
More than half (53%) of people here expect to borrow money to get through the Christmas season, borrowing on average £384.
Men are less likely to borrow (48%) compared to women (56%), although the sum being borrowed is more in the male category - at £409 compared to £367 for women.
The findings also suggest the average Northern Ireland consumer will take 10 weeks to recover financially from overspending at Christmas.
In terms of festive food shopping, the majority of consumers here will go to Tesco (46%), followed by Asda (20%) and Sainsbury's (13%).
Meanwhile, almost nine out of 10 of us are planning to shop online for presents this Christmas.