'Financial stress always spoilt Christmas'
Single mum Rebecca McConkey (35) used to dread Christmas as her festive spending spiralled out of control.
Rebecca, a nurse at Belfast City Hospital, lives in east Belfast with her two children, nine-year-old Ruby and Oliver (4), and became a client with debt counselling charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP) Northern Ireland four years ago after wracking up £30,000 of debt in eight years.
She is looking forward to the holiday for the first time this year.
"At Christmas time I would automatically hit credit cards and store cards to try and spread the cost. I was trying to meet my own expectations of how I was going to provide for the children and how special things had to be.
Once I had overspent on Christmas presents, we didn't have enough for daily living - food and bills and increased heating costs. There was a stage where I wouldn't turn the heat on, even though it was cold. Any cash I had went on Christmas presents.
Before I worked with CAP I had a real fear and panic about how to cope and deal with Christmas. It has been quite scary before.
You hit the second week of January - when you've been paid early before Christmas, you have no money left and you know that there's going to be massive bills - and I always look back and think 'What was the point? I'm now paying for this one day for the rest of the year'. It's a sinking sensation of 'What have I done?'.
Financial stress always spoilt Christmas for me - I can't remember the last time I went out shopping for Christmas presents and enjoyed it. You're sucked into spending more.