Debt advisors are bracing themselves for record numbers of calls for help after Christmas spending pressures collide with the economic downturn.
Experts predict February 2014 to be the month families in the North East descend into desperate financial difficulty and will call on services like the Citizens Advice Bureau for help.
The third week in January is also likely to bring major money problems to people across the region due to the way this year’s pay days fall according to research undertaken by a housing company.
Retired priest and debt advisor Pam Swift, 66, said: “We know for a fact that come February we will have an excess number of people coming in with debt issues. The number of people coming in for help is ten times greater than four years ago which is attached to pay day lending.
“Around £22bn was spent on the high street last Christmas and from last weekend to Christmas Eve it’s expected that £12bn will be spent and much of this will be spent on credit cards and people will still be paying for them next Christmas.”
Pam Swift and colleagues at St Thomas’ Church in the Haymarket, Newcastle, have this week organised an exhibition on debt to try and help people attending the church and in the wider community to keep their Christmas spending under control.
She said: “Our exhibition is called Mind the Gap and we will be keeping it up until February because the shopping sales go on until then. It’s trying to help people not to fall into the gap between what they can afford and what they want to buy.
“It also tries to emphasise the message of peace at Christmas and the simplicity that comes from the traditional Christmas rather than excessive consumerism.”
Meanwhile Coast & Country, a regeneration and housing company in the North East, is labelling January 24 as its Payday Loan Danger Day.
Their calculations show that there could be up to six weeks between some people’s pay days in December and January 2014 as people are often paid early before Christmas.
Iain Sim, chief executive of Coast & Country, said: “In December and January there is even more temptation as payday lenders are taking out high profile adverts to encourage people to borrow short-term money.
“People need to make their money last longer due to getting paid earlier than usual because of the festive break.”