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6.5 million will struggle to heat homes as much as they need this Christmas 

Research commissioned by National Debtline reveals the extent to which increased costs are impacting households this December.

Posted December 6, 2023

  • 2.7 million UK adults (5%) set to choose between buying food or presents  
  • 4.7 million (10%) using Buy Now, Pay Later for Christmas spending 
  • National Debtline is urging people to seek advice about money worries 

6.5 million people in the UK (14 percent) will struggle to heat their homes as much as they need this Christmas due to the impact of the cost of living, according to findings from National Debtline. The findings show 2.7 million people (5 percent) are having to choose between buying food or presents and four in ten (40 percent) plan to use credit for Christmas spending.  

Research commissioned by National Debtline and based on a Opinium survey of 2,000 UK adults reveals the extent to which increased costs are impacting households this December and the effects this is having on how people feel about their finances.  

With nearly one in four people in debt (23 percent) saying they feel embarrassed about their situation, the charity is calling on people to make a plan this Christmas and seek free advice about their finances.  

Impact of the cost of living squeeze 
The findings show the impact the cost of living, including rising energy prices, continues to have on household finances: 

  • One in seven (14 percent) UK adults say they won’t be able to put the heating on as much as they need this December. For people in debt this rises to one in five (21 percent).  
  • 14.4 million people who celebrate Christmas (30 percent) are planning to cut back on the number of presents they buy. This rises to 43 percent for people in debt. 
  • 6.1 million (13 percent) are only planning to buy presents for children, this rising to more than one in six (18 percent) for people in debt.  

Putting Christmas on credit 
With household finances more stretched than ever this year, many people are turning to credit to cover festive costs: 

  • 24.3 million UK adults (40 percent) plan to use credit this Christmas to pay for presents, rising to 66 percent for people in debt. 
  • 12.1 million (25 percent) plan to use a credit card, rising to two in five (40 percent) for people in debt. 
  • And the rise of Buy Now, Pay Later has led to 4.7 million (10 percent) plan to use these products, with this rising to one in four (24 percent) for people in debt. 

Fear of talking money  
The charity’s research also explores the emotional impact of being in debt.  One in six people in debt (18 percent) say they have not told anyone about their situation – and one in ten (10 percent) fear telling their partner or a loved one. 

To encourage people to open up about their finances this Christmas, National Debtline is highlighting the positive impact talking about money can have on someone’s wellbeing.   

Seven in ten callers to National Debtline report a positive impact on their emotional or mental health, however nearly four in 10 people (37 percent) who contact the service wait over a year before seeking advice.  

National Debtline is calling on anyone worried about their finances to make a plan for Christmas and to talk to one of their advisers about their money worries.  

David Cheadle, acting chief executive at the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline, said: 

“This Christmas the cost of living is set to be felt more than ever with millions of people struggling to heat their homes and many experiencing money worries alone, feeling they have no one to turn to for help.  

“It shouldn’t be this way. No one has to go through debt problems on their own. I would encourage anyone worried about money to pick up the phone this December and speak to one of our National Debtline advisers. They know first-hand the difference speaking about your money worries can have – and taking this first step to dealing with your situation will give you some peace of mind this Christmas. 

“We remain deeply concerned about the long-term impact that rising arrears will have on household finances going into 2024 and beyond. After missing the opportunity to help people in debt in the Autumn Statement, we are continuing to press the government to introduce a Help to Repay scheme for energy arrears – and extend the Household Support Fund which is providing crucial local support.” 

National Debtline provides free, independent debt advice on 0808 808 4000 and at 

Christmas money tips from National Debtline 

  1. Create a budget – it can be easy to lose track of your spending at this time of year. Create a budget so that you know how much you have to spend. Make a list of the people you want to buy presents for and set a budget for each. 
  2. Prioritise essential household bills – don’t forget household bills like mortgage, rent and utilities. Consider paying these bills as soon as you can, so that you know how much you have left over for other costs.  
  3. Resist borrowing more – there can be a lot of pressure to spend at this time of year, but borrowing more than you can afford only stores up problems for later. Think about what you can afford and make sure you can afford any repayments. 
  4. Speak to someone – while it can be a busy time of year, if you are worried about your finances take time to seek free advice. Our expert advisers at National Debtline are here to help and can talk you through your options. 

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