Christmas shopping: is it worth the debt?

Sue Hayward

Sue HaywardI’ve just hit the high street and had to fight my way through the layers of Christmas stuff that’s jam packed into the shops right now.

With Christmas still nearly two months away, it’s getting harder to escape the frenzied Christmas fever marketed by the shops, some of which had cards on display back in August!

But despite all the economic doom and gloom, most of us will still splash out £560 this Christmas.  That’s according to the number crunchers at HSBC bank and, yes, you’ve guessed it, we don’t fork out from our savings, oh no… Over 20% of us “borrow” to fund our festive shopping spree.

Mortgage rates are at record low levels, yet the average credit card rate has been creeping up to nearly 20%; 18.6% to be precise, which means another £186 interest for every £1000 stuck on your card.

As any of us mums and dads know, most children have a wish list that’s rather too long and even if they decide to “ask Santa for the most expensive things” (poor Santa!), the Bank of Mum and Dad is still in for a pre-Christmas battering, especially if there’s more than one child in your family.

Shopping on the high street can be a nightmare at this time of year so why bother?  Last year I got most of my presents online, including shopping at “Aladdin’s cave” (more commonly known as eBay), where over half the items for sale are actually brand new!  I saved around half the shop price every time and, yes, I know you can get clobbered with hefty postage costs but there are often free delivery deals to be had if you search around.

And if you’re finding it hard to stick to spending caps, ask yourself if all that Christmas spending will be worth it come next spring when your kids can’t remember what they had, and you can’t afford a summer holiday because you’re still paying off your credit card bill?

Sue Hayward is a money and consumer broadcaster, journalist and author. Sue writes and talks on family finance on both radio and television and contributes to many of the women’s magazines and money websites.  Sue’s written two books, the latest of which is ‘How To Get The Best Deal’.