How to avoid a Christmas on credit

Written by Lori Campbell on 19th Dec 2018

An average Christmas at home costs £550 – and Brits are taking on debt to pay for it.

However, with more than half of us saying we want a more sustainable Christmas this year, it is possible to save our wallets and the earth.

A new report has revealed that four in 10 Brits are paying more than 25 per cent in interest on loan amounts of under £500.

The research by fair loan comparison site Fairmoney.com shows that almost half of Brits (43 per cent) have a loan of up to £500. And 41 per cent of these come with sky-high interest rates of 25 per cent to 1,500 per cent.

Payday pain

The pressure to have the perfect Christmas is pushing many people towards payday lenders, which typically charge high interest on small loan amounts.

It is shocking to see how many people borrow such a small amount of cash on such high interest

Dr Roger Gewolb, Executive Chairman and Founder of FairMoney, said: “It is shocking to see how many people borrow such a small amount of cash but pay such high interest back. Millions of people are being pushed into high-interest credit options which are not fair for the consumer, fair for the lender, or fair for society.”

The study, which polled 2,003 adults to calculate national averages, revealed that 8.5 million (17 per cent) people would have defaulted and fallen into a repossession procedure if they had not resorted to a payday lender.

Not-for-profit site FairMoney says urgent changes need to be made to the UK’s finance system to avoid a national debt crisis. It is launching a ‘Fair Finance Community Board’ (FFCB) to lobby lenders, regulators, legislators and the media to promote more fairness in financial services.

Unwanted gifts

However, while Britons are breaking the bank to pay for presents, studies suggest many of them may be going to waste.

New research by WWF and Opinium has revealed that more than 70 million unwanted presents are expected to be given this year.

Over 70 million unwanted presents are expected to be given this year

In its survey the WWF found that over a third of Brits feel pressured to buy more gifts than they would like, with many saying they simply fear appearing impolite. Fear of looking cheap (19 per cent), guilt (17 per cent) and bad manners (11 per cent) are the top reasons shoppers are making unnecessary purchases.

This has a negative knock-on effect on the environment as many unwanted presents go straight in the bin along with the (largely non-recyclable) Christmas packaging. Last Christmas, around 100 million black bin bags of waste were thrown out.

Sustainable Christmas

The positive news is that Brits are increasingly rejecting consumerism, with 53 per cent saying they want a more sustainable Christmas.

But while people increasingly want to do better, though, many of us don’t know how.

Nearly all adults celebrating Christmas (93 per cent) say they plan to recycle as much waste as possible during the season. However, a quarter (24 per cent) of those surveyed confessed to throwing all their non-perishable Christmas waste in the bin in the past because they didn’t know what can and can’t be recycled.

84 per cent of UK adults wrongly think most wrapping paper can be recycled

A staggering 84 per cent of UK adults wrongly think most wrapping paper can be recycled, 62 per cent believe food-stained paper plates can be and nearly two thirds (62 per cent) think Christmas ribbons and bows can be recycled too. A quarter (24 per cent) do not recycle as much of their Christmas waste as possible simply because they don’t have enough space in their recycling bins.

The research does show that we seem to be reaching a turning point, with over half (53 per cent) of adults saying they will take steps to have a more sustainable Christmas this year.

A quarter (23 per cent) will be buying fewer presents  compared to last year and 12 per cent will choose experience gifts over physical ones. Nine per cent will re-gift presents they have already received from other people and one in ten will reduce their meat consumption this Christmas.

The festive season is for spending time with friends and family and we shouldn’t feel pressured into buying more than we need.

Ben Fogle, broadcaster and WWF ambassador said: “The festive season is for spending time with friends and family and we shouldn’t feel pressured into buying more than we need. Ultimately, the efforts we make to be more sustainable during this time will be beneficial to us all.”

To support efforts for a more sustainable Christmas, WWF is calling on the nation to #FightForYourWorld, encouraging many small actions to add up to a better and sustainable Christmas.

Here’s some top tips on how to save cash AND have a sustainable Christmas:

  • Use brown paper or recycled wrapping paper instead of regular wrapping paper, as regular wrapping paper often has a shiny layer which means it can’t be recycled
  • Remove all ribbons, bows and tape from recyclable wrapping paper before putting it into your recycling bin, as these can’t be recycled
  • Plan your shopping list ahead of time to make sure you don’t buy more food than you need
  • Try making simple changes with festive meals and eat less meat, fish and dairy and look to swap in fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Christmas leftovers can turn into some great alternative dishes – leftover turkey and potatoes can be used in pies, bones can be turned into stock, vegetables can be used in stir-frys
  • Try replacing single-use plastic wraps like cling film with reusable beeswax wraps to help protect food
  • Consider giving experience presents such as afternoon tea, a visit to a local lake or forest instead of physical gifts
  • Go for a real Christmas tree instead of an artificial one – check it’s from a sustainable source (FSC certified) and that you can recycle through your local council afterwards. Or, rent a potted tree and return it after the festivities are over

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