Christmas overspending will leave thousands in ‘crippling debt’

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Thousands more Irish families will start the New Year with crippling debt problems from overspending over Christmas, financial officials have warned.

Experts have warned that households face even more serious financial problems after Christmas than they did after the holiday season last year.

MABS [Money Advice and Budgeting Service], the state’s debt counseling service, has already noted an increase in the number of struggling households turning to them for help compared to the same time last year.

And service advisers have expressed concern that debt levels after Christmas could be particularly severe in cash-strapped households from the end of January, if people spend more than they can afford. allow over the next few weeks.

Michael Laffey, spokesperson for MABS, said: “In financial terms, things are certainly more difficult for people than they were a year ago. travelling expenses.

“Since then all of those things have come back, and while the cost of diesel and fuel has gone up, along with utility bills, people’s wages have not gone up. In addition, there is not the level of government support that existed before.

For example, PUP payment is now at a reduced and phased level and much more difficult to obtain for new applicants.

In addition, the moratoriums that were in place on utility disconnections ended in the middle of the year, which left many households struggling with arrears. They are back this month until January of next year, as they are every Christmas, but once they are gone a lot of people will find themselves in financial trouble again.

“We also saw the courts retaking possession orders in the second half of this year.

“So all of these factors were in play, and while 2021 was generally quieter at MABS than expected, the second half of the year was a lot busier than the first half, while it was a busier time. than it was. last year because of the rising costs people are facing and because many of the supports that were there about a year ago no longer exist. “

Laffey noted that since the start of the pandemic, more and more middle-class households have turned to MABS for support, alongside the traditional clientele of low-income clients and aid recipients. social.

He also predicted that demand for services will increase after Christmas, as households struggle to pay their utility bills, mortgage or rent due to overspending during the holiday season.

He added, “Our advice to people struggling with finances is to keep costs down at Christmas and only spend what they can afford. It’s important to budget and stick to it. “

  • For more information, see www.mabs.ie. The MABS helpline is 0818-072000, and operates 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday.

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