More than one in three households with children will struggle to afford Christmas

New YouGov polling commissioned by StepChange Debt Charity, which explores people’s finances and borrowing habits, reveals that one in four people will struggle to afford Christmas this year, rising to more than one in three (34%) households with children.

The survey also reveals that:

  • One in twelve (8%), around 4m people, will be relying on credit to cover costs this Christmas.
  • One in four (27%) say they will have to cut back on their normal expenses to afford Christmas.
  • A further 2%, around 1m people, say they will not celebrate Christmas at all due to cost.

Alarmingly, one in five (19%) of those intending to borrow expect it’ll take them more than a year to repay the credit and  over two in five (45%) said their borrowing this year would be higher than during Christmas 2022.

Those who are relying on credit to fund their Christmas this year overwhelmingly say this is due to the higher cost of living, with three in four citing this (75%) as their reason for needing to borrow.

StepChange has seen first-hand the impact that two years of cost of living pressures have had on household budgets, and while inflation may have slowed, prices for everyday goods remain much higher than they were just a couple of years ago and finances will still be stretched this festive season for many. The charity is urging people to reach out for support if they’re worried about their finances this Christmas.

Vikki Brownridge, CEO at StepChange Debt Charity, said:

“People, especially those with children, understandably feel pressured around Christmas time to spend money to create special moments and memories with their loved ones. However, this pressure, can often encourage people to spend more than they can afford, and turn to credit to cover these costs.

“Against a backdrop of almost two years of high inflation, it’s very likely that relying too heavily on credit at Christmas could lead to debt problems in the New Year. At StepChange, we see some of our busiest days during January each year, with last January being our busiest month for several years.

“We would urge those who are thinking about borrowing to cover festive costs to always carefully consider whether those credit repayments will be comfortably affordable when the New Year comes around. Many adverts around this time of year imply that spending is the way to create a happy Christmas, but in reality people would prefer their loved ones to be free from financial worries and problem debt in the New Year. If you are struggling with debt, now or in January and beyond, it’s never too soon to reach out for help. Free debt advice and support is available from charities like StepChange.”

StepChange has shared its top three tips for people worried about their finances this festive season, and what to keep in mind when Christmas shopping:

  1. Go through your budget to look at what you can realistically afford to spend over the festive period. This is a really helpful way to identify how much money you have spare to go toward Christmas planning. StepChange has a step-by-step guide to help you create a budget and create a clearer picture of your finances.
  2. Keep your eye out for deals or offers on items you know you want to buy this Christmas, but don’t get drawn into buying things you didn’t need in the first place – a deal is only a deal if you were going to buy it anyway. Making a list in advance of your Christmas shopping may help you to stick to it and prevent you from buying extras you may not need.
  3. Think carefully before you borrow money – try not to get drawn into short-term high cost credit, or options to buy now and pay later if it’s not affordable. If it’s going to take many months to repay what you borrow to pay for Christmas, it’s worth pausing for a moment to think about whether your friends and family would really want you to suffer financially as a result of your generosity.

Free, confidential debt advice is available 24/7 using StepChange’s online debt advice service at