Debt, what debt? Shoppers are defying their debts to ensure they can celebrate Christmas in style this year.
Despite many people dealing with crippling debt on their credit cards and loans, the department stores and streets of Blackpool were packed this weekend with festive shoppers.
Debt charity Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS) has warned household budgets are coming under increasing pressure.
Almost 700 people in Blackpool contacted the CCCS last year for advice on dealing with huge bills.
The average debt racked up by resort residents on credit cards and loans was a staggering £19,518.
But gloomy financial forecasts have not disheartened shoppers, with thousands filling the Houndshill Shopping Centre this weekend and pushing their rocketing debts to the back of their mind.
For Charlotte Church (pictured), 20, from Clevedon Road, North Shore, missing out on Christmas is not an option because she has a four-year-old son, Dilan.
She told The Gazette: “I dread Christmas because I just can’t afford it.
“I have another baby coming in January, but I need to make sure my son has a great Christmas whether I’m struggling or not. We have got to try and do something.
“I have got a lot of debts but I have to come out and pay for presents.
“I feel worried when Christmas comes around and scared that my son is not going to get what he has asked for, but I just have to go for the discounts.”
The CCCS’s figures highlight the challenge facing a lot of families who can barely afford to meet their basic living expenses and have hardly any money to save for the future.
Duncan Bates, 41, a train driver from Blakiston Street, Fleetwood, was doing his Christmas shopping with his two children Charlotte, 14, and Harry James, seven.
He said: “Debts are a concern and it costs a lot for Christmas, but I feel I don’t want to let my kids down even if it does put you on a tight budget.”
Mr Bates says the spending leading up to Christmas may help the struggling economy to grow.
He added: “If people are going to come out then shops are going to get more money and others are going to keep their jobs.”
Paul Bamber, 45, from Squires Gate Lane, South Shore, works for BAE Systems in Warton and could be losing his job in the new year.
However, he says the thought of unemployment has not stopped him from spending money.
He said: “I’m not budgeting because it’s Christmas.
“It will be what it will be and I’m being optimistic that I’m not going to lose my job.
“Christmas is still going to happen because I have a daughter and I can’t take the assumption that I can’t spend anything because we have to take it as it comes.”
Joanne Burgess, 31, from Highcroft Avenue, Bispham, added: “I have taken pay cuts from work and have to budget, but I can’t really avoid Christmas.
“I have children and skipping Christmas is just not an option.
“If I had to do that my kids would be really upset.”
But joiner Clive Ward, 46, from Castlerigg Place, Marton, takes an opposing view and says if he does not have the money to pay for an item he refuses to purchase it.
He told The Gazette: “You have to be sensible with debt because at this time of year it’s ridiculous.
“If my children want something then I have to say no if I don’t have the money.”
Debt advisers today told The Gazette they are not surprised by the figures published today.
Nick Ansell of Blackpool’s Citizen’s Advice Bureau, said: “The average wage in Blackpool is £18,750 so someone on the average wage is poor compared to the national average of £23,000.
“On one project alone last year we saw almost saw £4m of debt, where people owe money on mortgages, rents and council tax.
“And the total amount for the year was double that.”
Delroy Corinaldi, CCCS director of external affairs, added: “Many households in Blackpool who were already struggling to cope have seen their disposable income fall relentlessly this year, and I am concerned the added pressures of Christmas will push many further into the red.
“I would urge anyone in Blackpool who is in this position to seek free advice from a debt charity.
“Don’t leave it until January to seek help – as the earlier you seek free advice on how to deal with the problem, the easier it will be to solve.”