Advice from Credit Union could save your Xmas

Its nearly Christmas and shoppers are being urged not to spoil the festive fun by creating mountains of personal debt which will take months to clear.

Instead there are other ways to make the most of what you have and consumers who are canny could end the year by saving themselves a few pounds. 

Times are hard especially for those who have become victims this year of the "bedroom tax" and the exhorbitant charges imposed by the payday loan companies.

But there are some simple and commonsense steps which can be taken to avoid plunging into a sea of debt.

June Walker runs Glasgow Credit Union, the biggest of its kind in Britain with 32,000 members.

She said: "A recent report by the Centre for Social Justice highlights that the average cost of living has risen by 25% in just the past five years with the greatest increases in essentials such as rent, gas and electricity.

"Unfortunately wages haven't grown in line with living costs and as a result families are seeing their incomes stretched to capacity.

"With Christmas just a few days away, stress about how to meet the costs of the festive season is at an all time high.

"Recent reports have indicated that a worrying number of people are using payday loans to make ends meet, with many planning to use a payday loan to cover the cost of Christmas. 

"Payday and other high cost lenders often charge interest rates of over 5000% APR.

"This is a huge figure when compared to credit unions, which are restricted by law to lending at a maximum of 2% per month (26.8% APR), with many, like Glasgow Credit Union, offering much lower rates.

"We urge people to avoid getting themselves into a high cost debt nightmare in 2014, by avoiding high interest, short-term borrowing this Christmas.

"At Glasgow Credit Union, all of our loans are repaid over the minimum term of 12 months and a maximum of seven years, which provides people with sensible, affordable and manageable repayment plans that suit their needs."

The 50-year-old businesswoman insisted: "We do not compete with payday lenders. We prefer to take a more responsible approach to lending, as in many cases, these short term fixes are symptoms of longer term financial issues.

"Exorbitant interest rates are only the beginning of the problem with this sort of borrowing.

"The payday loan model is flawed.

"The likelihood of a borrower being able to repay hundreds, often over a thousand pounds, just one month after they have borrowed it is very low, especially when in most cases there is already a month-to-month shortfall."

And the chief executive of the UK's most successful credit union warned: "This pushes people into unmanageable debt spirals, late payment charges and arrears, often leading them to seek out more and more payday loans to keep their heads above water.

"The impact on their personal wellbeing, mental health and family stability can be devastating, leading to depression, anxiety, family breakdown and in extreme cases suicide. We understand that Christmas can be a difficult time and I would urge anyone worried about their finances over the next few weeks to look at their options.

"Glasgow Credit Union, and others like them may be able to help, by providing affordable borrowing that doesn't come with extortionate interest rates. We also work with each member to ensure they are not borrowing out with their means and set up sensible and manageable repayment options."