Shoppers ‘planning to spend less this Christmas’

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People are planning to splash out less on Christmas shopping this year, a survey has revealed.

The average bill will be 563 euro, according to the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU), compared to 600 euro in last year’s research.

And while the study found more of us think we spend too much on the festive season, people also reported keeping a closer eye on outgoings while nearly one in three feel better about their finances.

Ed Farrell, of the ILCU, offered a new twist on the traditional message at this time of year.

“We all need to remember that Christmas really is about giving, not robbing the family finances,” he said.

The credit union group also warned about the dangers of using moneylenders charging high interest rates for short-term loans at a time when people feel under pressure to buy gifts.

The survey found a slight increase in the amount of people using or thinking about using a moneylender - up to 9%, compared to 8% last year.

“It is worrying to see that some people are considering using a moneylender this year,” Mr Farrell said.

“We would echo warnings about avoiding high interest rate moneylenders. If you feel that you need to borrow, speak to your local credit union first. Using a moneylender can result in consumers getting trapped in a cycle of debt which can be hugely difficult to break free of.”

The ILCU offered some tips to avoid getting into debt, including starting shopping early to avoid panic buying and leaving time to research the best deals.

For online shoppers the credit union chiefs said it can be a good place to look for value but consumers should be aware of the added costs of mailing, couriers and delivery.

When it comes to the average spend around the country, consumers in Leinster, but not including Dublin, are the biggest hitters with a planned average spend of 597 euro.

Those likely to spend the least are in Connacht and Ulster with an average bill of 510 euro, followed by 544 euro for Dubliners and 587 euro for people living in Munster.

The impact of all the festive shopping will take its toll with the credit union group reporting it will take people eight-and-a-half weeks to recover from over-spending, and women left counting the cost for longer than men.

The survey turned up further signs of improvements in the wider economy with a quarter of consumers surveyed fearing money worries will make Christmas less enjoyable, down from 30% last year.

Elsewhere, it said the impact of cross-border shopping would not be as great as in previous years, partly due to a weak euro, with only 19% of shopper planning to head north in search of bargain buys, down from 35% last year.

The survey was carried out this month by iReach Insights and involved interviews with 1,000 men and women.