Financial counsellor Tony Pott from Lifeline is urging people to spend wisely over Christmas and avoid racking up debt.
Financial counsellor Tony Pott from Lifeline is urging people to spend wisely over Christmas and avoid racking up debt. Claudia Baxter

Families face the Christmas crunch

FOR many battling Ipswich families, the joy of giving this Christmas will be followed by that gut-wrenching realisation that there is no money left to pay the bills.

Lifeline financial counsellor Tony Pott said he and two other counsellors based at the Ipswich office expected to be flat out dealing with families who were struggling to make ends meet after Christmas.

Mr Pott said he’d seen an increase in families using credit cards to pay for simple living expenses like groceries – which he said was a worrying trend.

“Traditionally there’s an influx of people coming to see us about February, which is when the December credit card statement comes out,” he said.

“Your ability to get out of debt can depend on whether or not you have a job. If you’re on Centrelink it can become very difficult – it can become entrenched.

“For some people it can end in bankruptcy.”

The possibility of further interest rate rises and increases in mortgage repossessions were among the biggest concerns for financial counsellors.

Mr Pott said the lure of high-cost, short-term, “pay day” loans was also too much for some people at Christmas, despite the fact that some lenders were charging interest of up to 48 per cent.

Those experiencing difficulty were encouraged to seek help as soon as possible.

“The earlier they come to see us the more options they have to get out of trouble,” Mr Pott said.

“We don’t have a magic bullet but we can ease the stress.”

Lifeline financial counsellors can be contacted on 1300 370 255.



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