With Christmas 2009 barely over, consumers are already being urged to start saving for next Christmas to avoid getting into debt.
The Office of Fair Trading and Citizens Advice are orchestrating an annual drive to encourage early saving, using savings accounts, supermarket stamps, Christmas clubs or other savings schemes.
The organisations hope that this New Year's resolution will help those who struggled this Christmas to be better prepared for the cost of Christmas 2010, instead of spending beyond their means and generating a pile of debt.
Many people turn to credit cards or loans to fund Christmas, and Citizens Advice dealt with more than three million clients who were suffering from debt problems in the 18 months up to the end of September 2009.
As part of the OFT's Save Xmas campaign, financial workshops aimed at raising awareness will take place in selected Citizens Advice Bureaux in the new year.
Commenting on the initiative, John Rhodes, head of financial capability at Citizens Advice said: "Christmas will have given many people a debt hangover that they might have been able to avoid. We're encouraging people to plan for next year, find out about the options available and set up a savings plan. This should help reduce the need for expensive credit, and limit the financial and emotional challenges associated with problem debt."
Priority groups such as housing association tenants, lone parents and those on benefits or low incomes will be targeted, the OFT has said.
The OFT and Citizens Advice have issued a list of tips for avoiding Christmas debt: shoppers should plan early and budget realistically for what they can afford, and compare savings accounts, schemes with different providers such as the Post Office, banks and building societies, credit union saving schemes, hamper schemes and Christmas clubs.
Most importantly, consumers should start putting money aside now so that they are ready for when the time comes to go Christmas shopping again.
The OFT and Citizens Advice say more than 40,000 people have attended Save Xmas workshops, and independent research has found that those who attend develop greater confidence in choosing a savings scheme and many go on to change their savings behaviour.
David Murphy, head of campaigns at the OFT, commented: "Christmas does tend to focus the mind on money issues, and we hope our campaign will help people to think about the importance of making informed choices about saving for next year."
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