IT can be all-too-easy to get carried away this Christmas and over-spend on the presents, decorations and turkey.

More and more people are falling into debt after the festive period and debt counselling services like Christians Against Poverty have seen a spike in the number of people visiting them with post-Christmas financial woes in recent years.

The Highworth branch is managed in conjunction with Highworth Churches Together and the Swindon branch is managed in partnership with Discovery Church.

Kathryn Ford, Highworth Debt Centre Manager, said: “People come to us with debt problems after they realise they have spent more than they can afford or they have reached a crisis point in their finances.

“Various things can trigger this, but most commonly it is job loss, an unexpected illness or a relationship breakdown.

“All the adverts sell us the line that the best kind of Christmas is one that can be bought, which just isn’t true.

“The best Christmases are about making priceless memories.

“Now is the right time for families to talk to each other about creating a sensible game-plan for a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year for everyone.”

Joanna Felstead turned to the service for help in early 2015 after struggling to pay for everyday essentials despite being thrifty and in full-time work.

She agrees that people are pushed into splashing too much cash at Christmastime, though sometimes a bit of bad luck can still land them in the red even if they are particular with their pennies.

Joanna said: “Everyone thinks they have to go nuts at Christmas but they don’t have to.

“I’m going to be sending hampers as presents to some people and hand-crafting other gifts myself to make them personal and affordable.

“Falling into debt can happen to anyone but I never thought it could happen to me.

“I was living in a house-share in Shrivenham, I’d lost my job and although I managed to get back to work quite quickly, it was a low-paying job and I needed to use my credit card and overdraft more and more for everyday things.

“I wasn’t spending money on wasteful purchases, I just hit a rough point and wasn’t earning enough to get by."

As the bills kept piling up and Joanna felt increasingly trapped in a vicious cycle, she realised she couldn't go on living like this..

Joanna added: "It got to a point where I was unable to get out of this cycle so I reached out to Christians Against Poverty because I realised that I needed help.

“There is a stigma around people who get into debt but CAP didn’t judge, they looked at all the debts I had, spoke to my debtors and came up with a budget and a payment plan.

“They helped take a lot of the pressure off and a few months later I declared myself debt-free in mid-2016,

“I can now save a bit more and put some money away for a rainy day, I don’t own a credit card any more and I moved into my own flat in Gorse Hill.

“If you are in debt, seek help as soon as you can, don’t put your head in the sand and let it build up because that will just make it worse.

“It’s incredibly easy to lose sight of things but be honest with yourself and don’t be afraid of asking for advice and support.”

Joanna is now financially stable and looking forward to the festive season.

Creating the perfect Christmas can seem costly but saving up and spending wisely can prevent people having an unhappy new year.

Try these top tips for a cheap and cheerful Christmas.

1. Agree on a game plan to stop all of you overspending: do a ‘secret Santa, agree on a set amount to spend on each person, etc.

2. If children have their heart set on something out of your price range, club together with relatives.

3. Short of a new Christmas outfit? Get together with mates for a swapping party.

4. If you’re doing the meal, ask guests to each contribute something.

5. Aim to only buy the food you will actually eat and try to make meals out of the left-overs.

6. Home-made goodies always go down well – cupcakes, chocolate truffles, shortbread, jam.

7. Your time and thoughtfulness are every bit as valuable as your money. Instead of presents, offer vouchers for gardening, washing the car, a few hours cleaning, ironing or making someone’s favourite cake or snack.

8. So many people live alone, a cheery visit from you is worth more than any present.

9. Spend time focusing on what you can enjoy at no cost, like watching your kids in the school nativity; seeing the lights get switched on; enjoying Christmas carols in church; dressing the tree; playing family games.

10. Never take out credit or be tempted by a Christmas loan. Your income may change and it could affect your whole family’s security.

Visit for more information about Christians Against Poverty, or call 0800 328 0006

Extra tips

1. Is it really a bargain?

Just because a shop is advertising 'mega discounts', is the item you're after really cheaper than it would be at another time of year? Do some homework now, when you're less under pressure to have Christmas all wrapped up - and you'll have a better idea later on if you're really getting a great deal.

2. Can you take it back?

Swot up on your consumer rights. While there are general rules, it's worth asking stores about their individual policies when it comes to 'goodwill' returns if you simply change your mind. The Consumer Rights Act spells out consumers' rights to refunds on faulty items and makes it easier to challenge hidden fees and charges.

3. How you pay can give you added protections if anything goes wrong

Consumer group Which? explains that under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, your credit card company is jointly liable if something goes wrong with a product or a service you've paid for with that card.

If you've spent more than £100 and less than £30,000 on something, you can claim in this way if something goes wrong. You don't have to have paid the full amount on your credit card, either. Which? says to qualify for the protections, it's the value of the goods you're buying that is key, not the amount paid on the card.

4. Check the website you're buying from is genuine

5. Factor in delivery charges

6. Will your shopping spree put you in debt? Set a budget, and if you're paying by credit card, pay it off in full before any charges apply, and keep track of your account balance.

7. Cut the costs -Voucher and cashback websites can help trim back costs.