6.5 million will struggle to heat homes at Christmas 

6th December 2023

6.5 million people in the UK (14 percent) will struggle to heat their homes as much as they need this Christmas due to the impact of the cost of living, according to findings from National Debtline. The findings show 2.7 million people (5 percent) are having to choose between buying food or presents and four in ten (40 percent) plan to use credit for Christmas spending.  

Research commissioned by National Debtline and based on a Opinium survey of 2,000 UK adults reveals the extent to which increased costs are impacting households this December and the effects this is having on how people feel about their finances.  

With nearly one in four people in debt (23 percent) saying they feel embarrassed about their situation, the charity is calling on people to make a plan this Christmas and seek free advice about their finances.   

The findings show the impact the cost of living, including rising energy prices, continues to have on household finances with one in seven (14 percent) UK adults say they won’t be able to put the heating on as much as they need this December. For people in debt this rises to one in five (21 percent).  

14.4 million people who celebrate Christmas (30 percent) are planning to cut back on the number of presents they buy. This rises to 43 percent for people in debt. 6.1 million (13 percent) are only planning to buy presents for children, this rising to more than one in six (18 percent) for people in debt.  

With household finances more stretched than ever this year, many people are turning to credit to cover festive costs: 24.3 million UK adults (40 percent) plan to use credit this Christmas to pay for presents, rising to 66 percent for people in debt.  12.1 million (25 percent) plan to use a credit card, rising to two in five (40 percent) for people in debt. 

Whilst the rise of Buy Now, Pay Later has led to 4.7 million (10 percent) plan to use these products, with this rising to one in four (24 percent) for people in debt. 

The charity’s research also explores the emotional impact of being in debt.  One in six people in debt (18 percent) say they have not told anyone about their situation – and one in ten (10 percent) fear telling their partner or a loved one. 

 To encourage people to open up about their finances this Christmas, National Debtline is highlighting the positive impact talking about money can have on someone’s wellbeing.    Seven in ten callers to National Debtline report a positive impact on their emotional or mental health, however nearly four in 10 people (37 percent) who contact the service wait over a year before seeking advice.   

David Cheadle, acting Chief Executive at the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline, said “This Christmas the cost of living is set to be felt more than ever with millions of people struggling to heat their homes and many experiencing money worries alone, feeling they have no one to turn to for help.”  

“It shouldn’t be this way. No one has to go through debt problems on their own. I would encourage anyone worried about money to pick up the phone this December and speak to one of our National Debtline advisers. They know first-hand the difference speaking about your money worries can have – and taking this first step to dealing with your situation will give you some peace of mind this Christmas.”

“We remain deeply concerned about the long-term impact that rising arrears will have on household finances going into 2024 and beyond. After missing the opportunity to help people in debt in the Autumn Statement, we are continuing to press the government to introduce a Help to Repay scheme for energy arrears – and extend the Household Support Fund which is providing crucial local support.”