Christmas is over for another year, but the repercussions of holiday spending habits remain.
2013 research showed that UK consumers’ online expenditure exceeded £90 billion. Without careful planning, increased spending can entrap the unwary in debt.
An estimated 8.8 million in the UK have severe debt problems. 83 per cent of these say they want to be clear of their debts. The most common factors are unemployment, low income, and lack of budgeting, which are all exacerbated in the Christmas period. The Money Advice Service found that 1 in 4 adults admit to overspending at Christmas, and 1.2 million adults admit to receiving pay day loans to fund their celebrations.
Christians against Poverty (CAP) is a charity providing a free service to help people budget their money and prevent debt. It was founded in 1996 by John Kirkby who, four years previously, had over £70,000 of debt. Working in the financial industry, John had a lavish lifestyle, but borrowing too much to fund his businesses had life-changing consequences.
‘Although saved, I was still living in between the world and the Lord. I was really mixed up and did many things I later regretted. My financial situation continued to worsen. My accountant said I needed to find £1000 a week to meet the interest payments or face bankruptcy’, he said.
‘The word destitute is often overused but that is what I became, utterly devoid of any spirit, hurting, lonely and afraid’.
CAP supports a wide range of individuals, from those struggling to feed their children, to families facing eviction. Debt has a social impact too. A CAP survey indicated that 57 per cent of clients had been prescribed medication to help cope with their ordeal. Shockingly, it found that 37 per cent of clients had considered or attempted suicide.
‘In the midst of my despair, God never took his eyes off me. It was through these traumatic times that a greater sense of his love, forgiveness and heart for me became more and more real. I also began to have an ever-increasing compassion for others who were in need. I felt God calling me to respond not just to the poverty in my own life, but to the poverty in our whole nation,’ John Kirkby said.
John Stott writes in New issues facing Christians today: ‘Many of us need to change our attitudes towards the unemployed and persuade the public to do the same. Paul’s dictum in 2 Thessalonians 3 was addressed to the lazy, not redundant’.
Three members from Dewsbury Evangelical Church are trained to run a CAP Money Course: ‘We run three or four sessions over a flexible period of time, to help people gain control of their money. We cover different aspects such as how to budget and cut costs’, said Josephine Evans.
‘Running the course appealed to me, because it’s designed for everybody, not just those with serious debt problems or income issues. Even the richest people can spend recklessly and it’s important to help people be aware of their spending’.
Each month, an average of 138 families become debt-free after working with CAP, and 94 per cent of their clients say it was a life-transforming aid.
Crucially, the charity sees many clients turn to Christ. John said, ‘I am overwhelmed by what God has done. To see thousands of lives changed every year is truly wonderful. I do believe that God has given us a 21st century answer to one of the most pressing social needs within society today’.