Half of shoppers expect to borrow money to get through the festive season, with €410 the average debt, a survey for credit unions has revealed.
The study also found that consumers will spend €590 this year with parents splashing out €185 on presents per child this Christmas, up €15 from last year.
The report for the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) revealed that the biggest spenders are in the three border counties in Ulster and men will outspend women by €15.
But the organisation warned that its survey found it takes an average of nine weeks for consumers to get over Christmas debts.
It also showed the amount of people taking more than nine months to repay festive borrowings is increasing – 6% of all those surveyed, compared with 4% last year.
Kieron Brennan, chief executive of the credit union group, said a lot of the debt built up at this time of year is not necessary.
“Our annual Christmas research again shows us that while people really enjoy the build-up and the time spent with family, many are over-spending and in many cases getting themselves into debt unnecessarily,” he said.
“The independent research shows us that worryingly more people are taking longer to recover – 6% in 2013 compared to 4% in 2012 taking nine months or more.”
The survey found half of consumers expect to have to borrow money to get through Christmas, with people aged 35-54 the most likely to need credit and borrowing the most, an average of €445.
More women than men get into debt – 52% – but men borrow more money – an average of €435, the survey found.
The research found that 8% of consumers have approached a moneylender for cash to pay for Christmas and another 6% would consider approaching a moneylender.
It said 18 to 34-year-olds are the most likely to use a moneylender.
The credit union group urged people not to use moneylenders and reiterated its call for a cap on the interest rates they can legally charge.
“No such cap currently exists but, in practice, the ceiling is just below 190% APR. With the level of personal indebtedness and financial exclusion in Ireland, there is a real danger of compounding the problem by allowing legal moneylenders to charge excessive rates,” Mr Brennan said.
Mr Brennan offered practical advice to avoid debt at Christmas.
“Setting a Christmas spending budget is more important now than ever, as is writing a list. Plan how much you can afford to spend – and stick to it. This will allow people to be in a better position to keep a tight rein on the Christmas shopping costs,” he said.
“Consider that if you cannot afford to pay for something without a loan, you simply cannot afford it. It’s easy to say but it’s still true – the best gift at Christmas is being together, and that costs nothing.”
The research for the ILCU was carried out by iReach in November and included surveys with 1,000 adults.