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People should exercise caution with their spending over Christmas and seek help if they are facing financial difficulties, says Tauranga Budget Advisory Service manager Diane Bruin.

“A problem shared is much better than hiding behind the financial issues people face every day. Our budgeters offer ideas and assistance that people may not otherwise be aware of.”

A surge in people wanting budgeting help over Christmas has prompted community organisations to put on extra staff and volunteers.

The Tauranga Budget Advisory Service has put on extra staff and volunteers this month to cope with demand.

Manager Diane Bruin said people from “all walks of life”, had sought help but “this is a great problem”.

Getting enough money together for Christmas had put the pressure on people and credit card debt was a concern, she said.

“Don’t overstretch your budget, if you have allowed money to spend, keep to it. The stress this creates around January and February is not worth the pain of overindulgence.

“Christmas should be about having fun with family and friends.” The largest debts for accumulated credit card, car payments and hire purchases it had dealt with for clients was $83,000 and $79,000.

“Due to loss of income and reliant on a benefit they could no longer afford to meet the repayments.”

You were in debt when you obtained credit, she said.

“If managed well this can be good credit, however when you become unable to pay your weekly commitments it can become a problem.”

Salvation Army community ministries manager Davina Plummer said its Adopt a Family programme helped people stay out of debt.

“You can adopt a family anonymously and provide them with a food hamper and a gift for each member of the family. It’s really brilliant and about 90 families will receive these this year with another 40 hampers and gifts made up from kind donations from the community.”

So many families want to give gifts to their family which was understandable but doing so means their general bills can’t be met, she said.

– Bay of Plenty Times