THOUSANDS of people in Scotland are relying on high interest short-term loans and their credit cards to survive this month after overspending at Christmas, campaigners have warned.
Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS), which has been dealing with the knock-on impact of debt-ridden clients, says people are using controversial payday loan companies and cards to meet the costs of essentials such as food and energy bills.
It came as separate research shows the average working person in the UK will have taken on £700 worth of debt over the festive period and around 35% of people will continue to use their credit card for everyday essentials in the run up to being paid, usually at the end of the month.
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Many companies traditionally bring forward pay days in December, meaning workers have longer to wait for their accounts to be replenished the following month.
CAS said high street stores will also be squeezed as people struggle. It said it had dealt with more than 119,000 new debt inquiries in 2012, with the average debt of its clients sitting at just under £13,000 last year.
Chief executive Margaret Lynch urged people to seek advice before their money worries spiral out of control. She said: "CAS advisers see people everyday who are dealing with debt for a variety of reasons, be it unemployment, ill health or simply that their incomes don't cover the cost of living.
"At this time of year, many Scots will be counting the costs of Christmas, worrying about how to pay their energy bills and looking at ways they can cut back in the coming year.
"We know some will be tempted to take out payday loans or other forms of high cost credit to tide them over, but we'd encourage anyone worried about money to seek advice as soon as possible and avoid getting into debt."
Ms Lynch added 25% of all debt inquiries concern credit cards and personal loans.
The Post Office said despite amassing hundreds of pounds on their credit cards over Christmas, many people will continue to use them this month.
Its research found 42% said they will use plastic to pay for grocery shopping in January, while 35% will use cards to pay for day-to-day purchases.
A further 8% admit to using debt to pay debt by paying off Christmas bills with credit cards and another 7% say they use them to pay domestic bills such as gas and electricity. The report also shows three million people (9% of credit card users) expect to spend more on their cards this month than last January by an average of almost £300.
John Willcock, head of credit cards at the Post Office, said: "While many people intend to manage their credit card pur-chases and repayments sensibly, there are still too many people who are not thinking of the con-sequences of their festive spending. It is surprising to see so many people forced to rely on their plastic for daily essentials this month."
David McCorquodale, head of retail for KPMG, said: "January is traditionally when consumers pay off personal debt which means the month will be challenging for many retailers.
"The lack of economic growth and shaky consumer confidence means 2013 may be yet another year of deferred discretionary spending, making life difficult for the average Scottish retailer for the foreseeable future."