Consumer Group Which? said 46% of people it surveyed used credit cards, overdrafts, store cards or payday loans to cover spending, while over one-third (36%) dipped into their savings.
Almost a quarter of those surveyed said credit cards and overdrafts were the only way they could afford to pay for Christmas. Those who plundered their savings took out an average of £380 while those who used credit typically borrowed £301.
Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said the research "shows just how squeezed household budgets are right now".