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“Some people are still paying off Christmas presents from 2021”

“Some people are still paying off Christmas presents from 2021”
The current buying frenzy is particularly noticeable on Linzer Landstrasse.
Image: VOLKER WEIHBOLD
"Some people are still paying off Christmas presents from 2021"
Debt advice director Thomas Berghuber (l.), Social Affairs Councilor Wolfgang Hattmannsdorfer and debtor assistance director Thorsten Rathner (r.)
Image: Andreas KRENN

Buying spree in December, rude awakening in January. Many people in the country are particularly relaxed when it comes to Christmas shopping. If you want to give friends and family the greatest possible joy under the Christmas tree, there is a great risk of falling into the debt trap.

If the financial situation ultimately becomes hopeless, many people’s only option is to go to debt help or debt counseling. And there have been more and more people in recent years, says Thomas Berghuber, managing director of the Upper Austria debt advice service. “The high inflation rate and the increased cost of living have made the situation even worse”says Berghuber.

There were 4,128 new additions to debt counseling and debt assistance in Upper Austria this year – almost 500 more than in the previous year (3,684) and 900 more than in 2021 (3,241). The number of consultations has also increased year-on-year to 16,604, says the managing director of debtor assistance, Thorsten Rathner.

"Some people are still paying off Christmas presents from 2021"
Debt advice director Thomas Berghuber (l.), Social Affairs Councilor Wolfgang Hattmannsdorfer and debtor assistance director Thorsten Rathner (r.)
Image: Andreas KRENN

Installment payment models based on supposedly low partial amounts in particular would lead to people overextending themselves. “The interest rate is often more than 20 percent, and you quickly lose track of multiple installment payments”says Rathner.

When it comes to debt advice, the biggest risk of over-indebtedness is also seen in the installment payments advertised by shops. “We have over-indebted clients, some of whom are still paying off Christmas presents from 2021″says Thomas Berghuber, who generally advises no gifts “on credit” to buy.

The way out of the minus is rocky

In addition to avoiding installment payments, both clubs recommend drawing up a budget before Christmas shopping and saving invoices for possible returns. “They are actually very simple tips, if everyone followed them there would be far fewer cases in which we have to take action”says Rathner. People would only seek help when the mountain of debt was already relatively high: “The average client has a debt of between 50,000 and 60,000 at their first consultation and is already in a debt spiral and can no longer get out of the deficit on their own”says Berghuber.

Advice on buying gifts sustainably will be spread through the media in a campaign together with the state of Upper Austria. According to Social Affairs Councilor Wolfgang Hattmannsdorfer (VP), people should “Be particularly careful with lure offers”. Because debts “Once you’ve accumulated it carelessly, it usually doesn’t go away so quickly”.

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