29/12/2013 03:19 GMT | Updated 29/12/2013 08:12 GMT

How Did You Pay For Christmas? One Quarter Needed To Borrow Money, Which? Finds

Dave Thompson/PA Wire
A shop on Market Street in Manchester advertises its sale, as shoppers buy last minute items before Christmas Day.

One quarter of Brits could only afford Christmas this year by borrowing money, and the coming year is unlikely to see an easing-off of tight household budgets, a survey has found.

One third of people surveyed by consumer group Which? said they had to dip into savings to pay for the festive period, taking an average of £450.

And 40% of those said they needed to use credit to pay for food.

Which? found nearly half of the 2,000 people surveyed expect their budgets to be squeezed even harder in 2014 than 2013.

Less than one third (29%) of those asked expect their family's financial situation to improve in 2014 - and after a string of price hike announcements by energy firms, three-fifths (60%) of consumers said they are already "dreading" the cost of their winter fuel bill.

Which? found that 30 to 49-year-olds used more credit than other age groups, with those who borrowed taking on debts of around £490 to pay for Christmas compared with the average of £350.

They were also more likely to have dipped into their savings and those in this age group who did took out an average of £570.

This age group also felt most under pressure financially, with 41% saying they felt squeezed.

Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director said: "Despite continuing signs of an improving economy, it seems families are still really feeling the squeeze, with millions of households pessimistic about their finances in 2014 after relying on savings or debt to fund Christmas spending.

"We want a New Year resolution from the Government to do more to help hard-pressed consumers in 2014 by getting a grip on the cost of essential bills and a resolution from firms to make sure they are giving customers the best possible value for money."