Xmas debt trap warning issued

One in five Austrians are at risk of getting themselves into debt this Christmas, a financial expert has warned.Alexander Maly of the Viennese Debtors Counselling Authority said today (Tues): “Some people feel pressure to consume and shop in order to belong to a certain group of friends.”Speaking to the Kronen Zeitung newspaper, Maly said around 20 per cent of Austrians may be at risk of getting into debt in the weeks before the festive season. The expert warned many people would buy things without thinking about whether they could actually afford them.Asked for advice on how best to avoid being caught in the debt trap, Maly said: “Think about how much you are planning to spend on presents first. Take the amount in cash with you and leave your credit cards at home.”The number of private bankruptcies in Austria rose by 6.4 per cent to 2,586 cases year on year in the first three months of 2010, according to the Federal Creditors’ Protection Association (KSV 1870).Meanwhile, a research agency said Austrians will spend an average 390 Euros on Christmas gifts this year. Pollsters Integral, who conducted the survey for Erste Bank, announced today this was a year on year improvement from 364 Euros.The agency said it expected the 8.5 million Austrians to fork out an overall 2.5 billion Euros on presents this Christmas. Integral also said only 16 per cent did online shopping.Retail trade officials previously announced they expected the branch’s turnover from sales in the weeks leading up to Christmas to edge up by around three per cent year on year to 1.75 billion Euros.