THE high price of Christmas has been revealed by new research revealing more than 1.2 million (1,241,843) people in the South of England will not have enough money to comfortably pay their Christmas bills.

They are among over seven million (7,111,369) in the UK who expect their income not to meet the cost of the festive season, an increase of nearly 10 per cent (9.68) on last year.

According to research released today by R3, the insolvency trade body, more than five million (5,866,637) people have already borrowed money to pay for Christmas this year - an increase of 47 per cent on last year. Within this group of borrowers, 43 per cent of them fall into the 16-34 age bracket.

Across the south, the number borrowing to pay for Christmas has already reached 1,111,526. And the financial hangover before festive bills are paid is likely to reach two months for 1.4 million people in the region and to drag on for six months for almost quarter of a million (225,763) more.

R3 southern region representative Julie Palmer said: “I am concerned that such large numbers are borrowing money or will be left struggling after Christmas has finished.

“With the VAT rise in January making spending more expensive, this will not give many a good start to 2011. It is worrying that younger generations, with perhaps generous motives, are saddling themselves with debts which then simply become a way of life.

“These figures suggest that, for many people, spending over the festive season will cause a financial headache that will carry over into the New Year. With personal insolvencies still at a record high, it is essential that people do not simply throw caution to the wind and blow their budget just because it is Christmas.

“This year we found that a third of insolvencies in March were caused by spending at Christmas and this trend may well be repeated in 2011. If you are struggling with your debts, you should seek help as soon as possible - financial peace of mind is really the best present we can give ourselves and our families.”