Valerie Roberts is debt free for the first time in more than 15 years, thanks to a debt advice service in Leeds.
There are five Christians Against Poverty (CAP) debt centres in the city, and with the Christmas countdown now on it is warning people to save to avoid ending up in the red.
Leeds South and East centre manager Malcolm Lamb said: “We might not want to think about Christmas but it will be here in less than 100 days.
“Every year we see Christmas spending create a lot of worry for people. It doesn’t have to be that way, if you prepare early and stick to a budget. Just saving £5 per week from now will give you £70 to spend on presents and food.”
This Christmas will also be the first since 2002 that Ms Roberts will not have the burden of worrying about whether to buy gifts for her young daughter, family and friends or keep the debt collectors away.
Since using the services of CAP she has been awarded a debt relief order which cleared the £11,000 she owed in loans and credit cards.
She said: “I was a dental practice manager and able to pay before I got unwell and had a stroke six years ago which changed everything in terms of how I worked. Now I have a five-year-old daughter which changed everything again.
“I was trying to keep up and you want her to have a great Christmas and to be able to buy for friends but it can get on top of you if you are not careful.
“As of last week I am debt free and even saying it feels unreal.”
CAP works with nine churches across Leeds offering debt counselling, job clubs and life skills to those struggling with the pressures of debt. Before CAP, 67 per cent of clients skipped meals, 38 per cent considered or attempted suicide and 68 per cent of parents unable to look after their children.