December can be a very expensive month, whether it is paying for presents, going to parties and festive events, new clothes, food, drink, or even heating your home.

To manage cash flow, you might have been tempted by an offer of short-term credit, Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) schemes, when you buy goods and services, allowing you to split payments over a few months. Some of the biggest BNPL lenders in the U.K. are companies such as Klarna, Clearpay, and Laybuy.

It's a fast-growing market, and more than a third (36 percent) of Brits have used BNPL services at some point this year, which is more than 19 million people; a figure that has tripled since 2021. With this dramatic market growth, new, more unfamiliar lenders have entered the market.

You now regularly see some retailers encouraging customers to choose BNPL over other ways of paying, by making it the default payment option or by offering an incentive such as a discount or free delivery.

And its ease and availability are proving attractive. To afford Christmas, our research shows that more than half of parents with children in primary school are likely to BNPL schemes to push paying for Christmas in 2024.

As with all sources of credit, BNPL can certainly be a useful way to spread the cost of purchases if you use it carefully and can afford the repayments but be aware that not all credit is the same.

Unlike other credit options, BNPL lending does not require any affordability checks. It works differently from credit cards, there’s no Section 75 consumer protection when you pay on BNPL or protection if something goes wrong – you can’t go to the Financial Ombudsman Service if you have a complaint.

Taking out lots of BNPL agreements for small amounts can end up being confusing, so keep a record of how much you owe in total, how you’ll make the total overall repayments, and what will happen if you can’t pay on time.

If you find you can't afford to reduce your debts after paying your priority bills and essentials, seek advice as soon as possible.

Visit Citizens Advice North Herts at or Citizens Advice Stevenage at or call the Citizens Advice Hertfordshire Adviceline number 0800 144 88 48.