Unpaid credit cards, unsecured loans and mortgage arrears are driving up personal debt in the north of the county to levels never seen before by the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).
Figures obtained by the Evening Telegraph show the number of people calling the agency for debt advice has risen by more than a third, with some cases of debt as much as £40,000.
The stark picture shows people who contact the CAB between October and December had debts totalling £486,745 compared with £362,857 in the same period the year before.
The areas worst effected are Wellingborough where 117 people called up with a total of £261,964 of debt and Kettering where 36 people made contact with £99,696 of debt.
The figures also show an increase in people owing money on catalogue orders, credit cards and to loan sharks.
CAB debt advisor for Corby and Kettering, Maggie McLeod, said the increase was down to a combination of the recession and the ability to get credit.
She said: “People struggling to pay their bills are finding it too easy to get cash through pay day loans. Sometimes they don’t even have to speak to someone to get the cash. And while it may provide some short-term solution the high interest rates mean many people struggle to pay them back and the debt spirals out of control.
“It is like using a plaster for a broken leg.”
Ms McLeod also said too many people were living beyond their means.
She said: “Most of us borrow more than we can afford to a certain extent and can continue doing so for a long time.
“But then all it takes is for someone to lose their job or have a cut back in work hours and then the pack of cards come down on them.”
One person the agency has helped is a 48-year-old woman from Corby.
The woman, who has asked to remain anonymous, said she took out a £2,000 loan in 2003, but today, after missing repayments, now owes £4,000.
She said: “Loan companies need to check the people they give money to can pay them back or they end up driving people to bankruptcy.
“I had credit cards and a loan with my partner. When we split up it became very difficult to pay, but the companies ignore your problems. Instead, they make the debt worse.”
Ms McLeod said it was key people came forward to organisations such as the CAB early.
She said: “Too often people come to us very upset because they have a list of debts they can no longer handle. They must not bury their head in the sands. At the first instance and come to us for help straight away.”
To contact the Northamptonshire CAB call 0844 855 2122.