Christmas is a time of giving, but you don’t want to give yourself a headache in the New Year with bills and debts that you can’t afford.
It’s all too easy to overspend – there are tempting offers and pressures to buy, but you must decide how much you can afford before you start spending.
Here’s five handy tips from us at Citizens Advice Bury & Bolton on how you can avoid a nasty debt hangover, and have a safe and successful Christmas when shopping this year.
Plan early this Christmas
Be realistic and budget accordingly. Work out how much you’re going to spend on each person and stick to it.
Try and keep things simple. If you can afford to pay for your goods outright by cash, cheque or debit card don’t be tempted to take out extended credit agreements unless they really do work out cheaper.
Don’t forget the everyday bills
Remember that rent, mortgage, utility and food bills as well as other existing debts still have to be paid – the consequences can be severe if they’re not (even though it’s Christmas).
An important thing to note – if you do need more money, don’t just run up an overdraft without consulting with your bank first – it will likely work out much more expensively.
Be a safe and savvy shopper
Try as many different places as possible to find the best price, make sure to buy what you want and not what other people say you need. Always be vigilant.
Whatever the deal and however tempting it might seem, you should never buy from unauthorised traders or borrow from unauthorised lenders. While the initial savings and convenience may be appealing it often proves to be a false economy.
Always check the small print
Check for any hidden extras in any credit agreement. Work out the total amount payable and ensure that monthly instalments are within your budget before signing – interest-free credit can seem attractive but if you don’t pay on time, or miss a payment you could end up paying a lot more.
If you are going to use a credit card, shop around and compare terms. Some cards charge high interest rates but provide interest free periods or discounts.
There’s a lot to remember at Christmas. If you’ve borrowed money don’t forget that it won’t be long before you have to make a payment. Make sure you pay on time, even if it’s only the minimum, or you will be faced with additional charges.
Once Christmas is over, look back at how you did and start planning what to do differently next year. This might also be a good time to start saving towards next Christmas.
If you need more help…
Planning, budgeting and organisation are key to avoid getting into debt at Christmas and beyond. If your spending runs out of control, you can soon find that debt is not only a problem at Christmas, but can become a way of life.If you do get into difficulties, get advice as soon as you can by contacting us on 0808 278 7804 or making a self-referral on our website. Our money advice team provides free, confidential, accredited advice to anyone who is experiencing money issues.