Families have been offered expert advice to try to avoid a Christmas debt hangover.
Northumberland Citizens Advice has drawn on its vast experience of helping people to deal with their debt problems to present the following top ten tips.
1. Plan early for Christmas.
Be realistic and budget accordingly.
Work out how much you are going to spend on each person, and make sure that you stick to it.
2. Don’t forget the everyday bills.
Remember that rent, the mortgage, utility bills, food bills and other existing debts still have to be paid, and the consequences can be severe if they’re not.
3. Don’t bank on an overdraft.
If you do need more money, don’t just run up an overdraft without talking to your bank first. If you rush ahead and spend without discussing it with your bank, it will work out much more expensive.
4. Keep things simple.
If you can afford to pay for your goods outright by cash, cheque or debit card, don’t be persuaded to take out extended credit agreements. You don’t need them.
5. Shop around.
There’s nothing like a good bargain for helping your funds to go further. Try as many different places as possible to find the best price.
However, be firm. Make sure you buy what you want and not what other people say you need.
6. Buy safe to be safe.
Whatever the deal, or whatever the temptation, don’t buy from unauthorised traders.
The same goes for credit, don’t borrow from unauthorised lenders.
7. Read the small print.
Check for any hidden extras in any credit agreement.
Work out the total amount payable and ensure that the monthly instalments are within your budget before signing up to anything.
8. Do your own credit checks.
If you are going to use a credit card, shop around and compare terms.
9. Be organised.
If you have borrowed money, don’t forget that it won’t be long before you have to make a payment. Make sure that you pay on time, even if it is only the minimum amount, or you will be faced with additional charges.
10. Start planning and saving for next Christmas.
We haven’t even got to this year’s festivities yet, but once your Christmas celebration is over, it’s worth looking at what you did well, and what you didn’t.
Debt doesn’t go away by itself and it can lead to serious consequences. The worry and stress it brings can also lead to ill health.
If you do need debt advice now, call the Northumberland Adviceline on 03444 111 444.
You can visit the Citizens Advice website for office opening hours at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/northumberland
The service has specialist debt advisers in all offices across Northumberland. The help you receive is free, confidential and impartial.