Plan for Christmas to avoid debt

Plan early for Christmas to avoid debt.
Plan early for Christmas to avoid debt.

The selection boxes are already in the shops and the adverts are on the television trying to sell us the idea of a perfect Christmas.

If only life was that simple.

We are all only too aware that the reality is somewhat different when the credit card bills start to arrive in January.

At Citizens Advice Northumberland we are urging people to plan ahead this year by thinking now about what they plan to spend over Christmas, and, importantly, how they are going to pay for it.

Taking the time to organise your budget now can help to prevent problems in the New Year.

If your finances are not in good shape and you are struggling to pay your bills, please don’t struggle on.

Get help now – one call could be the difference between a happy Christmas and an anxious one.

The warning comes after two influential Parliamentary committees urged the Government to set up an independent public inquiry into the £200billion of debt amassed by households.

The level of personal debt in the UK is now at the level it was just before the 2008 financial crash, and there are fears that a rise in interest rates could add to the pressure.

According to the Money Advice Service, there are now 8.3 million people in the UK with problem debts.

And the Office for Budget Responsibility has predicted that unsecured consumer debt, including credit cards, personal loans and car finance, is set to soar over the next four years, above its 2007 peak.

Here’s some tips to avoid a Christmas debt hangover:

• Be realistic and budget accordingly – work out how much you are going to spend and stick to it.

• Remember that everyday bills, such as rent and utility bills, still need to be paid. The consequences of not doing so can be severe.

• Don’t run up an overdraft without talking to the bank first.

• Where possible, avoid borrowing to pay for Christmas.

• Keep things simple – pay by cash or debit card. Don’t take out extended credit as it is often very expensive.

• Shop around to get the best price.

• Buy safe from authorised traders.

• Read the small print in agreements and check for hidden ‘extras’.

• Be organised. If you are going to use a credit card, shop around for the best terms and make payment on time to avoid additional charges.

• Start planning and saving now for Christmas 2018.

Do you need help with debt?

When you are struggling with debt, it can be difficult to know what to do first, especially if you are feeling bombarded with letters and calls from the companies you owe money to.

Debt doesn’t go away by itself and it can lead to serious consequences and ill health.

We are only too aware of the stress and worry debt can bring to individuals and families.

But we also know that once people take steps to address their money problems they can feel much better about themselves and their situation.

Becoming debt-free, however long it takes, can improve credit ratings and mean you can think about longer term plans.

We have a team of specialist debt advice workers throughout the county waiting to help people resolve their money problems.

Call our Debt Helpline on 01670 339960. It is open from 9am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday. Alternatively, text DEBT to 81400.

People seeking advice can also visit one of our offices across the county. The locations and opening times can be found online at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/northumberland

If you would prefer to access help online it is available at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/debt-and-money/help-with-debt/