Citizens Advice Northumberland has released a Christmas list of 12 tips to help people avoid pressure on their household budgets.
The charity’s dozen budget bullets could help guard against the heavy toll the festive season can take on family finances and help people to start the new year without a debt hangover.
In the past 12 months, advisers at Citizens Advice Northumberland have helped more than 3,800 people with debt problems, 24 per cent of the total number of people we saw.
Practical advice tips include early planning, steering clear of unauthorised overdrafts, and reading the small print when using credit.
Abi Conway, chief officer at Citizens Advice Northumberland, said: “People can feel an awful lot of pressure on their finances over Christmas.
“All too often, this gets carried into the new year, when they have to play budget catch-up.
“But there are some simple and practical steps that people can take to guard against a festive debt hangover, including early planning.
“If people are really struggling financially they can speak to one of our advisers face-to-face or over the phone. We also have a text advice service – text DEBT to 81400.”
Citizens Advice Northumberland’s 12 tips for Christmas are as follows:
• Plan early. Plan how much you are going to spend on each person and stick to it. Manage expectations about what you – or Santa – can give.
• Don’t forget everyday bills. It may be Christmas, but keep on top of priority bills, such as rent and council tax. The consequences for non-payment can be severe.
• Think twice about overdrafts. Don’t run up an overdraft without first chatting to your bank, or it could be costly.
• Keep it simple. Pay for your goods with cash or a debit card if you can. Don’t be persuaded to take out credit.
• Shop around. Look for the best price and buy only what you want, not what others say you need. Be wary of any extended warranties as often the cost of repair can be less.
• Avoid unauthorised lenders. Loan sharks may seem friendly at first, but borrowing from them is never a good idea – even if you feel you have no other option.
• Avoid unauthorised traders. Whatever the deal, don’t buy from unauthorised traders – it may prove to be more expensive in the long run.
• Read the small print. Check credit agreements for any hidden extras and work out the total amount you will have to repay. Interest-free deals can have a nasty sting if you miss a payment.
• Do your own credit checks. If you plan to use a credit card, shop around – some charge high interest, but may have lengthy interest-free periods.
• Be organised. If you have borrowed money, repayment will be due before you know it. Make sure you make at least the minimum repayment or you will be hit with charges. Put payment dates in your diary or set up a direct debit so you don’t forget.
• Start planning for next Christmas. It may sound crackers, but just after Christmas is the best time to learn what went well this year, what didn’t, and start saving for next year.
• Get help if you’re worried. We can give you solid, free and impartial debt advice online, over the phone and face-to-face.
If you do need any advice before or after Christmas you can contact Citizens Advice Northumberland in a number of ways.
Call our Adviceline on 03444 111444, or contact our Specialist Debt Team on 01670 339960. People can also text DEBT to 81400