Citizens Advice Halton urges people to shop smartly this Christmas
Christmas is usually a time of joy and happiness, but for many once the festive season ends the dark clouds of money worries and financial despair soon start to gather as credit card bills, rent and mortgage demands, increased gas and electricity bills from the cold winter start arriving through the letter box and people realise that they have overspent.
Andy O’Neill, Specialist Money Advice co-ordinator at Citizens Advice Halton, said:
“Christmas is a time of giving, but you don’t want to give yourself a headache in the New Year with bills and debts 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.
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 from the team at Citizens Advice Halton.”
Fiona McKelvie, Financial Capability service co-ordinator, added:
“Our Debt advice team are accredited by the Money Advice Service and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and so people can be assured they will get a quality advice service. But even if you don’t have any debts, through our European Social Fund and National Lottery funded ‘Better Off Finance’ project we can still help people who want support to learn how to better manage their household income and reduce their outgoings.
One family we helped to learn how to shop online safely managed to save over £900 a year by reducing their gas and electricity bills and negotiating cheaper insurance policies.”
Top 10 Tips to avoid a Christmas Hangover
To help reduce the risk of getting into financial difficulties, Citizens Advice Halton is promoting “Top 10 Tips to avoid a Christmas Hangover”.
- Plan for Christmas – It’s not too late to plan. Be realistic and budget accordingly. Work out how much you are going to spend on each person – and stick to it. Manage expectations as to what you or Santa can give.
- 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. Even though it’s Christmas, get your priorities right.
- 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 – it will work out much more expensive.
- 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 unless they really do work out cheaper.
- Shop around – Try as many different places as possible to find the best price. Buy what you want and not what other people say you need. Be wary of extended warranties; the cost of a repair could be less than the cost of the warranty.
- Buy safe to be safe – Whatever the deal, whatever the temptation, don’t buy from unauthorised traders and don’t borrow from unauthorised lenders. The initial savings and convenience may prove to be a false economy
- Read the small print – Check for hidden extras in any credit agreement. Work out the total amount payable. Ensure that the 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 have to pay a lot more.
- Do your own credit checks – 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. Budget for all these costs and put the payment dates in your diary
- Be organised – 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 is only the minimum, or you will be faced with additional charges.
- Start planning and saving for next Christmas – Once Christmas is over, it’s worth looking at what you did well and what you didn’t. Learn from your mistakes and start planning how you will do things differently next year. This might also be a good time to start saving for next Christmas.
Citizens Advice Halton is a charity. The service is free, confidential and independent and is available for anyone, including people who are in work and people who are unemployed. To contact the money advice team or if you are interested in volunteering at Citizens Advice Halton ring 0151 257 2449 (and leave a message) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.