How to deal with Christmas debt

No other time of year puts so much financial pressure on families, but there are ways that you can limit money worries come January by acting now.
 
  • Calculating budgets at Christmas
    Victoria Joy
    Last updated: 26 November 2013, 12:42 GMT

    There’s no denying that Christmas can be a stressful time, and few aspects of the festive season cause so many sleepless nights than how we’re going to afford it all.

    While we can’t give you a bottomless pot of pounds, we can offer some advice, courtesy of National Debtline, which should help you to avoid money problems at Christmas. They are encouraging people with money worries to plan ahead when it comes to Christmas and avoid borrowing more to cover short-term splurges.

    Work out your personal budget
    Before knowing what you can spend on Christmas treats, it’s important to see how much money is coming in and out of your household. Use a budget calculator online or sit down in a quiet place with your bank account and bills to hand. Work out how much you need to pay to cover your essentials.

    Prioritise your creditors
    A Christmas tree and all the trimmings might seem like a necessity, but there’s other things you need to check off the list first. Make sure all your priority bills are being paid e.g. mortgage, rent, gal, electricity, Council Tax.

    Define your Christmas dipping pot
    Decide how much you can spend on Christmas and stick to it. If you know how much money you’ve put aside for presents etc and don’t add to it, you shouldn’t need to skip payments on essential bills.

    Spread your wallet thinly
    If you know you’ll struggle to pay for presents in a lump sum, talk to retailers and check whether you can spread payments over as long a time as possible.

    Organise your overdraft in advance
    If you’re going to need to temporarily dip into an overdraft, make sure you arrange it with your bank in advance. Some accounts don’t charge for an overdraft as long as you stay within the agreed limit. Keep till receipts from card purchases so you know how much you’ve spent and find out how much a ‘bounced cheque’ will cost before you sign on the dotted line.

    Say no to credit
    Avoid expensive credit offer in shops, no matter how tempting they seem. If you’re already struggling to pay your priority bills, any others are just going to add to the problem. If you feel the only way to afford Christmas is to spread the cost by taking out a loan, be very careful to shop around for the best deals using websites such as Money Supermarket, This Is Money and Money Facts. And remember, your home is at risk if you cannot keep up the payments on a secured loan so think very carefully and get advice before before taking one out.

    Let LETS help
    Local Exchange Trading Schemes (LETS) are a new 'money-free' way of bartering goods and services. You can 'buy' goods using tokens and 'earn' tokens by providing a service back, e.g. babysitting, window cleaning. Check your library for any local scheme, or contact Letslinkuk for details.

    Money budgeting at Christmas

    Golden rules

    • Don't borrow money to pay off your debts without thinking carefully. Get advice first.
    • If you have children, try to explain why you cannot afford expensive presents for Christmas.
    • Leave Christmas shopping as late as you can, since you may be able to find last-minute bargains
    • Shop around for bargains on food.
    • Make sure you tackle your priority debts first, for example, debts which could mean losing your home or having your gas or electricity cut off.
    • Contact everyone you owe money to and make arrangements to pay a reduced amount that you can afford on your credit debts.
    • Don't ignore the problem; it won't go away and the longer you leave it the worse it will get. li>

    Visit the National Debtline website for more information or call them for advice on 0808 808 4000.

    Victoria Joy
    Last updated: 26 November 2013, 12:42 GMT

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