By Pat Hutchinson MBE, District Manager, Citizens Advice Newtownabbey
Christmas, or at least the run up to it, seems to start earlier every year. The adverts on the television, the decorations in town centres and the late night shopping, all serve to tell us that we need to spend big in order to enjoy ourselves.
However, the hangover we can be left with after buying the presents, food and decorations can leave us starting the New Year with a big financial headache.
Debt is a fact of life for many people these days, but following some simple guidelines can help in the run up to Christmas:
• Make a list of who you need to buy presents for and set a limit according to your budget on how much you can spend;
• When you go shopping keep track of what you have spent – that way you will know when your money is low and when you have spent what you budgeted for;
• Try to avoid going over your budget – shop around for the best deals and try to avoid buying on impulse;
• If you cannot avoid borrowing, make sure you can afford the repayments - avoid credit cards, store cards and doorstep lenders as these can be very expensive.
If you get into financial difficulties or find you have overspent follow these tips:
• Don’t panic and don’t ignore the problem – it can seem tempting to ignore bills and threatening letters but they won’t go away;
• Avoid borrowing further to try and pay off existing debt – this may lead to more problems in the long run;
• Talk to your creditors – don’t just stop payments without explaining why. They can sometimes be more understanding than you might expect;
• Work out priority debts, for example, rent and utility debts – pay these first. Don’t fall into the trap of paying whoever shouts loudest first;
• Work out a budget that covers all your income and essential outgoings. Only offer to pay off debts at a rate you can afford.
• Get free, confidential and independent advice from your nearest Citizens Advice – or go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk/nireland Call at: Citizens Advice Newtownabbey, Dunanney Centre, Rathmullan Drive, Rathcoole, Newtownabbey, BT37 9DQ. Telephone advice is available 9am – 4pm each day on 028 9085 2271 (Lunch 1pm - 1:30pm). Email advice is available at firstname.lastname@example.org