BY JOHN ELLIS, FINANCIAL ADVISOR
We all love a present, especially at Christmas, but New Year debt and financial worries we can do without. Sometime we lose the run of ourselves at Christmas and end up with unwanted bills to accompany the chills of January. It can take some households seven months to repay Christmas debts.
So what to do? Is it not a bit late at this stage to make changes or save with Christmas only weeks away?
Its never too early or late to start planning for Christmas. And yes the sooner you start saving, the better, putting aside what you can afford each month in the run up to Christmas. But even at this late stage there are things you can do.
The most important thing is to keep your festive spending in check and within budget. Once you know what you would like to buy or budget for, get realistic! How much can you really afford to spend? Write everything down to keep yourself on track and don’t forget the hidden cost, like travelling to and from family and friends. Sticking to your budget is just as important as setting it. While you might be tempting to overspend – especially when you’re in the festive spirit – you might regret it in the New Year.
That being said, if you do need to borrow a little extra in the form of a loan, make sure you do it responsibly. A loan is ‘not just for Christmas’, so make sure you consider what you’ll use the loan for, what you’re committing to and whether you can afford the repayments – your local Credit Union will be happy to discuss and advise on your needs.
The first piece of advice you will receive is, don’t forget to pay your monthly bills – such as your mortgage, rent, gas, electricity and phone contract. Most employers will pay early in December, so try to pay your regular bills immediately so you don’t spend the money on something else.
Then shop around to find the best deals. Being a shrewd shopper can make a big difference to your Christmas spending. Don’t forget to look out for freebies too. Is there a local ‘swapsie group’ in your area? If so, join as you can make huge savings with gifts that are in some cases next to or brand new and you will be surprised at what you consider junk will be the exact gift that someone else needs.
You don’t have to spend money to have fun. There are plenty of ways you can spend time with your friends and family for free. Check out online listings and the pages of this paper to see what’s going on in your local area.
It’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement of Christmas when you’re out shopping. But doing some shopping online will make it easier to stick to your list and avoid those tempting impulse buys. Most local retailers have websites so your money need not be going abroad but staying in the local community.
Aside from gifts, one of the biggest expenses at Christmas is food. Plan your menu and buy what you need as early as you can so you don’t have to make any last-minute dashes to potentially more expensive shops.
So you didn’t manage to start your Christmas saving as early as you would have liked? Start thinking ahead to next year now and plan what you can save each month. The earlier you start, the less worrying you will do.
If you’re concerned about debt or meeting repayments, the important thing is not to hide or ignore it. Talk, discuss your problems with your lender(s)/creditor(s) and usually what you though was an insurmountable problem can be dealt with in a way that will suit all parties.
The earlier you address a potential problem, the sooner you can take action to solve it, reducing stress and potentially saving money in the long run.
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