The A to Z of Surviving Christmas and New Year Without Getting into Debt
December 18, 2017
Forget expectations and only buy what you can afford. Make sure you set aside enough money to cover your household bills and expenditure over the Christmas period. This includes food, heating and paying your rent or mortgage and Council Tax. The most important thing is that you and your family are warm and have food on the table. Don’t put the roof over your head at risk.
It goes without saying that it helps to shop around. You may find things are cheaper online than in the shops – even on Panic Saturday when there are so-called huge savings to be made. Do your research before you buy and use comparison sites to get the best deals on big items.
One of the smartest ways to shop is by credit card but ONLY if you clear the balance at the end of every month and avoid racking up credit card debt. Used correctly, credit cards can help to boost your credit rating.
Delivery costs can fairly mount up at this time of year. If you’re ordering online, check if there’s a free click and collect option from your local store which could save you significantly. And, if you’re tempted by the likes of Amazon Prime to get free next day delivery, make sure you’re prepared to either cancel the subscription within the free trial period or pay the monthly premium.
Every Penny Counts
Make your money go further by cashing in the likes of Tesco ClubCard and Boots Advantage Card points against gifts – and always look out for the 3 for 2 and Buy One Get Free offers. Dig out all your money-off shopping vouchers and use them up before they expire.
Try looking up free events and activities to get you all in the Christmas spirit. You’ll be surprised at how many there are. You can even find some of these on the Scotland Debt Solutions website.
While gift cards can be a great alternative to gifting if you’re not sure what to buy, some retailers do go out of business which could mean money down the drain. Make sure you buy a gift card which offers options, such as being redeemed in more than one shop. It may sound obvious, but avoid the likes of Toys R Us whose future in Scotland is uncertain, with many stores set to close in the New Year.
Nothing quite captures the magic of Christmas than homemade gifts, treats and cards – just channel your inner Kirstie Allsopp. Getting the kids involved in making their own decorations, cards and gifts will not only save you a few pounds, but will help to expend some of their Christmas energy and keep them occupied in the run up to Santa’s arrival.
Bear in mind that any short-term borrowing over the Christmas period is not free money – it all needs to be paid back, with interest. Beware of buy-now-pay-later incentives on large household items such as furniture and electrical goods, including TVs and games consoles.
Keep track of your spending – and household bills – in a journal, diary or notebook where you can also jot down calculations and reminders for key bills and outgoings. This will help you see, at a glance, your income and outgoings so you can manage your finances better and deal with any debts as they arise.
If money is tight, agree with your family and friends that you’ll only buy for the kids. Or, even better, club together and buy one big gift between you all.
Don’t be tempted by payday or other short-term Christmas loans. What might seem like a good idea at the time will cost you significantly in the long run and could be harder to pay off than you think. Financial situations can also change rapidly.
There are lots of blogs and websites out there offering money-saving tips, such as Martin Lewis at MoneySavingExpert.com, Ask James at Experian, Help Me to Save, and My Family Club. Pay them a visit and you could learn lots of handy tips and tricks on how to become more frugal now and in the long-term.
Just say ‘no’. Don’t be tempted by things you don’t really need – or unnecessary gifts – just because they’re cheap. The money is far better in your pocket than in those of the high street or online stores.
Try to avoid dipping into your overdraft, if you have one. And – if you haven’t – don’t be tempted to overspend and rack up an unauthorised overdraft which will incur bank charges. If you do need a bit of extra flexibility, always talk to your bank first.
If you are facing financial difficulty, make sure you get professional advice as quickly as possible to avoid the problem escalating. You’ll be surprised at how easily it can be resolved just by talking to the experts. Scotland Debt Solutions offers free, national debt advice across the whole of Scotland and can even visit you in your own home. You might also want to contact the debt charity www.stepchange.org
Question so-called deals
Always question what appears to be a good deal to make sure you’re getting what the advert or description suggests. Check the measurements and that the product is full size, as well as being from a reputable source. Always check the reviews to see if there’s a better, cheaper option out there.
There are big savings to be made on preloved, refurbished goods such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops which can be just as good as those which are brand new. You can find high street stores offering deals on these, as well as some of the larger online retailers. The goods will have been tested and repaired, if necessary, and given a rating according to their condition. Band A, for example, suggests the product is as good as new, while Band B might mean a few scratches. The only drawback is that some of these goods don’t come with warranties so make sure you buy from a retailer which offers some sort of guarantee or assurances on the product’s expected lifespan.
It’s never too early to start saving for next Christmas. What currently seems like light years away will be here before you know it. Try setting aside a little every month in a separate bank account to give you a head-start on Christmas 2018.
Talk it Over
If financial pressures are getting you down, or you don’t feel as festive as you think you should, talk to the Samaritans, whose volunteers will be on hand this year for 123,000 hours over the Christmas period to listen to anyone who’s having a tough time.
There’s no such thing as the perfect Christmas so don’t beat yourself up about what you can’t afford or how many presents other people’s kids are getting. What’s more important is getting the family round and spending some time together, rather than being a slave to the Christmas retail agenda.
Visit Family and Friends
If you can’t afford to lay on a lavish Christmas dinner this year perhaps it’s your turn to visit family and friends. Don’t be put under pressure to cater for the masses. Let someone else take the load off and plan to have everyone round to your house next year.
Research* has shown that 45% of people polled aren’t planning to set a budget this year, yet budgeting is crucial for staying out of the red at Christmas and into the New Year. It might sound boring but set a budget and stick to it. It also helps to make a list and only buy what you need. Exercise some willpower and you’ll be thankful come 2018.
Remember the true meaning of Christmas and focus on the important things, such as spending time with family and friends rather than spending lots of money. Memories will last a lot longer than gifts.
Don’t get so caught up in buying gifts and food that you forget to look after number one. Set aside time and money to make sure you eat well, have warm clothes to wear and can put money on the electric.
Keeping your finances in order and avoiding debt this Christmas and New Year will undoubtedly help you sleep better at night. Follow our A to Z and enjoy counting the Zs blissfully free of the stresses and strains financial difficulties can bring.
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