‘Spend wisely at Christmas and do not stock up debt’

Pat Hutchinson.
Pat Hutchinson.

THE District Manager of Newtownabbey Citizens Advice Bureau is appealing to local people not to overspend in the run-up to Christmas.

As the CAB continues to offer help to more and more debt clients each year, Pat Hutchinson is urging shoppers to take a sensible approach when stocking up for the festive season.

“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,” she warned.

While debt has become a fact of life for many these days, Mrs Hutchinson is urging people to follow some simple guidelines in the run up to Christmas which should help them keep on top of their finances:

- 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.

Between April 2011 and March 2012 Newtownabbey CAB helped clients deal with a staggering £11.9 million of debt. And Mrs Hutchinson is advising those who do find themselves in financial difficulties to follow these top 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.

Free, confidential and independent advice about debt problems is available from the Citizens Advice Bureau, Dunanney Centre, Rathcoole.

Telephone advice is available by calling 9085 2271 between 9am and 4pm each day (lunch 1pm - 1.30pm).