Avoid a Christmas debt hangover
The Office of Fair Trading is offering consumers this advice for managing their money this Christmas and New Year.
Be realistic and budget accordingly. Shopping on impulse at any time is dangerous and Christmas is no exception. Have your list and your budget to hand and keep focussed.
Don’t forget everyday life amidst all the hype
Christmas is a special time of year but it is important to remember it is just one day. Don’t forget all of the rest – rent, mortgage, utility bills and other debts still have to be paid and consequences can be harsh if they’re not. Enjoy Christmas but ensure you get your priorities right.
Small sacrifices can boost your health and your budget
From now until the big day consider walking to work if it’s possible and don’t buy your regular takeaway coffee or sandwich lunch. These small savings every day will add up and improve your budget and your waistline before Christmas! Also that New Year health kick may not be so difficult to achieve.
Flog it – to help with Christmas cash
Before you decorate your home for Christmas, have a clear out. Are there unused, unwanted goods or clothes lying about that you don’t want – these may generate useful cash. Consider using on-line selling sites or car boot sales and remember the old saying “one man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure”. This could be a boost to your bank balance and free up some space at home too.
Buy safe and be safe
Don’t be tempted to buy from traders you don’t trust or borrow from unregistered lenders (Moneylenders in the Isle of Man are required to register with the Office of Fair Trading; contact the Office on 686500 to confirm whether a lender is registered); both can prove to be a false economy. If you do decide to use some form of loan, check for any hidden extras in the agreement. Work out the total amount payable. Ensure that monthly instalments are within your budget before signing. Interest free credit can seem particularly attractive but if you don’t pay on time, or miss a payment, you could have to pay a lot more. You can find out more about borrowing money on the OFT’s website www.gov.im/oft. The website also contains advice on avoiding buying counterfeit goods.
Compare prices in different shops. Buy what you want and not what other people say you need. If you, or one of your family, just want a mobile phone for calls and texts don’t be pressured into buying a smart phone just because they are the latest thing. It will be more costly and a waste of money if it won’t be used to its full potential.
Pre-Christmas is costliest shopping time so if you’re after a “big” family present like a high end games console or TV...wait until the Sales. If you can’t bear the idea of this at all – what about buying gift cards or vouchers for the item and using them towards it in the Sales. Remember though, gift cards and vouchers should be treated like cash so take care of them. Make sure you use them before they go out of date. Also, consider where you buy them from – if a company goes bust they are likely to be useless.
Don’t be a foolish foodie
Make a list of what you need and don’t be tempted by things you don’t. More often than not you don’t need the extras and you waste food and money. Special offers and “3 for 2’s” are great if you are shopping with like-minded friends or family and the food can be split between you. However, if not, the reality is often that you end up with lots of food you can’t eat before it goes out of date.
Do you have an artistic flair?
You could make gifts like biscuits, sweets, chocolate, chutney or jams for your loved ones. People often appreciate such presents even more as they know extra care has been put into them and you can save money whilst doing something you enjoy!
Finally.....start planning and saving early for next year
Recent research suggests most UK families spend between £530 and £682 on the trappings of Christmas such as gifts, decorations, food and drink. This is approximately £44-57 per month over a year. Too many of us try and pay for Christmas from December’s income. Consider opening a regular savings account to help set aside this money for next year.
If you need any advice on money management or dealing with your personal debts you can find help on the Office of Fair Trading website www.gov.im/oft, by telephoning 686510, emailing email@example.com or calling at the Office of Fair Trading, Government Building, Lord Street, Douglas.