We all love to make our loved ones happy. Yet are the squeals of delight when they open those Christmas presents worth getting into serious debt for? Long after those same presents have broken or been left to gather dust, you may still be paying back those loans or credit cards, and by the time you've made a dent in the debt, it's Christmas all over again.
In fact, according to a recent survey, even if you only went into debt by a few hundred pounds in December, it can take at least six months to repay what you borrowed!
A lack of planning and spontaneous shopping are the main reasons why so many of us overspend at Christmas, according to financial planners. There will also be that extra gift needed or another person that 'deserves' something little. Yet those 'little' presents can soon accumulate into a lot of money – money that you have probably not budgeted for.
Top tips to avoid overspending at Christmas
We asked Haverhill charity and debt advice specialist, REACH Community Projects for their top tips to avoid falling into debt over the festive season.
The earlier you start planning and buying, the easier it is to manage your money. If you buy a few presents in October, November and December, you can set aside money each month rather than expecting December's pay packet to pay for presents and all the usual financial responsibilities.
Set yourself a budget and stick to it
Work out how much you can afford to spend. Come up with a specific amount, divide it amongst the people you want to treat at Christmas and most importantly, stick to it.
No matter how much your children want Father Christmas to bring an iPad, bike, television, clothes, toys, books and more, you must make sure they have a realistic expectation of what you – or Santa – can afford. Avoid making promises you can't keep or you'll either end up with a very disappointed child on Christmas Day or you'll end up pushing yourself way too far financially.
If you have a clear idea of what you're looking for, don't just buy it from the first shop you find it in. Do a price comparison to see if you can find it elsewhere. You could very well save a lot of money.
Don't forget to sort those everyday bills
Just because it's Christmas doesn't mean that the mortgage, rent, council tax, bills, food and other debts don't have to be paid! Make sure you have set aside enough money to cover the essentials before you start buying Christmas presents. And remember that as we head in January, those heating bills are likely to rise.
Avoid the temptation of overdrafts, credit cards, loans and credit agreements
Like it or not, Christmas presents are not essential. If you can't afford to pay for them outright using cash, debit cards or a cheque, perhaps it's time to ask yourself if you should really be buying them. Interest free credit agreements are all very well, but you'll still have to pay off the balance for months, if not years, which will have an impact on your outgoings.
Stay on top of payments
If you do decide to borrow money to pay for your Christmas gifts, make sure you pay on time, even if you can only afford the minimum payment. Otherwise you'll be hit with additional charges on top of your original debt.
Avoid unauthorised traders and lenders
They may be offering an amazing deal but those presents may end up fake, faulty and in some cases, downright dangerous. And when it comes to unauthorised lenders, you may have immediate access to the money you need but at what cost?
Rather than using excess petrol travelling great distances to the retail parks or large shopping centres, give your local independent traders a chance... you may very well find something truly unique rather than the 'identikit' brands that we all end up receiving every Christmas.
REACH Community Projects
We all deserve to be treated but remember that Christmas is only for one day per year and it isn't worth months, years or for some, a lifetime of debt. If you are struggling to manage your money and are worried about how to cope this Christmas, get in touch with Haverhill charity, REACH Community Projects.
Established in 2005, REACH Community Projects provides free, confidential debt advice and counselling and money management course, helping Haverhill residents reach practical, sustainable solutions to their debt problems.
Please click here for further information about REACH Community Projects in Haverhill, and to organise a free meeting with a trained debt counsellor.
Member since: 6th November 2012
I am a long-term resident of Haverhill and love sharing information and advice on the best places to visit, businesses to contact and people to speak to!