Advice on how to avoid debt to pay for Christmas

Nick Blencowe is the chief operating officer for Citizens Advice Rural Cambs.

Nick Blencowe is the chief operating officer for Citizens Advice Rural Cambs. - Credit: CARC

Christmas can be costly for many of us and we know lots of people are struggling already this year. There can be a lot of pressure to spend more than you can afford, and make the day perfect, so here are a few key things to remember as we head into 2022.

Be realistic and budget accordingly

Work out how much you can afford to spend – and stick to it. There’s nothing wrong with managing expectations, and suggesting things such as spending limits, secret Santa’s or maybe even that you don’t need to swap gifts. Family and friends may also be feeling the pinch and by taking the lead you could be surprised how relieved they are too.

Don’t forget the everyday bills Remember that the rent or mortgage, utility bills, food bills and other existing debts still have to be paid – the consequences can be severe if they’re not. Christmas is just one day, it’s not worth starting the new year being behind on your bills.

Tempted by Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL)?

While it can be tempting to split payments, plan for how you will pay the money back - particularly if your circumstances or income were to change. If you're using BNPL repeatedly or using multiple BNPL options, make sure you know how much you owe in total. Take your time before committing so that you are happy with what you’re signing up for and how you’ll make the repayments and what will happen if you can’t pay on time.

Buy safe to be safe Whatever the deal, whatever the temptation, don’t buy from unauthorised traders and don’t borrow from unauthorised lenders. These could put you at risk of unscrupulous collection methods – including threats and harm, unsafe products and unexpectedly high interest rates. You may also not be protected by Financial Conduct Authority rules.

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Need a little cash boost Just before Christmas is a great time to sell unwanted items, and will of course clear a space for new gifts. Social media sites offer selling for free, other selling sites charge so check out their fees before listing. If the items aren’t yours make sure you check with the owner though before you start selling.

Shop around Try as many different places as possible to find the best price. Buy what you want and not what other people say you need. Be wary of extended warranties; the cost of a repair could be less than the cost of the warranty.

Citizens Advice Rural Cambs 

Citizens Advice Rural Cambs - Credit: CARC

Get help if you’re struggling If you’re worried about paying the bills, get free, independent advice as soon as possible. There’s lots of information on the Citizens Advice website (www.citizensadvice.org.uk) or www.citizensadviceruralcambs.org.uk and you can call Citizens Advice Rural Cambs: 0808 278 7807 where an adviser will be able to help you understand your options and come up with a plan

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