Advice NI urges people act now to avoid Christmas Debt

Northern Ireland’s largest advice charity Advice NI is urging people to avoid getting into costly debt over the Christmas period.

In recent months Northern Ireland has seen huge rises in the cost of living, which has led to many people turning to credit to pay for everyday living expenses.  With Christmas just around the corner, we are urging people to avoid overspending and using high-interest credit to cover the additional costs incurred over the festive season.   

Christmas is an all-too-easy time to overspend with many using credit cards, store cards, payday loans, buy now pay later products and even illegal loans, resulting in hefty bills come January. With increases in interest rates, food, and energy costs, January will become a real struggle for many.

Advice NI has released a six-step guide on how to avoid getting into debt this Christmas, with tips below.

Sinead Campbell, Advice NI’s Head of Money, Debt and Quality says: “There’s pressure on people to spend more at this time of year, but with the increases in the cost of living, and the uncertainty around interest rates the extra cash just isn’t there. Many people are worrying how they will pay their mortgages, rent, heat their homes, and feed their children this year. Christmas may not be on their minds just yet, but leaving everything to the last minute leads to rash decisions that could end up costing more in the long run.

“People often have no choice but to turn to credit to pay for Christmas. However, on top of the cost of living crisis this will only make things worse. Many will find themselves struggling to keep up with repayments, and end up spiralling further into debt.”

Advice NI’s 6 tips for avoiding debt over the Christmas period.

  • Plan ahead – Its only 10 weeks away but there is still time to make a full budget so your regular outgoings such as mortgage, rent and utility bills are covered and then plan for Christmas expenses such as food, presents, and going out. Keep an eye out for early deals and savings – Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals are worth checking out as well as price comparison sites.
  • Be honest – If after paying your regular outgoings, you find you only have money left to spend on festive food or kids’ toys, let your loved ones know in advance you won’t be exchanging gifts this year. Also, talk to your children about what is realistic. Managing expectations removes the pressure of giving and receiving for everyone. Setting limits on spending will help you avoid rushed overspending.
  • Be aware of high interest credit – Budgeting will help you avoid costly credit this year such as overdrafts, store cards or high-interest loans. If you absolutely have to turn to credit to make ends meet this year, shop around for the best deals, including interest-free deals. Make sure you do your sums so you know how much needs to pay back and by when to avoid paying interest.
  • Track Your Spending – it’s easy to kick back at Christmas and let the bills be January‘s problem, but keeping a track of what you have spent, who you owe money to, and what date the direct debit/s comes out of your account can help you manage your money going forward.   
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – think outside the (Christmas) box, let this be the year of crafting presents, getting items cheaper in charity shops, online marketplaces or free cycles. It’s time to spend the gift vouchers that have been gathering dust or re-gift unopened items. Recycling and upcycling tips are everywhere at the moment and the added bonus is it’s better for the environment.
  • Seek help early – If you are already struggling to make ends meet or do overstretch yourself at Christmas then help is available from Advice NI. Our Advisers will help you navigate your debt and negotiate with your creditors on your behalf, they can also do a benefits checks to ensure you are in receipt of all benefits you are entitled too. For free, independent advice Freephone 0800 915 4604 Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm or email [email protected].

Ends

  • For further information, contact Elkie Ritchie, Advice NI Communications Manager on 07702846030 or email [email protected]
  • Advice NI is the umbrella body for the Independent Advice Network in Northern Ireland. In 2021/22 Advice NI and its members dealt with 241,000 enquiries, the majority being social security benefits related.
  • Advice NI freephone helpline provides free advice on; benefits, debt, business debt, EUSS and Tax Credits & other HMRC products. Call 0800 9154604 or email: [email protected].