Advice NI’s top tips for avoiding debt this Christmas

With Christmas approaching, Advice NI, Northern Ireland’s largest advice charity, is encouraging people to avoid getting into debt.

In recent months, Northern Ireland has seen sharp rises in the cost of living, and the recent removal of the Universal Credit uplift will see many people struggling to make ends meet over the festive season.

Advice NI’s money and debt service has seen its client rate double since the beginning of September.

Christmas is an all-too-easy time to overspend, with many dipping into credit cards, store cards and overdrafts, resulting in hefty bills come January.

Advice NI has released guidance on how to avoid getting into debt this Christmas, with tips below.

Sinead Campbell, Advice NI’s head of money and debt, said: “There’s pressure on people to spend more at this time of year, but with the increases in the cost of living the extra cash just isn’t there.

“People often turn to credit for a quick fix, but high-interest rates mean that they can find themselves struggling to keep up with repayments over the coming year as they spiral more and more into debt.”

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

- Plan ahead – make a full budget so your regular outgoings such as mortgage 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.

- Set limits – it’s time to be frank with children and loved ones this year about what they can expect to receive.

Set spending limits with family or make pacts with friends not to exchange gifts.

You can also offer to make presents or trade favours instead.

- Try not to borrow – budgeting can 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, try an interest-free credit card to avoid the spiral of high interest rates.

- Track your spending – keeping a real-time tally of your spending can help you reign it in if you need to.

By checking your bank balance every day and keeping all of your receipts you can create a spreadsheet to keep a track of what you’re buying and how much you’re spending.

- Reduce, reuse, recycle – let this be the year of crafting presents, second-hand shopping or thinking outside the (Christmas) box.

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.

Help is available

For those struggling to make ends meet at the moment and over Christmas, help is available from Advice NI.

Their advisers are able to perform benefits checks to ensure all entitlements are being received and debt advisers can help with budgeting and negotiating with creditors.

You can call Advice NI for free, independent advice Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm on 0800 915 4604.