Christmas spending tips to help shoppers

First published in NewsXtra

With Christmas fast approaching and many households feeling a financial squeeze, keeping spending under control is more important than ever.

The Finance and Leasing Association (FLA) has joined forces with financial education charity the ifs School of Finance to issue some simple but effective consumer advice to help deliver an affordable Christmas:

Work out a budget and stick to it. You can get help planning a budget from www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk or www.moneysavingexpert.com

Spread the Cost: See if you are eligible for a 0% credit card or some other form of low-interest rate credit deal that could give you an interest-free period to pay off your purchases – making the festive season more affordable.

• Free gifts: At www.freecycle.org.uk you can get thousands of free items but if second-hand isn’t your thing you can make use of the likes of www.smartfreestuff.co.uk which offer a range of free items from cosmetics to books.

Always check prices: whether you go from store to store in person or search using internet sites, comparing prices is nearly always worthwhile and can save you significant sums of money.

• Think ahead: when planning for Christmas don’t forget that costs and bills are likely to continue into the New Year so make sure you have put some money aside or have a repayment plan in place to deal with these. If you think you may have problems in making your repayments on a credit card, store card or loan, then talk to your lender straightaway, so you can discuss a sensible repayment plan.

One more piece of advice is offered to those who may already be facing financial difficulties:

Seek debt advice and get help with your situation: If you are struggling to repay what you owe, contact a debt charity such as your local Citizens Advice Bureau, the StepChange Debt Charity or Money Advice Trust for free advice and support. Do not take on any further credit.

FLA Head of Consumer Finance, Fiona Hoyle, said: "We recognise the financial pressures that many will face in the run-up to Christmas. These pressures make careful financial planning essential.

"Consumer credit plays a key role in helping millions of consumers get through the festive period without finding themselves facing unmanageable debts. However, consumers must think very carefully about how much they can afford to spend, to avoid storing problems up for the future.”

Rod McKee, Vice-Principal at the ifs, added: “We are providing financial education to tens of thousands of teenagers every year to help reduce the chances of future generations getting themselves into unmanageable debt but we recognise millions of adults are already struggling and that Christmas brings such challenges into sharper focus.

We urge all consumers to consider the tips we have provided in association with the FLA, especially in the run up to Christmas 2012 but also in the months and years ahead.”

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