Shoppers urged to avoid debt disaster

ADVICE counsellors today urged Suffolk shoppers to avoid a debt hangover this Christmas.Staff at Felixstowe Citizens' Advice Bureau, which last year dealt with residents' debt problems totalling £2.2million, have revealed they expect to see a surge in inquiries for help after the festive season.

ADVICE counsellors today urged Suffolk shoppers to avoid a debt hangover this Christmas.

Staff at Felixstowe Citizens' Advice Bureau, which last year dealt with residents' debt problems totalling £2.2million, have revealed they expect to see a surge in inquiries for help after the festive season.

CAB manager Barbara Rose said the main problems last year were with arrears on loans and hire purchase, catalogue and mail order debts, credit card debts and overdrafts - and people looking for help to go bankrupt.

“It is very easy to get carried away at Christmas and spend on the spur of the moment, especially if people leave it until the last minute,” she said.

“But every year, we see a huge increase in debt problems immediately afterwards.

“With a little forward planning, Christmas panic buying can be avoided.

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“We hope that these top tips will help people take control of their money as Christmas approaches so they do not start the New Year with a debt hangover.”

To help people manage their money for a debt-free Christmas, the CAB has joined forces with Barclaycard to issue tips to avoid a debt this yuletide, including:

Plan early - be realistic when budgeting, work out how much you are going to spend on each person, and stick to it.

Don't forget the everyday bills - rent, mortgage, utility bills, food, council tax and other existing debts still have to be paid.

Don't bank on an overdraft - if you do need more money, don't just run up an overdraft without talking to your bank first.

Pay up front - if you can afford to pay for your goods outright by cash, cheque, or debit card, don't be persuaded to take out extended credit agreements unless they really work out cheaper.

Shop around - try as many different places as possible to find the best price.

Read the small print - check for hidden extras in any credit agreement. Work out the total amount payable. Ensure that the monthly instalments are within your budget before signing.

Start planning and saving for next Christmas - once Christmas is over, it's worth looking at what you did well and what you didn't. Learn from your mistakes and start planning how you will do things differently next year.

Mrs Rose said a full list of tips and fact sheets on debt and other money issues were available from the CAB in Orwell Road.

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