Thrifty tips to avoid Christmas and New Year sales debt disaster

Early shoppers make the most of last year's Boxing Day sales.

Early shoppers make the most of last year's Boxing Day sales. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE - Credit: Mark Bullimore

Christmas should be a time of joy but for many it brings so much stress it’s impossible to fully enjoy the season of goodwill, writes Sheena Grant

And the reason for most of that stress? Money, as people struggle to create the sort of Christmas they feel is expected of them.

As a result, according to ISA provider Scottish Friendly, many households are unlikely to be able to clear their Christmas debt until the end of April.

So, if you’re heading out for some last minute Christmas shopping, or planning to hit the post-Christmas sales, you might want to think about a few ways to rein in spending if you want to avoid a shock when the first credit card bills of 2018 start to arrive.

According to Scottish Friendly’s latest Disposable Income Index many families take out loans or extra credit card spending to create the ‘perfect’ Christmas in response to pressure from family members, TV advertising, friends, retailers and social media. The pressure is most keenly felt by those with children. On average we anticipate spending £342 on presents this year with £303 going on credit cards, which will take four and a half months to pay back. And that’s before the January sales are factored in.

MoneySavingExpert’s Martin Lewis says putting a little debt on cards may not seem too bad but if it’s not budgeted for, you could be setting yourself up for a disaster. According to the charity Action on Addiction, one in three of us are addicted to something, which can include shopping (the signs are buying things you don’t need or want to achieve a buzz, quickly followed by feelings of guilt, shame or despair). We could all do worse than applying Martin Lewis’ money mantras before going shopping: do I need it, can I afford it and have I checked if it’s cheaper anywhere else? If the answer is no, don’t buy it.

? Thanks to Deborah McKinley, who emailed about her skiing trip to Norway, in response to last week’s column on Christmas tree waste. “In Norway they hardly see the sun in mid winter,” she says. “Many people had lit up conifers growing in front of their houses – it was magical and gave an illusion of light. What a contrast between how trees are used here and how they could be used.”

Best wishes for a thrifty Christmas and New Year.

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