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Debt Advice This Christmas

16 December 2016

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Most people look forward to this festive season but it can be a really stressful time for others- a lot of families feel under immense financial pressure at this time of the year, particularly for those on low wages and who are already finding it hard to make ends meet. 

Christmas isn't worth getting into debt for, warns Citizens Advice as the festive shopping season looms. Citizens Advice volunteers see a spike in people seeking their help and advice after Christmas. In Northern Ireland, Citizens are already helping nearly 800 people per month with debt related issues- from credit cards, store cards, personal loans, mortgage debt and rent arrears to name but a few. 

Kathy McKenna, Project Manager of the free debt advice service, said: "Some budgets are at breaking point, with January the time when people take stock of their finances. People who have never experienced money worries before are finding their finances increasingly tight as rises in day to day spending like keeping their home warm, getting to work and putting food on the table are sending them over the edge.

"Payday loans, credit cards and overdrafts are being used to top up people's income as wages are static. There are things people can do to get on top of their finances, including making sure they're getting all of the help available, aren't paying over the odds for things like gas and electricity, and prioritising their spending to make sure there is money for essentials like rent, energy bills and water. It's important people don't wait for debts to mount before they seek help. A few early actions could stave off a future financial meltdown."

 It is important that anyone thinking about turning to credit to help pay for Christmas understands the full costs involved and if they can actually afford to pay it back. 

 Tenants can use the Free Debt Advice Service provided by Citizens Advice Northern Ireland and the Money Advice Service. The service is available via phone, email, and face-to-face appointment across the 29 frontline Citizen Advice offices across the region. 

 Debt Advice is available: 

  • By Freephone on 0800 028 1881 (Monday-Friday 8.00am to 8.00pm, Saturday 9.30am to 1.00pm)
  • Through all 29 frontline Citizen Advice offices
  • By email
  • Via Webchat
  • Or you can call into NB Housings offices and use our referral service

 Citizens Advice Top Tips For Christmas

  1. Spend time shopping around, researching what deals are on offer and getting advice
  2. Always look at the total amount you will have to repay when borrowing money. A shorter repayment period may be better than a slightly lower Annual Percentage Rate (APR) amount
  3. Never borrow money on the spur of the moment, and think about payment options beforehand. Work out your budget and stick to it so that you can afford the repayments  
  4. Be careful about borrowing more money to pay off existing debts. Additional borrowing can seem like a good idea and may well help in the short-term, but can too often lead to more serious longer-term problems
  5. If you are currently in financial difficulty and struggling, contact you local Citizens Advice office, call us on our free phone advice line 0800 028 1881, or chat to an adviser on our Website