What can you do to manage your finances post-Christmas?
Christmas is a fabulous time of year, and one we should all be able to relax and enjoy. But for some people, the specter of mounting debt looms large over the festivities, and can make it difficult to enjoy the seasonal activities. So whether you’ve overspent by a lot in your Christmas shopping, or if you forgot to budget for what you could afford to spend when shopping for family and friends, then don’t despair because there are many ways you can return your credit score to a higher figure and pay off that seasonal debt.
After the Christmas parties have finished, and the tree and baubles have been packed away for another year, don’t delay in taking stock of what you need to do to get your finances back on track.
It’ll come as no surprise to learn that one of the top triggers for poor mental health and stress at Christmas time – or at any time of the year, for that matter – is money worries. Finances, and financial pressures, are a massive part of our mental health because they’re a massive part of our lives. In particular, with the economy the way it is at present and with more and more families struggling to make ends meet, financial worries are likely to be the major cause of most instances of seasonal stress this year.
So what can you do to alleviate those post-Christmas financial worries?
First, put a list together so you can see the extent of your finances. You need to know exactly how much debt you’re in, whom you owe that money to, when you have to pay it off by, and whether that sum needs repaying weekly, monthly or as a lump-sum repayment.
You can then look at that list alongside your normal monthly income / expenditure financial plan, and begin planning financially for the first few months of the year ahead. It would be a good idea at this stage to add your two lists – your normal monthly spend, and your christmas debt list – together, to see just what situation that leaves you in each month.
Get your monthly budget drawn up, then look for ways to make savings.
Initially, when you add your two expenditure lists together, you may be faced with an alarming bottom-line figure. Don’t despair, and don’t allow your mood to drop so much that you stop working through things now; because the next step is a really important one. Make sure you’ve referred back through your bank statements so that you know exactly what your income and spending each month is.
Looking for ways to make savings on your monthly expenditure is easy to do, if you can manage to follow some fairly common-sense principles and guidelines. Below are our top tips for consolidating / saving money so that you’re paying off debt sooner rather than later.
- Look for low or zero interest credit cards that let you transfer higher-interest balances. Balance transfer cards can offer you great spending limits, which of course you use to move all your Christmas and impulse buy shopping debt onto.
- Transfer those balances! No point in running up large credit card debts and doing half a job here, get those high APR store cards or catalogue borrowings onto a low or zero % rate card as soon as possible and you’ll save loads of money in interest repaid.
- Could all your card debts be paid back better if combined into a bank loan? If you already have a bank loan, or if it would take you too long to pay one back, ignore this option, and stick to looking at point no’s 1 & 2 only.
- Savings on your energy bills – shop around, see what you could save. You’ll be surprised at the extent of the savings on offer if you shop around.
- Likewise, look at potential savings on your car insurance, home insurance, life insurance and pet insurance policies. There are way more discounts for people who shop around than for loyal customers – take advantage.
- Are you on the best possible mobile, TV, phone and broadband offer possible? It’s highly likely that you’ll save by combining all of those into one super deal – and the great news is that in January, there’s always plenty of those to be found.
- Look at your outgoings, and make a few changes until your debts are paid back. It’s likely that you can make savings by sacrificing a few takeaways or luxuries per month so that you can pay back the debts faster.
- Savings on your normal monthly shopping bills can be made by switching to a low-cost or value food retailer for a month or two; or by making a conscious effort to use the food and ingredients found in your freezer and pantry at home.
Make a plan, and stick to it.
The easiest way to get out of debt quickly post-Christmas is to be proactive in how you approach repaying that debt. After all, the quicker it’s cleared, the quicker you can start saving for that all-important summer holiday …or perhaps even for next Christmas!
If you owe a lot of money, are struggling with debt repayments or you think you need professional advice about managing debt at Christmas – or any other time of the year – you can go along to your local Citizens Advice Bureau and make an appointment to see a debt management specialist.