Hartlepool advice experts are urging people not to overspend this Christmas after helping 1,500 people in the last year with almost £7million of debt.
As people begin to hit the shops now for Christmas, the service in Park Road has issued advice to help avoid starting next year with a debt hangover.
Joe Michna, manager of Citizens Advice Hartlepool, said 450 of the 1,500 people who needed help sought advice between January and March, traditionally its busiest months.
The total amount of debt added up to just under £7million.
It has put together a list of ‘12 tips for Christmas’ include planning early, steering clear of unauthorised overdrafts, and reading the small print when using credit.
Mr Michna said: “People can feel an awful lot of pressure on their finances over Christmas.
“All too often, this gets carried into the new year where they have to play budget catch up.”
He added: “But there are some simple and practical steps people can take to guard against a festive debt hangover, including early planning.
“We have compiled some hints, tips and guidance to help local people cope with the financial demands of Christmas and the New Year.
“If people are really struggling financially they can speak to one of our advisers face to face, online, or over the phone.”
The service also advises against using loan sharks and unauthorised traders.
Citizens Advice Hartlepool says demand for its services has increased.
In its annual report covering the period between April 2017-2018 it said it helped over a 1,000 clients with debt problems amounting to £11.5 million.
But it also helped people claim almost £3 million of benefits they were entitled to.
Citizens Advice Hartlepool holds drop-in sessions when no appointment is needed on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, between 9.30am and 3pm.
Visit 87 Park Road or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Citizens Advice Hartlepool’s 12 tips for Christmas:
1) Plan early: Plan how much you are going to spend on each person and stick to it. Manage expectations about what you – or Santa – can give.
2) Don’t forget everyday bills: It may be Christmas, but keep on top of priority bills, such as rent and council tax. The consequences for non-payment can be severe.
3) Think twice about overdrafts: Don’t run up an overdraft without first chatting to your bank.
4) Keep it simple: Pay for your goods with cash or a debit card if you can. Don’t be persuaded to take out credit.
5) Shop around: Look for the best price and buy only what you want, not what others say you need. Be wary of extended warranties – often the cost of repair is less.
6) Avoid unauthorised lenders: Loan sharks may seem friendly at first, but borrowing from them is never a good idea – even if you feel you have no other option.
7) Whatever the deal, don’t buy from unauthorised traders. It may prove to be more expensive in the long run.
8) Read the small print: Check credit agreements for hidden extras and work out the total amount to repay. Interest-free deals have a nasty sting if you miss a payment.
9) Do your own credit checks: If you plan to use a credit card, shop around. Some charge high interest, but may have lengthy interest-free periods.
10) Be organised: If you’ve borrowed, repayment will be due before you know it. Make sure you make at least the minimum repayment or you’ll be hit with charges. Put payment dates in your diary or set up a direct debit.
11) Start planning for next Christmas: Just after Christmas is the best time to learn what went well this year, what didn’t, and start saving.
12) Get help if you’re worried. Citizens Advice Hartlepool can give you solid, free and impartial debt advice.