MABS: How to navigate financial excesses of season

As we navigate our way through one of the most expensive months of the year, Jessie Anthony, Money Advice Co-Ordinator, Cork City and West Cork MABS, shares advice on managing your money throughout the festivities
MABS: How to navigate financial excesses of season

FESTIVE OVER-SPEND: Keep your eye on the bottom line and ensure you don’t start 2023 in dire straits

DECEMBER is undoubtedly one of the most expensive months for the majority of households, from buying Christmas presents to socialising, and this year, households are feeling the pinch even more due to the cost of living crisis.

The month sees many people spend more than they can afford, and as a result, enter into the new year with debt racking up.

With the current economic climate, it’s hugely important for individuals and households to manage their spending throughout the festivities, sticking to budgets and avoiding over-spend.

People need to try and avoid the pressures of feeling they need to overspend at Christmas which results in financial pressure for the months that follow.

It’s important to remember that we can still look forward to the joy of Christmas, without breaking the bank.

Stick to your budget

Over the coming weeks, it’s key to stick to your Christmas budget, avoiding last-minute additions that will set you back financially.

When it comes to sticking to your Christmas budget, it is essential to plan ahead. By sticking to your budget, you will ensure you have enough money to cover your other expenses in the months of December and January.

The last-minute shopping dash for gifts is a notorious time for over-spending so try to avoid this as much as possible, leaving a little more time to shop around to find items that fit your budget.

The most expensive item doesn’t mean it is the best present, try to buy gifts that are meaningful and will be appreciated.

Christmas isn’t all about the presents and spending quality time with those you love is often the best gift.

Think hard about borrowing money

If you really think borrowing is your only option, it’s very important to think hard about what you need to borrow money for, is it really necessary and worth getting into debt for?

If this is the case, only borrow what you truly need and not one cent more.

When looking for a loan, there are a number considerations such as making sure your loan is affordable and suitable for your circumstances.

Shop around to make sure you are borrowing as cheaply as possible, understand what it’s really going to cost you overall including interest fees, and be aware of the repayment amounts and how long it will take to repay the loan.

It is imperative that you avoid borrowing money from illegal money lenders who are unfortunately prevalent at Christmas time. While it may seem like a solution to your problems, it’s never a good idea.

When you engage with an illegal money lender, you do not have any protection if things go wrong. All legal moneylenders must hold a license and the Central Bank keeps a register of authorised lenders which is easily accessible on their website.

Don’t overdo it on the Christmas food shop

The big Christmas food shop can also be an area where households overspend, buying far too much food than what is actually needed and not ending up using all of what was purchased. Again, be sure to make a list of what you need to stay on track.

Remember, the shops are hardly closed over Christmas, so there is no need to over-shop. Not only are you saving money, you are cutting down on your food waste.

Keep hold of your Christmas receipts

Keeping your Christmas receipts is important for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, you may need to return a gift or exchange an item, so having the receipt can make the process much smoother and ensures you have options.

You should also track any warranties or guarantees that come with your purchases, which the receipt usually provides.

To ensure you don’t lose them, it’s a good idea to store all of your Christmas receipts together in one place.

Stay on track

In the days that lead up to and follow Christmas, it’s a busy time with lots of socialising. It’s a good idea to try and factor this into your budget, so you have a better idea overall of what is coming out of your budget. It all adds up!

Be mindful of impulse purchases or the January sales - do you really need these items and will they negatively affect your budget?

Avoid putting purchases on credit cards or paying by instalment. They cost you more in the long run.

Set aside money for bills expected in January. This will give you peace of mind and increase your enjoyment of Christmas.

If you are worried about your financial situation, don’t hesitate in contacting your local MABS (Money Advice and Budgeting Service) office which you will find by visiting www.mabs.ie or call their helpline on 0818 07 2000, available Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm. You can also chat with an adviser via WhatsApp from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

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