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Column 11 tips to avoid getting into debt this Christmas

It’s easy for spending to get out of hand at this time of year. Michael Culloty of MABS offers some tips to help rein it in.

CHRISTMAS IS MEANT to be a time of celebration and goodwill, but don’t let celebrations override your common sense. Too many people overspend at this time of the year. Celebrating Christmas comes with a price tag and while budgeting in good times is prudent, in uncertain times it is essential.

It is the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) experience that many who overspend at Christmas have had to eat into money put aside for mortgage repayment, rent or other necessary costs, to fund the Christmas celebrations. This can create considerable budgeting difficulties well into the New Year giving rise to missed payments of bills which in turn leads to considerable worry and anxiety.

While it may seem like a good option at the time, putting payments off until next year is not a good choice and will only make 2013 all that more difficult come January. It must also be remembered that there will be more pressure on household budgets in 2013, given the cost increases of services such as transport and energy along with the introduction of household rates next year.


While making out a budget for everyday expenses and for occasions like Christmas was prudent in good times it is essential in these challenging and uncertain economic times. We are fully aware in MABS that families on a tight budget find that Christmas is the time of year when their situation is most stark.

The temptation to take advantage of borrowing to meet the needs and wants of children – to be able to say yes for once to the demands for this or that – can be intense. Expensive borrowing may appear to be the only option.

For people on a low income or on social welfare Christmas can be a very difficult time of year. MABS gives the following tips for managing Christmas spending in these difficult times:

  1. Make out a budget of your household income and outgoings to see how much you can afford to spend this Christmas.
  2. Make a list of the people for whom you intend to buy gifts for and, if possible, decide in advance exactly what you want to buy and more importantly the amount you can afford to spend.
  3. Set money aside for bills expected in January. If you can put money aside for the bills you know will arrive on your doorstep in January it will give you peace of mind and increase your enjoyment of Christmas.
  4. Pay cash if you can. Leave your credit card at home.
  5. Give yourself time to shop around for the best bargains.
  6. When purchasing food and drink do purchase realistically. Shops will open again in a day or two after Christmas.
  7. Remember good friends don’t need expensive gifts. Set a limit with family and friends on what each will spend on the other.
  8. Create your own gifts or recycle and repackage gifts received and not used. It’s the thought that counts.
  9. Encourage your children to choose early what they want from Santa Claus before the advertisers decide for them.
  10. If you are on low income and are under pressure to borrow for Christmas do contact  the MABS helpline 0761 07 2000 or your Local MABS before doing so to see what options are available to you.
  11. Do remember that January follows December. You do not want the ghost of Christmas spending to haunt you in the New Year.

Michael Culloty is the National Development Officer at the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS).

MABS has over sixty offices nationwide to assist people in debt or in danger of getting into debt. MABS also provides a website which contains valuable information on budgeting and debt. MABS is now providing a helpline service where people can talk to a helpline adviser about their debt problems. The MABS helpline number is 0761 07 2000.

Read: Numbers seeking debt help reach highest level since crisis began>

Read: Credit card debt down – but average card still over €1,300 in debt>

Michael Culloty
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