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Worried about festive finances? Five expert tips to avoid a Christmas debt hangover

Try and avoid the temptation to put Christmas expenses 'on the plastic' – it's real money at the end of the day

1. Set a budget and stick to it:

It can be difficult to resist falling into the 'generosity trap', spending money we can't really afford because we want to treat our loved ones to special presents, food, festive decorations and the whole works. But think of it a different way – by setting an affordable budget and sticking to it, there's more chance of being able to afford the little treats that can satisfy our generosity urges for loved ones throughout the year ahead as well.

2. Don't forget to include hidden costs:

Budgeting for things like the cost of travel to get to wherever you're going at Christmas, the cost of joining in the work Christmas do, contributions to Christmas activities that children might be involved in at school, or the Secret Santa, are easily overlooked. Try to sit down and make a plan of everything you need to factor in – not just the cost of food and presents. If something has to give, then at least you have a chance to think about which area of spending you're most prepared to cut back on.

3. Beware of the pressure to 'pay later' or 'just put it on plastic':

Good presents don't have to be about spending lots of money. Your children's home-made Christmas biscuits may be just as welcome (and more fun). For the items you do buy, think about the consequences of 'pay later' or 'putting it on plastic'. It's still real money in the end. Your friends and family wouldn't want you to get into difficulty for the sake of buying them stuff.

4. Plan ahead:

Although there's not long to go until Christmas, you can still plan the load a bit. That can help you spread (or even reduce) costs. If you have a freezer, making food you might otherwise buy can prove cheaper than buying ready-made versions. Looking further ahead, if you start a savings plan from January to save up all year for the following Christmas may mean a borrowing-free Christmas a year from now.

5. If you do overspend – don't panic, but don't ignore it either:

Go back to basics and make sure you draw up a budget that will get you back on track. If that isn't enough to solve the problem, then one of the reputable free debt advice charities will help you. The sooner you tackle any debt issue, the better.

:: For further free advice and support, visit stepchange.org

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