How to avoid a debt hangover this Christmas

Young girl in front of Christmas tree

By Kay Dilger, Head of Financial Wellbeing

‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year…’ according to the famous Christmas carol. However, as financial counsellors know it’s also the ‘most expensive time of the year’!

Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, an increasing number of families in Australia will be struggling to put Christmas lunch on the table, let alone presents under the tree. We know that household debt levels surge in the first quarter of the new year following Christmas, holidays and the back-to-school season.

South East Community Links is here to help! Check out our top 5 ways to save money and avoid the Christmas debt hangover.

1. Avoid use of buy now, pay later services.
With more than 5 million active buy now, pay later accounts in Australia, we know many people will turn to this type of credit during the holiday season. These services are easy to use, so the debt can rack up quickly, especially when people have multiple accounts with different providers. But …when you miss repayments, the fees start to accrue leading to a debt spiral in the new year.

2. Give the gift of time.
Instead of spending big bucks on presents, spend quality time with family and friends. If the weather is nice, pack a picnic to enjoy in the local park or beach. Take advantage of free local activities like Christmas carols. Or better still help a friend or family member weed their garden or tidy their house. The gift of time is one of the most thoughtful presents you could ever give!

3. Do it yourself.
If you are the creative type consider a handmade gift from the heart. Craft, sew or bake gifts for your family and friends. Handmade gifts provide a sentimental touch that you can’t buy with money. You can also make cheap Christmas decorations. There are lots of videos with DIY ideas for great presents and decorations. You can even get the kids involved and make it a Christmas tradition.

4. Buy inexpensive but meaningful presents.
Gifts don’t have to be expensive to be appreciated. A meaningful, inexpensive gift may be just as well received as an expensive one. Think about who you are buying for and what type of gift would have meaning for them. We’ve all received unwanted Christmas presents, so make sure your present gets taken out of the box!

5. Access an interest-free loan.
Why go to an expensive payday lender, when you may be able to access an interest-free loan? Payday loans can charge up to 400% interest. But there is a safer alternative. At SECL we offer No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) up to $1,500 to people on low incomes to assist with purchasing essential items and services without any fees, charges or interest. If you’re experiencing financial hardship this Christmas or back to school season, contact us about a NILS loan today.

Make sure your Christmas is the ‘hap-happiest season of all’ by following these simple money saving tips because sharing the festive season with your loved ones is more important than getting into debt.

Are You Experiencing Financial Hardship?
If you’re experiencing financial hardship this Christmas, SECL is here to help. Our financial counsellors provide information, support and advocacy for people experiencing financial difficulty. If you can’t pay your bills, fines or debts, our financial counselling team will be able to help you to work out a plan. To talk to a financial counsellor or learn more about this service contact our intake line which operates Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm. Phone: 03 9549 5288 or Email: fcs@secl.org.au

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