Avoiding the Christmas comedown – regain control of your cash
20/12/12 Christmas day is nearly here! We hope the run-up to the big day hasn't been too stressful for you.
Here at Resolver Towers we're pinning our stockings above the fire, leaving a carrot out for Rudolph and assuring Santa that we've been nice (not naughty).
But if your holiday spirit is being sapped by a nagging sense that you've overspent, don't let it get you down. There are lots of ways you can face your finances so you don't start the year in the red.
Last year, over 200 people used the Resolver website to make a complaint on Christmas day. We’d rather you enjoyed Christmas without worrying, so here's a few tips to consider before the sleigh bells start jingling on the roof.
Be honest about your spending
We know it’s a nightmare but don’t be in denial about the cost of Christmas. Grab a cuppa (or a glass of wine), take a deep breath and set aside some time to take a look at your bank accounts. The same goes for the credit cards – and other types of credit you’ve used to help you with the cost of the festive season. Even the most cautious of us can be taken by surprise by unexpected bills and additional costs over Christmas.
At this time of year, you’re likely to see a notable increase in the number of transactions going through your bank accounts. Some payments you've authorised might not hit your account straight away so you might think you have more cash than you actually do. Try to leave yourself a ‘float' of money available to transfer to where you need it most and don't spend up to the limit on credit, to allow for any nasty surprises. so, you're covered if you have an unexpected payment to make.
Don't panic if you've overspent
We're all for having a good time at Resolver – so if you've accidentally overspent, we're not going to judge you. If you’re in the red, or you’ve spent more than you thought, don’t panic. Knowing that there’s a problem is the first step to dealing with it. Just make sure you give yourself a bit of time to sort things out while your bank and credit providers are still open for business.
Work out how much money you need to get through comfortably to the next payday and compare it to what you have left. Whatever you do, don't turn to payday lenders or other forms of short-term credit to get you through January – they are a false economy and you'll end up paying more in the long run. Speak to your bank to see if they can give you a temporary overdraft for a month. If you don't meet their criteria for credit, then take some time to tell them about your situation. If you explain you’re experiencing some difficulties, your bank has an obligation to do what it can to try to help not make the situation worse. They aren't going to write off anything you've spent, but they can give you a break on charges and interest until you're back on top of things.
And don’t just speak to the bank. Contact businesses you make regular payments to, like your energy provider or council tax office, and ask them if they’ll accept a lower payment for a short while or spread the outstanding debt over future payments. It’s also a good idea to go through your direct debits and standing orders list to see if there are any payments you're making that you don't need or are duplicated – like old insurance premiums. If you're accidentally paying for the same thing with two businesses, ask for a refund.
If your bank or credit provider refuses to help you or makes the situation worse, make a complaint through Resolver.co.uk for free.
Check the diary
National holidays are wonderful (if you don’t have to work on them). But bear in mind that holidays are non-working days for many businesses. That means that if you have flexible direct debits set up to pay businesses for regular payments, the dates might become due earlier than expected. The same goes for payments into your account, which will usually be credited the first working day after the weekend/national holidays. Make sure you check when payments are due and you have enough money cleared and available to cover everything. Don’t forget that if you make payments to a catalogue, most businesses work on a ’28-day cycle’ not on a set day each calendar month. That means your payment deadline will move back a day or so each month. So, check your bills when they arrive.
Be less British
We regularly speak to people who contact Resolver who tell us that they've got into difficulties because they felt responsible for their own actions and didn't think anyone would help them. The fact is, if you don't ask, you don't get. Estimates suggest millions of people across the UK are struggling to make ends meet – including people who are asset rich (where you have a home and job but aren't earning enough to pay for it all). If you speak up early before you start missing payments, you've got more chance of preserving your credit rating, while finding a solution to get you back on top of your finances.
Don't ‘let it go'
Christmas cock-ups often occur with businesses. From miscredited transactions to errors with energy bills and other frustrations. You may find that your boiler plan isn't worth the paper it's written on when the weather turns and it packs in. What if that tablet you've bought for a loved one doesn't work at all? Far too many people give up on making a complaint because the process can feel frustrating or seems like too much work. It doesn't have to be. Use Resolver to make your voice heard. And don't forget to check out our consumer guides - knowing your rights (and if you're in the right) can empower you to take on pretty much any business.