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The year has flown by, the bank accounts are feeling empty and Christmas is rapidly looming.

Whatever your situation is, I can only emphasise to be prudent and not take on any short-term debt just to cover costs during the holiday period.

Christmas is known as a time of giving, but home-made often has more meaning than multiple and heavily plastic-wrapped items that will never be used by the recipients.

Consider making some vouchers to give to people offering your time and kindness instead of buying items you possibly cannot afford.

An older person would appreciate the gift of two hours’ help in the garden over another pretty tea towel or soap – and the children could cash a time voucher from you for a trip to the beach or an hour at the gardens playground. Childhood memories are important, and children always remember the fun outings.

The temptation to use the modern payment-deferment conveniences such as Afterpay, Oxipay and Laybuy are flashed everywhere, but you will still be paying items off into February which leads into the new school year.

The default costs are high, and we are already chatting with people who had a splurge during the Covid-19 lockdown and are now facing debt-collection costs for unpaid deferred-payment bills.

For those with children at schools requiring Bring Your Own Device in 2021, thought needs to be given to how to afford these items.

Check with your school to see if they have any payment plans in place or, for those on low incomes, look at options such as Goodloans which is a charitable low-cost lender.

Goodloans is able to assist with a variety of life’s essentials, subject to loan affordability, and can be contacted locally on 0800 477-711 or goodloans.org.nz.

Many high-cost lenders are advertising heavily and making finance attractive for big-ticket items.

It pays to understand all options and the cost of borrowing.

Any borrowing needs to be affordable and a responsible lender will complete a comprehensive budget with you and explain the total cost of credit.

The 30% interest rate, $500 application fee, $10 per month admin fee and high default fees we are seeing from some lenders can make your purchase unaffordable over time, if you have not done the homework.

The Commerce Commission “Shopping for a Loan” guide is available from Budget Advice and makes for a good quick read copy before committing to the dream purchase on finance.

If you’re struggling financially, or know of people struggling, it is not to late to talk with us at North Otago Budget Advice to make a plan to get through Christmas, or to look at the big picture and have a manageable plan for 2021.

Our services are free and non-judgemental. A chat can be a big relief and we will not tell you what to do but will guide you forward.

Text or call us on 027 365-2959 to make a time to have a coffee and chat with us soon.

  • Katrina Kelly is a financial mentor for Family Works and the co-ordinator for North Otago Budget Advisory Service

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