Commissioner's Blog: Keep your Christmas cheer in check
The pressures and temptations to spend too much over Christmas can create financial stress and debt that linger long after the Christmas cheer has gone.
Despite increasing costs of living, including higher mortgage interest rates, a report by Australian Consumer and Retail Studies at Monash Business School shows people are planning to spend an average of $1,088 on Christmas presents, with 65 per cent intending to spend a further $370 at post-Christmas sales.
The report reveals that people are budgeting to spend 40 per cent more for electronics compared to last year, and 16 per cent more for household goods, clothing, footwear and accessories.
Consumer Protection says there are ways to spend wisely to avoid a post-Christmas credit crunch, including sticking to a strict budget, and buying direct from shops, rather than paying extra for postal or delivery fees for online purchases.
Be careful if you choose to use ‘buy now, pay later’ schemes which allow payment by instalments, instead of paying the full amount upfront. These schemes enable fast and easy purchases, and prove popular around Christmas time, but repayments can add up for multiple purchases, or for late payments and account-keeping fees.
The Moneysmart website offers helpful tips to manage a ‘buy now, pay later’ service, including:
- Ensure repayments suit your budget and financial commitments.
- Link your ‘buy now, pay later’ account to your debit card instead of your credit card – so you use your own money and avoid extra debts or interest.
- Set and stick to a spending limit, and only have one ‘buy now, pay later’ at a time.
- Contact your provider immediately if you’re having trouble making repayments.
Financial stress is affecting more and more Australians, with 130,000 calls received by the National Debt Helpline annually. The Government is boosting access to financial counselling by requiring the big banks and financial services industry, including the buy now, pay later sector and gambling outlets, to contribute $30 million over the next three years to enable more Australians to get help to manage their debts.