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Top tips for paying off Christmas debt

The last cracker’s been pulled, the decorations are coming down, now it’s time to face the bank statement! Surviving the Christmas debt hangover is always a big issue at this time of year, so Scope’s helpline have compiled a list of top tips to get you back into financial shape for 2016.

1. Prioritise your outgoings

Your priority outgoings are your rent or mortgage, council tax, utility bills and court fines. You should pay these bills first. Don’t avoid dealing with these, as they will get worse if left.  Do not be afraid to talk to your lender/landlord/local authority/energy provider if you are having financial difficulties. They might be able to help.

Draw up a budget using the Budget Planner on the Money Advice Service website. Analyse your income and expenditure and keep copies to send to the relevant people so that they can help identify areas in which you need some extra support. If you are having difficulty with any of the above, please call us free on 0808 800 3333 and speak to one of our helpline Information Officers or email helpline@scope.org.uk.

2. Maximise your income

Are you getting all of the benefits you are entitled to? Try our benefits check – you may be able to apply for other financial help using our grants search.

3. Discretionary Housing Payments

See Scope’s information about Discretionary Housing Payments and how they can help you with your housing costs if you are facing hardship.

4. Are you struggling with debt?

There are various sources of help available to help you manage your finances. You can seek help from charities such as Step Change, Money Advice Service and National Debtline. Do not pay for financial advice. There are plenty of advice agencies around who offer free advice.

Avoid payday lenders who charge excessive amounts of interest and avoid debt consolidation without getting advice about this first. You can access money advice at your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau, approach your local credit union and, in some areas, your local council.

5. Local welfare assistance schemes

If you find that you have no money for essential bills or you need help due to an emergency or unforeseen event, you can apply to your local council for welfare provision payments which replaced community care grants and crisis loans in April 2013. You can find your local welfare assistance scheme on the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) website.

Each scheme has different criteria but Local Welfare Assistance would usually be considered as a last resort and you may need to access money advice to qualify for the scheme. Your local authority may not help you until you have exhausted all other options including a Budgeting Loan.

6. Fuel costs

See the pages on our website to help you tackle your fuel bills and get help to reduce large utility arrears bills – see Scope’s information on helping with fuel costs.

7. Start saving for Christmas 2016

If 2016 goes as quickly as 2015 then it will soon be Christmas again so it might be a good idea to start saving now. See the Money Advice Service’s information about Saving for Christmas for some helpful hints to help you stay on track.

8. Sell unwanted items for extra cash

As we feel the pinch more of us are buying second hand goods. You can sell unwanted items in a variety of different ways and this is a great way to make money from stuff that is lying around the home. Why not put your unwanted belongings on Ebay or organise a car boot sale with friends or family. You can even sell your items at an online car boot sale. Sell your unwanted gadgets on sites such as Cash In your Gadgets, Music Magpie or your local CeX shop.

For more money-saving tips why not check out these top tips from our community.