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Sleigh the debt this Christmas; Don't bury your head in the sand.

Byline: Melanie Wright

'TIS the season to be... getting deeper into debt.

With many of us overspending in the run-up to Christmas, a New Year borrowing hangover is very hard to avoid.

But thankfully there are several ways to ease the pain.

Festive spending is set to top a staggering PS22billion this year, with people splashing out an average of PS445 each, according to research by comparison site MoneySupermarket.com This is up 1.8 per cent on last year's figure of PS437 per person, representing an extra PS1billion in overall spending.

So it's hardly surprising that millions of us will be dreading the moment in January when the next credit card statement lands on the doormat.

Here we look at the best ways to take control of your debts, what to do if you can't make repayments and where to go for professional help. nine people fuel poverty more cent of their energy bills Fuel Poverty Group PRIORITISE DEBTS If you are struggling to pay off lots of different debts, always concentrate on the ones which affect your home first.

That means your mortgage or rent is the most important, followed by utility bills so that you can stay warm during the cold weather and cook meals.

CUT YOUR BORROWING COSTS If you've relied on plastic to cover the cost of Christmas, check to see how much interest you are paying. You may be able to reduce monthly payments and clear the debt more quickly by switching to a card that offers a lower rate.

Society launched saver account people save It pays 2.75 before tax in PS10 For example, switching PS2,000 worth of debt from a credit card charging an average annual percentage rate of 17.32 per cent to Barclaycard's Platinum balance transfer credit card, which offers a rate of 0 per cent for the first 24 months, would save you PS238 a year. The figure takes into account the card's 2.1 per cent balance transfer fee.

SPEAK TO CREDITORS If you can't afford all your debt repayments, contact the companies you owe money to and let them know that you are finding things difficult.

You might be able to negotiate a repayment plan with them that lets you to make smaller payments over a longer period of time, or you may be able to arrange a temporary payment holiday while you get back on your feet.

AVOID PAYDAY LOANS Don't be tempted to take out a payday loan to pay off your Christmas debts.

These are short-term loans aimed at people who are finding it difficult to make it through to their next payday.

ABOUT million could be in - spending But if you can't pay back what you owe in time, your debt problems can soon spiral of than 10 per income on - by 2016, Advisory says. control due to the extortionate interest rates charged.

GET SOME PROFESSIONAL HELP If you feel that your debts are starting to become unmanageable, don't bury your head in the sand. Seek professional help as soon as possible.

Head of Which? Money James Daley said: "We know that Christmas is a difficult time, with pressures on the family purse strings colliding with winter fuel bills, the cost of entertaining and what can seem like a long wait between paydays.

YORKSHIRE Building has a Christmas to help for next year.

"If people are finding it tough to cope, it's far better to seek advice from a debt charity or support from family and friends than to risk further difficulties by taking out too much debt or using a payday loan."

per cent if you pay to PS80 a month.

Try the free debt charity StepChange, formerly the Consumer Credit Counselling Service, which can give you impartial debt advice to help you resolve your problems. You can visit their website at www.stepchange.org or call them on 0800 138 1111.

Or you can get free, confidential, independent advice from a Citizens Advice Bureau. See www.adviceguide.org.uk ABOUT nine million people could be in fuel poverty - spending more than 10 per cent of their income on energy bills - by 2016, Fuel Poverty Advisory Group says.

paying.

to YORKSHIRE Building Society has launched a Christmas saver account to help people save for next year.

a an It pays 2.75 per cent before tax if you pay in PS10 to PS80 a month.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 23, 2012
Words:735
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