Christmas expensive time
At the Napier Citizens Advice Bureau, we’re bracing ourselves for the usual seasonal inquiries about getting in to and out of debt. Here are some possible examples:
■ It’s been a really expensive year and I just don’t seem to be able to get my head above water. The family will all be expecting their usual quite expensive presents and I definitely have to put on the usual Christmas dinner for family and a few friends. But I really haven’t any spare cash. Should I just go ahead and buy on credit and hope to catch up in the New Year?
Well done for recognising your predicament. So many people just go ahead and hope for some miracle in the New Year, like a Lotto win.
If you can’t afford it, your family and friends should respect you if you explain your situation. Some excellent present choices are available at the $2 type shops. For Christmas dinner, rather than expensive visits to butchers and supermarkets, why not make it a “pot luck” dinner where everyone contributes?
And beware of the Boxing Day sales. They’re to benefit the retailers, not those who can’t really afford to buy. And also the door-to-door salespeople — they can be very persuasive.
■ Unfortunately, I’m already in serious debt and can’t see any way of meeting overdue accounts, credit card debts and loan repayments. What are my options?
The first step is to talk, without delay, to the people to who you owe money. So long as you make an effort, they should be willing to negotiate a repayment arrangement you can manage.
Credit contracts (loans and hire purchase) must now, by law, include a hardship provision. So, if your repayment problems result from an unexpected change in your circumstances, the lender is expected to consider more manageable repayment instalments, or even repayment holidays.
If you’re a WINZ beneficiary, ask your case manager about possible assistance.
If you have a lower interest bank mortgage, see if your other debts can be added to the mortgage.
If you’re in KiwiSaver, ask your provider if you can withdraw contributions on hardship grounds — they will be reluctant to agree, as you’ll need this for when you retire.
There are trained budget advisers who can be very helpful in such circumstances. If necessary, ask us and we’ll put you in touch with them.
■ Unfortunately it’s got past that stage, and I’ve received a debt collector’s notice.
This needs to be dealt with urgently, as there could now be interest and other charges being added to your debt. And your credit rating will be affected for several years. If you don’t agree with what’s being claimed, you should immediately contact them or the firm they’re acting for, preferably in writing, and provide any evidence proving what you believe to be the correct situation. We can help with letters, etc. Remember to keep copies of everything!
Otherwise, it’s a matter of negotiating a repayment arrangement. They are likely to be more comfortable if they know you are working with a trained budget adviser from one of the financial capability services available locally.
■ For more free information and advice about anything at all, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
T: 835 9664 or 0800 367 222. Email [email protected] www.cab.org.nz
126 Hastings St. (above the BNZ in Napier), 9am-4pm weekdays and 9am-11am Saturdays.
We are only too happy to help.
Watch your debt levels this Christmas.