John Lowe the Money Doctor gives invaluable advice on how to tackle that credit card Christmas aftermath debt.

A whopping €965.80 was the average amount spent at Christmas six years ago by every adult living in Ireland. That figure has increased marginally over the years and was compiled by Deloittes.

We are also still tops in Europe for spending, with over €500 spent on presents, €288.30 spent on food and the balance of € 177.90 spent on socialising and generally having a good time. 

So come January, your credit card is feeling particularly vulnerable: 50% of cardholders only pay the minimum balance and for those who do just pay the minimum balance, it will take up to 20 years to clear the entire debt. Is there anything that can be done to gain financial independence in the new year?

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50% of cardholders only pay the minimum balance

Here are a few practical and easy-to-implement tips to sort out that credit card debt :

1. Switch your credit card balance to a more competitive rate: The AIB online Click card is the most competitive right now at 9.13% APR. While this rate is not one of those pesky introductory offers, there are nevertheless 73 terms and conditions attached to the card. Including the whopping 24% rate when you take out cash on the card - Caveat Emptor. Three of the providers - Bank of Ireland, Permanent TSB and KBC Bank - allow balance transfers at 0% for 6 months, a nice breathing space especially if you can repay that balance over the 6 months !

2. Bring your lunch to work: It costs €2.00 to make a sandwich in the morning whereas it costs on average €6.00 to buy it in the local deli – add in a packet of crisps for good measure. Over the course of 2019, you will save yourself over €900.

3. Buy generic food brands: There are big savings on tea, coffee and cereal in particular. When shopping, always compare unit price as opposed to pack price. If you can save 10 cent on a diaper and you change it 6 – 8 times per day, that’s a savings of almost €300 in 2019. 

4. Shop Online: 50% of shoppers shop 3 – 4 times per week, according to research conducted by the Marketing Science Institute. Shoppers making a ‘quick trip’ to the supermarket end up buying over 50% more than they had anticipated. If this translates to €10 each time, that’s an extra €2,080 per year. Shop once per week and it’s €520 versus €2,080 per year. That is a realistic savings of €1,560 per year. 

Shoppers making a 'quick trip' to the supermarket end up buying over 50% more than they had anticipated.
Shoppers making a ‘quick trip’ to the supermarket end up buying over 50% more than they had anticipated.

5. Rethink your broadband/TV/phone providers: There are many good deals out there and the telecoms industry is so competitive that there’s always a good deal to pick up. The status quo is not your friend here. Consider downgrading your TV package also if you are not making the most of it. Sky’s basic package will cost you €246 per year as opposed to their advanced package of €852 per year, saving you €606 in 2019. Check out ComReg’s site www.callcosts.ie 

6. Buy a more economical car: Save yourself over € 1,300 by driving a more economical car. If you drive 18,000 miles/28,800 kilometres per year and your car averages 25 miles or 40 kilometres per gallon/8.8 kilometres per litre, it will cost €4,581.82 (assuming €1.40 per litre).

A car that averages 35 miles per gallon or 12.30 kilometres per litre will cost just €3,278.05 – a saving of €1,303.77 per annum. The savings will probably pay for your road tax and insurance in 2019! Go hybrid, even all electric, and save the planet and your pocket.

7. Check your latest phone bill: Call costs can be extraordinary if left unchecked. For those of you with a half decent PC or laptop, set up a Skype account. Calling from computer to computer is free regardless of the recipient’s location and calls to mobiles and landlines are only a fraction of the price compared to most landline operators. Check out www.skype.com and again ComReg’s site www.callcosts.ie 

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When is the last time you checked your phone bill?

8. Pay off high interest credit cards & loans before your mortgage: the sniper approach will tackle the most expensive loans first with your surplus monies. If you are under pressure to maintain all your monthly debts, request a switch on your mortgage to interest only. This will reduce your repayments every month by up to 30%. This is recommended providing you have the discipline to accelerate your debt repayments at a later stage. 

9. Set up a loose change jar: Anytime you come home empty your pockets of your loose change. You will be very surprised how quickly a few quid accumulates. 

10. Contact an independent financial adviser for a review of your finances. Learn how to budget and plan. Find out where the best deals for savings, insurance, loans, investments and pensions but make sure the adviser is independent.

Congratulations. If you follow the above steps, you will save yourself at least €5,000 in the new year.

For more information click on John Lowe's profile above or on his website.