Planning and preparing for Christmas
As we approach the Christmas season, thoughts turn towards planning and preparing for this festive event. Even though upcoming shopping days tend to be the focus at this time of the year, there are still plenty of other costs which families will incur in the next few weeks. The following are some money advice tips and information from MABS to help you along the way in the lead-up to Christmas.
With nights getting shorter and weather colder – gas and electricity bills start to rise and many households start to feel the additional costs of utility bills. You can check out money saving tips for your gas and electricity bill, including advice on switching provider for better value rates.
The 2018-2019 Fuel Allowance season began on October 2018. A Fuel Allowance is a payment under the National Fuel Scheme to help with the cost of heating your home during the winter months. Find out if you are eligible and how to apply.
If you are struggling with utility costs, ring the MABS Helpline on 0761 07 2000, Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm for further advice and information.
GP and medical costs also tend to increase with the onset of the cold and flu season, so it’s important that you check out if you and your family are eligible for a medical card or a GP visit card. Either way all children under the age of 6 are entitled to free visits to a GP. The flu vaccine is free if you are in an at- risk group but you may be charged a consultation fee, unless you have a medical card or a GP visit card.
The Affordable Childcare Scheme provides financial support for parents towards the cost of childcare. The scheme aims to provide childcare for families on lower incomes, and also to support parents to return to work or education For more information on affordable childcare services in your area, contact your local City or County Childcare Committee .
Soon, planning for Christmas becomes a priority as families focus on the celebration and the list of gifts, clothes and food required. The MABS “12 steps of Christmas budgeting” has some useful tips and advice on preparing for this festive occasion. It also includes a Christmas Planner which will help you to list and prioritise all the items you need to buy and to figure out the total cost of your Christmas budget. Remember, it’s not too late to start saving for Christmas.
There are 3 big shopping dates in the run up to Christmas. ‘Black Friday’ on 23 November 23 and ‘Cyber Monday’ on 26 November 26 have become huge sale and discount shopping days both in stores and online. While there may be good bargains to be had, it is important to plan your shopping early, decide which items (if any) you want to buy on each of these dates, set your Christmas budget and stick to it!
December 8 is the next traditional shopping day in Ireland with pre-Christmas sales continuing in many shops. Always check the shops return and exchange policy before buying something, especially if it’s a gift, and keep all receipts in a safe place. Many shops now seek to email your receipt and if you decide to accept this, it may be useful to create a ‘receipts’ folder in your Inbox and move all receipts there. You can find out more about your rights as a consumer on citizensinformation.ie.
If you are getting of a long-term social welfare payment, then you may be eligible for a Christmas bonus from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. The bonus is normally issued in early December but remember to only include this payment in your budget if you are definitely sure you will get it.
If you need to borrow money for Christmas, MABS recommend that loans are kept to a minimum and that you shop around for the best rate (APR). The MABS Guide to Borrowing has useful information and advice. If you are getting of a social welfare payment, you may also wish to check out the “It makes sense” loan for amounts between €100 and €2,000 in participating credit unions.
Further information and advice is also available from your local MABS office, or www.mabs.ie and if you are worried about money or debt issues in the months up to Christmas, call the MABS Helpline on 0761 07 2000, Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm.