WITH Christmas and its associated costs fast approaching, the Credit Services Association (CSA) – the official body representing the UK debt collection industry – has compiled a list of top tips to help consumers avoid the pitfalls of debt over the festive season.

President of the CSA Sara de Tute said: “We hope that by following our 12-point list of simple tips and advice, consumers can avoid the main pitfalls leading to debt and its associated stress this Christmas, but if anyone does find themselves in financial difficulties the important thing is not to ignore the problem but to seek advice as soon as possible.”

1) Do not let essential bills take a backseat to the pressures of Christmas spending; prioritise paying these first before you turn to the added financial demands of the season.

2) Set yourself a clear budget of how much you can reasonably afford to spend, including presents, food, decorations and other expenses, and stick to it.

3) Make a list of all the people you need to buy presents for and work out how much you can afford to spend on each.

4) Shop around, both on the high street and online, in order to secure the best prices and deals.

5) Don’t be tempted by ‘buy now, pay later’ offers unless you know you will definitely have the money later. If you can afford to pay for goods immediately it is usually advisable to do so.

6) Don’t be tempted into taking a payday loan unless you can really afford to pay it back ñ it could end up costing you dear and make a difficult situation worse.

7) Be prudent, and bear in mind that offers that appear too good to be true invariably are.

8) Be wary of signing up for store-cards unless you are confident that you can manage your spending and pay off the balance regularly.

9) Be careful not to over extend yourself on credit cards, and shop around for cheaper credit card deals. Bear in mind however that they can offer protection if you are buying an item that costs more than £100.

10) Keep receipts for all of your card purchases so that you can monitor your expenditure.

11) Watch out for expensive warranties and insurance premiums on items and weigh up whether they are necessary.

12) In the new year, consider setting aside some money each month to save up for next Christmas and start buying presents early to spread the cost.