VICTORIA BISCHOFF: Give your finances a very merry Christmas and say bah humbug to debt

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Almost everyone I know put on Christmas decorations earlier than usual this year.

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After all, if there’s any guarantee of making us happy amid doom and gloom, it’s twinkling lights.

In my house, we watched The Muppet Christmas Carol in November and became ardent listeners of Magic Radio, which plays festive songs without stopping until the big day.

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Party Time: But no one can escape the bitter truth that people are starting to feel very worried about their finances this Christmas.

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But there’s one tradition I can’t contain the enthusiasm for—and that’s shopping.

In general, I take pleasure in pampering my loved ones with thoughtful treats—and, as my husband will attest, one or two myself thoroughly enjoy opening up, too.

But it doesn’t feel right to splurge on the extravagant stocking fillers this year.

And I know I’m not alone. Friends and family are all telling me that they have little interest in gifts. In fact, many people have asked for gifts to be skipped altogether or donated to charity instead. After a depressingly disappointing December 2020, most of us are just looking forward to being able to spend time together.

And there is no escape from the bitter truth that people are starting to worry about their finances.

Shock energy bill hikes are so prevalent that they have become a topic of dinner party conversation, with everyone rising in comparison.

And I’ve been hearing tales of families sitting together in a room or in the dark to cut costs.

Meanwhile, rising petrol prices mean that people are thinking twice before getting into the car. Others are switching to budget supermarkets for the first time. So it’s probably not surprising that the idea of ​​buying things we don’t need seems a little wrong this year.

Yet, despite this, many families will still feel pressured to spend beyond their capacity.

And, as we reveal, there’s a very real possibility that they could end up in troubled amounts of debt as a result.

The fact that rising inflation – now set to ‘comfortably exceed 5 percent’ next year – means that most people are feeling poor these days. And there is absolutely no shame in admitting it. If you’ve downvoted this Christmas, or have thrifty tips to share, we’d love to hear from you. Write the email address at the end of this column.

fair play time

The city watchdog is seeking to introduce new rules that would force financial firms to provide customers with information they understand, offer products that are fit for purpose and provide useful service, it announced yesterday. .

While welcome news, it’s frankly appalling that businesses still require this spelling out for them.

And given that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) estimates its proposals will save insurance customers up to £11 billion over the next ten years, you have to wonder why it took the regulator so long to intervene.

Let’s hope it bears its teeth sooner rather than later if companies refuse to play fair. However if everything went according to plan, I could find myself fired.

Jingle hell!

I love seeing that our friends at FCA have also found the time to team up with a music production company to create the UK’s first anti-fraud jingle.

It aims to raise awareness of loan fee fraud, where crooks demand an upfront fee for the loan, and never pay the money again.

According to behavioral scientists working with the FCA, studies show that people are more likely to remember and believe the message through song.

Whereas I scoffed before, now I can’t get the banging tune out of my head.

cast your vote

Thank you to everyone who voted in our revamped Customer Service Wooden Spoon Awards.

We are overwhelmed with the response and will read every email and letter carefully.

If you haven’t made your point yet, you can sign in online at thisismney.co.uk/spoon or via mailplus.co.uk/woodenspoon. With no clear winner yet, every vote really counts.

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