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Don't spend Christmas in a panic about next year

By unknown | Nov 18, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

The festive season is a time of joy to celebrate with family and loved ones - but signs are that the majority of South Africans might spend this period financially distressed.

The festive season is a time of joy to celebrate with family and loved ones - but signs are that the majority of South Africans might spend this period financially distressed.

Statistics show that South Africans with debt worries are now in the majority.

A recent poll by shows that almost seven out of 10 people are genuinely feeling the crunch.

The online money manager says though the financial problems that have hit the US, Europe and Far East do not affect South Africa directly, people in this country are still being hurt by a general economic downturn that is likely to get worse.

The National Credit Regulator formed, among other things, to assist consumers facing financial crisis, says due to complex economic problems - including higher fuel and food prices - the average household is now paying more than 10 percent of its monthly income servicing their debt.

Andy Gilder, marketing manager for, explains: "Too many South Africans have been living beyond their means for too long, racking up levels of debt that they can no longer afford."

What is perhaps even more of a concern is the fact that another third of the people are worried that their financial problems will worsen to the point where they won't be able to make ends meet.

This means, according to Gilder, that people are still not managing their cash and their spending properly, so the likelihood of continued inflation and the threat of a global recession are all adding to their money woes.

Luke Hirst, managing director of and a registered debt counsellor, encourages consumers to take immediate action before the Christmas spending worsens their financial situation.

He says a clear financial plan, including a budget and a debt counsellor, could be of help, particularly if you are over-indebted or behind with your debt repayments.

A debt counsellor will look at your entire financial situation and help you restructure your debts so that you can pay it off in affordable monthly amounts.

Peter Setou of the NCR advises financially distressed consumers to use survival tactics to survive the current economic onslaught.

For those who are already overstretched financially and are unable to pay their financiers, a registered debt counsellor can save the situation, he says.

A debt counsellor must, however, be registered with the NCR.

Hirst says this person won't ever touch your money as your repayments will go through a payment distribution agency that will in turn distribute it to your creditors.

Unless you have financial savvy, Hirst says, you will not be able to negotiate the minefield associated with paying back and negotiating with creditors.

"Not only is it important to get someone qualified to interrogate your budget to see where savings can be made, but with a debt counsellor your creditors are more likely to negotiate your monthly repayments to something you can afford," he says.

If you are unsure about the nature of your debt counsellor, speak to the NCR for advice, advises Setou.

Though the NCR subsidises debt counselling service for consumers earning less than R2 500, it is not cheap for those earning more than this amount.

But make sure that these fees are disclosed upfront.

You also need to ensure that the debt counsellor you are using is registered by checking him on the NCR's website or calling the NCR on 0860-627-627.

You can ask to see his or her certificate and registration number.


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