Ten top tips to avoid a Christmas debt hangover

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Christmas is a time of giving, but you don’t want to give yourself a headache in the New Year with bills and debts you can’t afford. It’s all too easy to overspend – there are tempting offers and pressures to buy, but you must decide how much you can afford before you start spending. Planning, budgeting and organisation are key to avoid getting into debt at Christmas and beyond. If your spending runs out of control, you can soon find that debt is not only a problem at Christmas, but can become a way of life. If you do get into difficulties, get advice as soon as you can by calling Gwynedd Citizens Advice on 0345 450 3064, attending a drop in, completing an Enquiry Form (for Gwynedd Residents) or visiting the Citizens Advice website

Here are a few tips to avoid getting into debt;

1. Plan early for Christmas

Be realistic and budget accordingly. Work out how much you are going to spend on each person – and stick to it. Manage expectations as to what you or Santa can give.

2. Don’t forget the everyday bills

Remember that rent, the mortgage, utility bills, food bills and other existing debts still have to be paid – and the consequences can be severe if they’re not. Even though it’s Christmas, get your priorities right.

3. Don’t bank on an overdraft

If you do need more money, don’t just run up an overdraft without talking to your bank first – it will work out much more expensive.

4. Keep things simple

If you can afford to pay for your goods outright by cash, cheque, or debit card, don’t be persuaded to take out extended credit agreements unless they really do work out cheaper.

5. Shop around

Try as many different places as possible to find the best price. Buy what you want and not what other people say you need. Be wary of extended warranties; the cost of a repair could be less than the cost of the warranty.

6. Buy safe to be safe

Whatever the deal, whatever the temptation, don’t buy from unauthorised traders and don’t borrow from unauthorised lenders. The initial savings and convenience may prove to be a false economy.

7. Read the small print

Check for hidden extras in any credit agreement. Work out the total amount payable. Ensure that the monthly installments are within your budget before signing. Interest free credit can seem attractive, but if you don’t pay on time, or miss a payment, you could have to pay a lot more.

8. Do your own credit checks

If you are going to use a credit card, shop around and compare terms. Some cards charge high interest rates, but provide interest free periods or discounts. Budget for all these costs and put the payment dates in your diary.

9. Be organised

There’s a lot to remember at Christmas. If you’ve borrowed money don’t forget that it won’t be long before you have to make a payment. Make sure you pay on time, even if it is only the minimum, or you will be faced with additional charges.

10. Start planning and saving for next Christmas

Once Christmas is over, it’s worth looking at what you did well and what you didn’t. Learn from your mistakes and start planning how you will do things differently next year. This might also be a good time to start saving for next Christmas.

Aims and objectives

The aims of the Citizens Advice service are:

• To ensure that individuals do not suffer through lack of knowledge of their rights and responsibilities, or of the services available to them, or through an inability to express their needs effectively.

And equally:

• To exercise a responsible influence on the development of social policies and services both, locally and nationally.

By providing an advice service, we deal with clients’ problems on an individual, day-to-day basis feeding back information to the bodies responsible for policy making. We endeavour to prevent problems from recurring and similar problems from arising.

We must comply with the association’s conditions of membership, which includes 12 principles. The main principles are:

A free service – We provide information, advice and assistance (including representation) free of charge. It does not withhold its services from any client seeking help because they are believed to be able to pay for help from an alternative source. The service is advertised to the public as being free of charge to ensure that members of the public are not discouraged from taking advantage of the service for fear of incurring expense.

Confidentiality – We provide confidentiality to clients. Nothing learned from clients, including the fact of their visit, will be passed on to anyone outside the service without express permission of the client. Although it is a function of the service to exercise a responsible influence on the development of social policies concerning matters which have been brought to light in the course of assisting clients, no details will be made public which might enable clients to be identified without their express consent.

Independent – The service provided by us is completely independent. The policies and practices of the service are decided solely by the member bureaux. No other individual or agency, even if they are giving financial support or other aid to the bureau, will influence the decision making process of the bureau.

Impartiality – The service provided by us is impartial, it is open to all, and is regardless of any subjective opinion as to whether or not the client is deserving. Our advisers are trained to provide information solely on the basis of its potential usefulness to the client, i.e. information will not be selected to conform to any particular point of view. Representations made on behalf of clients will faithfully attempt to express the client’s personal intentions and points of view.

The other principles are:

• accessibility
• effectiveness
• community accountability
• client’s right to decide
• a voluntary service
• empowerment
• information retrieval
• a generalist service

Business and Development Plan 2019–2022

Cymraeg

Executive Summary

“We give people the knowledge and confidence they need to find their way forward – whoever they are and whatever their problem. We’ll increase the impact we have on people’s lives by transforming the way we do things – while always staying true to our core purpose.”

This is a national objective which we share. To achieve it we intend to develop our service over the next three years as follows:

Advice

The aspiration across England & Wales is that over the next three years “We’ll radically improve the experience people have when they come to us for help, so everyone leaves with the knowledge and confidence they need to find a way forward.” We are determined to play our part in this.

Much of our advice is delivered by volunteers – a process which benefits volunteers as well as clients. We will seek to recruit and train more volunteers, recognising that for some the skills acquired will help them gain employment. We will develop the way in which we recruit and train to enable a wider range of individuals to contribute in a way which works for them.

We will also continue to seek funding to maintain a strong team of caseworkers to help with more complex problems. We will put clients at the heart of everything we do, securing funding to give them the help they need in the way in which they want to access it, whether that is face to face, over the phone or digitally. We will ensure that our advice is quality assured and of a consistently high standard. We will continue to provide services from our four principal sites plus outreach in the areas of greatest need.

Advocacy

We’ll be a stronger voice on the issues that matter most to the people who come to us for help. We will do this by undertaking a range of centrally co-ordinated campaigns based on evidence and research from local and national advice. We will seek to improve the way in which this is communicated and provide opportunities for clients and supporters to get involved.

Technology

We’ll use technology to enable a great experience for the people who come to us for help, while freeing up resources that will allow us to meet more demand. In particular we will seek opportunities to assist local people with using internet technologies, in particular with the introduction of Universal Credit. We will continue to support Citizens Advice to ensure that information is available online in Welsh and that clients can receive an interactive bilingual service.

We will review the technology that we use locally to support our services with the aim of improving the service while reducing the cost. This will include looking at ways to make it easier for clients to book appointments.

Sustainability

We’ll secure our future as a service through a more collaborative, proactive, and competitive approach to fundraising. This will include developing publicity to raise charitable donations and awareness of our services. Our financial planning will be based on working with the Citizens Advice network across North Wales and with other voluntary organisations to minimise the cost of administration including premises costs and effective management of risks.

Culture

We’ll be a collaborative, inventive and high-performing service that promotes equality, diversity and inclusion, and challenges discrimination. Our people are at the heart of what we do and we are determined to ensure that everyone has what they need to be effective and is fully involved in delivering a successful service.

To read the full plan click here.

Collecting data on protected characteristics

The following information has been provided by Citizens Advice England & Wales…

Collecting diversity information about our workforce and clients is a core activity for local and national Citizens Advice. This data, on age, ethnicity, gender and disability, has proved invaluable in practically every area of our work. It underpins our ability to speak with authority for those who need and want us to advocate on their behalf.

Being able to call on this data demonstrates that we are an inclusive service that embraces diversity, champions equality and challenges discrimination, values which underpin our local and the national equality and diversity strategy, Stand Up for Equality (and our local CAB Gwynedd Equality Policy).

However, there are gaps in what we are collecting which we need to address to ensure that we have more comprehensive picture of our workforce and clients. As part of this initiative we are asking centres, on a voluntary basis to collect information from their workforce on sexual orientation and religion or belief.

Why has this change been introduced?

Having collected data across the service for many years on ethnicity, disability, age and gender we have been able to:

  • Review and plan our services
  • Maintain our funding and reputation
  • Increase our influence on research and campaigns, and
  • Measure our progress in equality and diversity
  • Identify any trends in our staff and volunteer base

It is important for us, as a matter of good practice, to maintain our present monitoring by updating our records of sexual orientation and religious or other beliefs of staff, volunteers and trustees as well as clients.

The success of this initiative will depend upon staff, volunteers and trustees understanding the importance of providing their own equality data and of collecting it from clients, as well as its role in achieving the service’s equality objectives.

There is more detailed guidance available on BMIS which can also be used to help advisors ask clients for this information. Also Stonewall has produced a helpful summary guide (fersiwn Cymraeg ar gael yma).

Beware of Debt Advice Scams!

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Scam callers claiming to be part of Citizens Advice have been offering debt advice by telephone, while requesting personal details and financial information.

Citizens Advice never cold call, and never ask for bank details.

For advice with debt or any other issues, or to report scams, call our Adviceline on 03444 77 20 20

A bilingual poster warning of this scam is available here.

Christmas Shopping Tips

Follow these tips to make your Christmas buying and returning easier.

Making it easier to take gifts back after Christmas

  • When you’re buying a gift, it’s useful to ask the retailer to give you a gift receipt – something in writing which shows it’s a gift. This will make it easier for the person who gets the gift to return or exchange it, rather than you having to take it back. But if you buy something using your credit or debit card you’ll need to take it back yourself if the gift’s returned, for any refund to go on your card.
  • The retailer doesn’t have to take unused goods back by law, but they do for a limited time after the purchase if they have a returns policy. They might also allow returns as a gesture of goodwill. It’s helpful to keep the receipt or online order details to give to the person who’ll be returning the gift.
  • If you buy online just before Christmas, you have a legal right to cancel within a 14-day cooling-off period. This also applies if you buy over the phone or by mail order. Check the terms and conditions before you order to see how long you have to change your mind.

Shopping online

  • If you buy a present online, give yourself plenty of time, just in case there are delivery problems. Read the small print so you know whether the gift can be returned later on if it’s unwanted, and check expected delivery dates.
  • Make sure you buy from a reputable online company and that you buy from a secure site. Check the web address begins with ‘https://’. The ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’.

Delivery problems

  • Gifts ordered online, over the phone or by mail order must be delivered within 30 days, unless you agree a different delivery date with the retailer. If a present isn’t delivered on time you can cancel the order or agree another delivery date.
  • If your gift doesn’t arrive or arrives late, you may be able to claim compensation, but you’ll need to read the small print first – if the terms and conditions say that delivery dates are estimated or may vary, you may not be able to.
  • To claim compensation, write a letter of complaint to the retailer and ask them to compensate you. Tell them why you think you should be compensated and provide proof of your losses.
  • If the gift is lost during delivery, the retailer is responsible. If they can’t find your goods, you can ask for a refund or replacement.

Pregnancy & maternity

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As you may be aware there was an awareness campaign in October regarding the recent shocking statistics on Pregnancy and Maternity related discrimination.

We have agreed to build on this with a two week high profile awareness campaign across North Wales.

Copies of the bilingual fact sheet and posters can be found here:

Bilingual Leaflet

Welsh Poster

English Poster

Paper copies have been distributed to the four bureaux.

We considered whether to target this only on women of child rearing age – but actually decided that everybody should be aware of the issues and that it would be appropriate to give the leaflet to all clients and ask them to pass it to someone who may benefit.

I am grateful for your co-operation with this initiative.

Holiday pay and overtime

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All workers and employees, including agency workers, casual workers and workers on zero-hours contracts, are entitled by law to receive 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday per year. For workers who work 5 days a week, 5.6 weeks’ holiday works out at 28 days, but this can include the 8 bank and public holidays, leaving you with 20 days to take when you choose. If you work fewer than 5 days a week, or you work irregular hours, you will receive a proportion of the 5.6 weeks.

Recent court decisions have confirmed that the amount you get for holiday pay should be based on your usual weekly income, including regular overtime, commission and shift allowances, not just basic pay for 4 of those 5.6 weeks. It is lawful for employers to base your holiday pay on basic pay for 1.6 of your 5.6 weeks’ entitlement.

What should you do if you think you have not been paid properly?

If you think you may have been underpaid holiday pay, you should first write to your employer setting out:

  • when you went on holiday
  • what you were paid and
  • how much you think you are owed.

If this does not resolve the situation, you should raise a formal grievance. If this fails, you can make a claim for non-payment of correct holiday pay in the employment tribunal.

When should I make a claim?

You must bring a claim for underpayment of holiday pay within 3 months minus one day of the date of the underpayment.

What about underpayments for holiday taken more than 3 months ago?

If you think you were underpaid for holiday you took more than 3 months ago, you will need to seek specialist advice, for example, from your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

Tâl gwyliau ac oriau ychwanegol

English

Mae gan bob gweithiwr, gan gynnwys gweithwyr asiantaeth, gweithwyr achlysurol a gweithwyr ar ‘cytundebau sero’, hawl yn ôl y gyfraith i gael 5.6 wythnos o wyliau gyda thâl bob blwyddyn. Ar gyfer gweithwyr sy’n gweithio 5 diwrnod yr wythnos, mae 5.6 wythnos o wyliau yn gweithio allan i 28 diwrnod, ond gall hyn gynnwys yr 8 gwyliau banc a gwyliau cyhoeddus. Mae hyn yn eich gadael gyda 20 diwrnod i gymryd pan fyddwch yn dewis. Os ydych yn gweithio llai na 5 diwrnod yr wythnos, neu os ydych yn gweithio oriau afreolaidd, byddwch yn derbyn cyfran o’r 5.6 wythnos.

Mae penderfyniadau diweddar y llys wedi cadarnhau y dylai’r swm a gewch ar gyfer tâl gwyliau fod yn seiliedig ar eich incwm wythnosol arferol, gan gynnwys oriau ychwanegol, comisiwn a newid lwfansau rheolaidd, ac nid ar gyflog sylfaenol yn unig am 4 o’r rhai 5.6 wythnos. Mae’n gyfreithlon i gyflogwyr seilio eich tâl gwyliau ar gyflog sylfaenol ar gyfer 1.6 o’ch hawl 5.6 wythnos.

Beth ddylech chi ei wneud os ydych yn credu nad ydych chi wedi cael eich talu yn iawn?

Os ydych yn meddwl nad ydych wedi derbyn tâl gwyliau digonol, dylech ysgrifennu yn gyntaf at eich cyflogwr yn nodi:

  • pan aethoch ar wyliau
  • yr hyn yr ydych yn cael eu talu a
  • faint rydych yn meddwl sy’n ddyledus i chi.

Os nad yw hyn yn datrys y sefyllfa, dylech godi achwyniad ffurfiol. Os bydd hyn yn methu, gallwch wneud cais yn y Tribiwnlys Cyflogaeth am beidio â thalu tâl gwyliau cywir.

Pryd ddylwn i wneud cais?

Mae’n rhaid i chi wneud hawliad am tandaliad o dâl gwyliau o fewn 3 mis, minws un diwrnod o ddyddiad y tandaliad.

Beth am tandaliadau ar gyfer gwyliau a gymerwyd fwy na 3 mis yn ôl?

Os ydych yn meddwl nad ydych wedi derbyn tâl gwyliau digonol a gymerwyd mwy na 3 mis yn ôl, bydd rhaid i chi chwilio am gyngor arbenigol, er enghraifft, gan eich canolfan Cyngor ar Bopeth lleol.