Many struggle this Christmas on the Downs

SWAP plastic for cash and you'll have a happy New Year, a leading finance expert says.

As credit companies ramped up pre-Christmas marketing, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission urged the region's residents to ditch the plastic for cash.

The timely reminder follows The Daily News' special report which revealed 42% of households faced financial meltdown.

About 15,403 households in the Southern Downs council area were unable to raise $2000 in a week to cover a crisis.

At least 6571 households have had cash flow problems in the past 12 months.

Australia's credit card debt is about $33 billion, averaging out at $4200 per card holder.

ASIC MoneySmart senior executive leader Miles Larbey said the credit card trip was easily fallen into.

"It can be very tempting to get caught up in the Christmas spirit and spend more than you intended by using the credit card," Mr Larbey said.

"The most important thing is not to spend more than you intend or can afford to repay and this can easily be managed by creating a Christmas budget and sticking to it."

Mr Larbey said there was still time before Christmas to avoid getting into further debt.

"Have a clear idea of your spending limit by setting a budget for Christmas, which should include all aspects of Christmas spending - from presents, food and travel," he said.

"This will give you a clear idea of what can be afforded so you don't need to rely on the credit card and will ensure there are no surprises once Christmas is over."

Accretion financial planner and Warwick Lifestyle columnist Daniel Spry agreed with Mr Larbey's tips, saying a lot of residents' new year's resol- utions may well be getting their debt in check.

"My advice would be if people have put a lot on their credit card, concentrate on paying that back as soon as possible," Mr Spry said.

"Otherwise you're paying a large amount of interest into the new year."

"Debt affects everyone. Unfortunately we have a tendency to live above our means. But there's nothing wrong with being in debt, as long as it's planned and the debt can be controlled."



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