CONSUMERS have been warned not to blow their budgets this Christmas by loading up purchases on their credit cards.
And seasonal shoppers were told they can avoid a financial hangover by making a list, putting a budget together and sticking to it.
Agreeing spending limits for presents with family and friends was also recommended by the National Consumer Agency to ensure people do not end up in the red.
Thousands of people have logged on to the NCA's Christmas budget planner at ww.nca.ie in the past few days, indicating there is an appetite to avoid a financial blow-out.
Karen O'Leary of the agency warned consumers to set a budget, listing all festive costs.
This includes accounting for not only the more expensive costs, such as large gifts and major celebrations, but also for smaller items such as cards and wrapping paper.
"A good way to keep on top of how much you are spending is to pay with cash, or your debit card. You will be less likely to overspend than if you use a credit card," Ms O'Leary said.
"Even with the best of intentions, it is easy to get caught up in the excitement and blow your budget. You don't want to start the new year with a big credit card bill."
How to shop smartly:
• Leave the credit card at home and bring cash or a debit card. With a debit card you can only spend what you have in your current account.
• List everyone you intend to buy for, then budget a reasonable amount you can afford to spend on each person.
• Avoid shopping last-minute – do it when it's quieter. Shops are a lot less busy late at night or first thing in the morning.
• Don't get caught out by credit. In the run-up to Christmas, personal loans and in-store credit may look attractive , especially for larger purchases like PCs, electrical equipment or furniture, where stores may offer you 0pc finance. Consider the full costs, not just the monthly repayment.
• Be realistic with your food shopping. It's easy to buy more than you need, but most shops are only closed on Christmas Day and New Year's Day, so there's no need to go overboard.
• Try a new approach. If money is tight, agree a spending limit with friends and family or try something like a Secret Santa, where each person only has to buy one present.