Many working carers will be back and work and struggling with the Christmas budget blowout.


Christmas and the New Year period are the most expensive time of year for most people.

But for working carers it may be especially tough. Many will have faced extra financial pressure in needing to spend more money than most in making Christmas special for a loved one.

There may have been extra transport costs, extra help or respite costs, extra food and gift costs, and reduced working hours as businesses closed down over the festive break. It all adds up.

You could be living off your credit card to pay for your general living expenses.

Now is the time to go online and see what credit card deals you can find that offer zero interest on balance transfers. There are deals around right now that offer 18 months with zero interest on balance transfers (BankWest); 16 months (ANZ and Westpac); and a host of other good deals.

The absolutely crucial thing to do if you use this strategy is to immediately set up a payment plan to reduce your debt to zero within the interest-free timeframe. You must do this or you could easily get into even more financial trouble.

Set up an auto-payment from the account your pay goes into, to your new credit card account. Then get out a pair of scissors and CUT UP THE CARD. Yes, that is right. Destroy the card until you have completely paid off the debt. That way you will not be tempted to use it until you can once again afford it.

Here is an example. Say you owe $12,000 on your credit card and "you are having kittens" as you have no idea how on earth this has happened or how you will ever get on top of paying off such a big bill.

You apply for a card with an interest-free balance transfer period of 18 months. Hopefully, you will be approved. They will then close down your old credit card and issue you a new one. It will show a debt of $12,000 (if this is the limit they feel you can service – they may offer you a lesser amount – say $9,000 – it depends on your ability to service the debt).

But for this example, let’s say you owe your new credit card bank $12,000 and have 18 months (72 weeks) to pay it off with zero extra interest. Divide $12,000 by 72 weeks to give you the amount you need to pay off each week, being $166 a week.

This is the amount you should be having automatically deducted from your pay each week and going straight into your credit card. If you really can’t afford that much, do the maximum weekly payment you can – even if it is only half of that.

If you paid $83 a week, in 72 weeks you would have paid off half your debt and only have $6000 to go. The main thing is to set up a payment plan and stick to it religiously. And of course, cut up that card!

Here are a couple of websites to help you get started with your comparisons:

www.creditcardfinder.com.au

http://compare.smh.com.au/credit-cards

Just a word of caution, though. Before you actually apply for a new credit card, speak with a real human consultant first (don’t just apply willy-nilly online). This is because every application you make shows on your credit record.

If you apply with one bank and are refused, that will show up on your credit history. The next bank you apply to will see that refusal and that may influence their decision to extend credit to you. They will no doubt ask why you were refused. If your repayment history is poor, or if you have a long record of defaults, you will have some explaining to do.

Multiple refusals look very bad on your credit history. Also, should you be considering applying for a home or personal loan, your credit history will once again be examined, and every credit inquiry logged for all lenders to see, as well as every payment default, be it credit card, utilities bill or store card.

So it is always best to speak to a consultant first, to find out their lending criteria and to see if they think you will be approved, before actually doing the full application.

Basically, what banks are interested in is your ability to repay the debt and your history of being a regular payer. Even a history of having only paid the ‘minimum fee’ is fine, so long as you have been consistent and not missed payments.