For decades it has been known and made a norm that January is the stressful month, to the point where we have nicknamed the month ‘Janu-Worry’. January is the ‘Monday’ of the year. We are all ‘hungover’ from a long weekend (December) which was filled with loads of only fun activities and possible recklessness.
Now that we have sobered up and getting back into the swing of things, and to the reality of ‘back to school’, there are many expenses and to get by, we make use of credit cards and apply for loans. If we did not budget or plan for those expenses that have now crept its way to us like a pounding headache, and we just have to apply for credit, we should be smart about it and ensure that a proper affordability assessment is done by the credit grantor. When applying for credit ensure that you understand the total cost of the credit you are applying for, and shop around for interest rates and insurances. It is also necessary to read the fine print on the credit agreement.
The Credit Ombud wish to challenge consumers to break this ‘curse’. We call it a curse because we have often seen how consumers make unhealthy credit decisions during the month of December which lead to consumers turning to unregulated methods of obtaining credit in January, then later find themselves trapped in the cycle of unhealthy credit and financial life. The Credit Ombud urges consumers to adopt the ‘taking action’ approach to break the curse. Start a new trend for yourself where you’ll plan now for your December spending and that will prevent you from going into the sluggishness of January in 2021.
Tips for 2020:
1. ‘Know your credit status’ – you can get your free credit report from each of the credit bureaus once a year. If you know what the problem is, you can deal with it.
2. Prioritize your debts – although you might not be able to pay off all your debt in 2020, it’s always good to start to pay off your smallest debt first, then tackle the next one. The goal is to become debt-free.
3. Save – as much as we think that it takes someone without financial obligations to save money, you can start to save as little as R20 per month, any amount saved is still money which could come in handy for those rainy days.
4. Budget – to be able to achieve the abovementioned points (prioritizing your debts and saving), a budget is required as it functions as a navigator of your finances and will indicate your actual income and expenditures.
5. Do not hide – if you have difficulty to pay your debts, do not hide, contact your credit provider and enter into an agreement which will be beneficial to both parties.
6. Don’t impress – do not try to impress your family or friends with clothing, cars, etc. that you cannot afford.
Consumers can contact the office of the Credit Ombud for FREE assistance if they experience any issues relating to credit agreements with non-bank credit providers such as the clothing and furniture retailers as well as micro-lenders, fraudulent listings, emolument attachment orders (“garnishee orders”) or general complaints about their credit bureau listings.
The office can be contacted on 0861 66 28 37; on the website www.creditombud.org.za; email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a sms to 44786 and we will call you.