Present perfect? The great wedding gift dilemma

The sight of Prince William and Kate Middleton beaming from every newspaper and supermarket aisle is a reminder to us all that itís time to take a deep breath and check the balance on our credit cards ñ because the wedding season is here.

While the royal couple may have foregone gifts in favour of donations to charity, many modern lovebirds cannot afford to be so magnanimous. In fact, a recent survey by online bank first direct found that 35 per cent of prospective newlyweds would put pragmatism over tradition by opting for hard cash or vouchers instead of traditional presents ñ and just three per cent wanted charitable donations .

But although the cash option may be more convenient for the bride and groom, it can be less welcome to guests, who often feel obliged to spend more when their generosity is so conspicuous . The average Brit already forks out £47 a time on wedding presents  ñ and this can multiply into £100s in a particularly wedding-heavy year.

Combined with all the other costs associated with attending a wedding, from the stag or hen party to a new outfit and the reception drinks, someone elseís big day could make a big dent in your own finances ñ so you need to be prepared. These tips will help.

ï Start early. Put a little money aside as soon as you know youíve got a wedding to go to and shop the sales for your outfit and gift. If youíre struggling to find any spare cash, a price comparison site, such as Lowermybills.co.uk, may be able to help you pare down your utility bills and other regular outgoings ñ and youíll continue saving long after the nuptials are over.

ï Create your own wedding list. Include all the costs youíll face, from the present to wedding day transport and confetti, along with how much you can afford to spend on each item. Seeing it all in black and white will help you to control your budget and show up any obvious ways to cut back.

ï Follow the money. Get out your bills and statements and find out where your money is going. Look for expenses that you can easily do without, such as unused gym and magazine subscriptions, and cancel them. Get a reality check on your cards and loans by looking at your credit report. This lists your credit accounts and repayment record, so it will show you how well youíre managing. Itís free to see your Experian credit report with a 30-day trial of CreditExpert .

ï Donít be afraid to say no. If you cannot afford to attend a hen or stag party, itís better to decline politely than to bust your credit limit. The same applies to the wedding gift ñ if there is nothing on the official present list that you can run to, choose something within your budget instead.

ï Do your research. If you want to put your wedding spending on a new card, take time to find the best deal, bearing in mind that interest-free offers come to an end. Before you apply, make sure your credit report is accurate and up to date ñ lenders may see it when they decide if you qualify and, sometimes, what interest rates to set, so it pays to make sure there are no errors. If you find anything you disagree with, take it up with the relevant lender at once. And avoid making lots of applications ñ each one will leave a record on your report, which could make lenders think you are desperate for money.

ï Donít lose your head. It may be tempting to pile all your spending on a card at the last minute and worry about paying it back later but youíll only be storing up trouble. Credit cards can be an expensive way to borrow and if you miss or delay a repayment it will also stay on your credit report for at least three years, showing lenders that you may not repay what you owe.

ï Keep checking your credit report. Remember that your credit status changes over time. That means you need to keep on top of your finances if you want to maintain a good credit rating and get the best deals. You can see your Experian credit report and Experian Credit Score free with a 30-day trial of CreditExpert.

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