Your Christmas credit crash diet starts here

Get a flatter stomach in seven days! Look buff in your tux! Yes, itís that time of year again, when the papers and magazines are full of pre-Christmas miracle diets ñ when if weíre honest, we all know that the secret of losing weight is to eat less and do more.

The same principle applies when it comes to getting your finances into shape for Christmas, only in this case the regime involves paying out less, and helping you understand factors that could lead you to get better deals that may ultimately deliver better value.

Do you recognise any of these festive temptations? Then find out how you could start cutting your credit calories now.

Credit temptation 1 ñ the kids

A recent survey showed that childrenís happiness is directly linked to material goodies, such as computer games and fashionable clothes. How can you resist their pleading faces?

Cut the credit caloriesÖ But the same survey showed that they also adore family outings and playing outside. So put away your wallet and go for a snowy walk in the park, then cosy up with a (home-made) picnic and an old-fashioned flask of tea. You can always tell them that this is how people spent time when their grandparents were kids.

Credit temptation 2 ñ the extra credit card

So many presents to buy, so many parties to dress for and such a big bill on your credit card. Why not get another one and pay it off later?

Cut the credit caloriesÖ New research shows that if you borrow just £500 on a credit card with an average 18.12 per cent interest rate and make only minimum repayments, you could spend the next ten years paying it off. One quick way to see whether you could end up in this trap is to take a look at your credit report. This personal history of your cards, loans, mortgage and repayment record will give you a snapshot of what you already owe and show whether you can afford to take on new debt. Itís free to see your Experian credit report with a 30-day trial of CreditExpert.

Credit temptation 3 ñ the perfect home

Your parents are coming to stay and the sofa is soggy, the spare room bed is saggy and the carpets are showing their age. But with interest-free credit deals on offer, you think you can put that right.

Cut the credit caloriesÖ Remember that this is about family, not interior design ñ and that every time you apply for credit, the lender will search your credit report. That leaves a track that other lenders can see. If there are several applications in a short period, they might think youíre desperate or suspect a fraud. So you may well be hurting your credit score as well as your bank balance.

Credit temptation 4 ñ the discount deals

Youíve got a pile of presents and the girl at the check-out suggests a store card will get you a ten per cent discount if you sign up now. Youíre saving money, so why not?

Cut the credit caloriesÖ If you really need a new card, think about it first: do you want cash back, rewards or simply low fees and interest? You are likely to stand a better chance of qualifying for the deal you want if you tidy up your credit report first, so go through it carefully ñ look for accounts that have been duplicated, look for errors and inconsistencies and take them up with the relevant lender. You should also close unused accounts and register to vote at your current address (lenders use the electoral roll to check that you live where you say you do). An Experian Credit Score can help you see how an application might do ñ you can get it for free with a 30-day trial of CreditExpert.

Credit temptation 5 ñ the festive get-away

Youíre exhausted and stressed from the run-up to the big day. A weekend in a spa hotel or a shopping trip in a new city is just what you need.

Cut the credit caloriesÖ Pre-Christmas (and New Year) breaks are always more expensive than taking a break when the holidays are over and everyone else has gone back to work. So you may want to set aside a little of your Christmas budget and enjoy a New Year indulgence instead. You deserve it.

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