Day 1: Give yourself the gift of a clear credit card

Martin Keene/PA Wire

Introducing our consumer advent calendar, with an inventive and inspiring money saving tip a day, from today until Christmas. We're giving you the gift of being a savvy, informed consumer. Check in each day to see the next tip on the list.

First up, it's credit cards. With just over three weeks until Christmas, your festive shopping will be in full swing and your credit card is already probably taking a hammering.

The last thing you need is the spectre of debt hanging over you for Christmas though, so how about giving yourself the gift of a clear credit card bill? The stresses and strains of worrying about debt can get very serious, and there's a tendency to stick your head in the sand - which of course just makes your debt grow even bigger.

And the longer you leave it, the more you'll have to pay back and the longer it will take to clear. Credit card debt will also affect your credit rating, particularly if you fail to pay off the minimum balance each month. If you don't act quickly, you can find your debt running away with you far to fast and suddenly find yourself in a sticky situation.

Here are five simple tips to get it under control

Despite that scary outlook, if you take steps to beat your credit card debt now you can be back in the black by Christmas.

1. Do not use it to buy anything. You need to focus on paying off what you already owe so whatever you do don't add to the total by spending any more money on the card. And whatever you do, never ever withdraw money from your credit card. There is generally a fee for withdrawing and some credit card companies start charging interest straightaway.
If you really don't trust yourself - cut it up.

2. Throw everything at the debt. Right now savings rates are so pitiful that you'll actually be better off by putting any money you have left at the end of the month towards paying off your debts rather than saving it.

3. Cut down on your outgoings. If you don't have much cash left over at the end of the month then there are ways to find a bit extra. You don't have to sacrifice everything, but things like switching energy supplier, getting a better deal on your broadband and home phone and even renegotiating insurance premiums can save you hundreds of pounds a year - all money you can put towards those debts.

4. Switch to your 0% balance transfer card. If your credit rating is pretty decent, you could be eligible for a 0% balance transfer card. This will allow you to transfer the balance from your existing card and pay it off each month, interest-free - making it easier and quicker to pay off. Barclay Card's Platinum credit card gives you a huge 20 months interest-free period - plenty of time to pay off what you owe.

5. If you can't get a 0% balance transfer card, get a rate-for-life card. These cards will offer you a low interest rate for the life of the balance, so you always know what interest rate you will be charged when paying off your debt.

Day 2: How to cut your fuel bills.
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