Avoid these nightmares before Christmas

Coal in Christmas Stocking

Christmas can be a stressful enough time of year without unexpected problems cropping up.

Here are some nightmares before Christmas and how to avoid them.

Running out of money

It's always wise to set a budget before Christmas really kicks in – and to stick to it. If you find yourself struggling to make your money last, don't resort to high-cost borrowing. Going overdrawn on your bank account without permission could cost you a small fortune, unless you have a fee-free buffer.

So too could withdrawing cash using your credit card. Using a payday loan to pay for some of your Christmas could continue to haunt you well into the New Year if you can't afford to repay it on time.

You could spread the cost via a 0% on purchases credit card, which allows you a set period without interest to pay, but make sure you can ultimately afford to repay it.

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Losing your cards

Nationwide says that requests for new cards to replace those that have been lost or stolen soar at this time of year. Keep your cards safely tucked away and don't let anyone get a good look at your PIN if you're paying for something or using a cash machine. If you're going out for the evening, consider leaving some or all of your cards at home.

And make sure you cancel any lost or stolen cards immediately. Make sure you have your card issuer's emergency helpline phone number in your phone and/or written down at home so you can call quickly.

Getting mugged

Sadly, the festive season brings an increase in street crime, with muggers particularly targeting those who look like they've been Christmas shopping.

If you're out and about at night, try to stick to well-lit and busier areas. And if you've had a few at the office Christmas party, think about getting a taxi rather than staggering through the streets.

You could also consider personal possessions cover.

This is an optional extra you can choose to add to your home insurance, and it means your possessions will be covered when they're outside your home.

And, with research suggesting that the average adult now carries almost £1,000 of belongings around with them, it could actually be worth having all year round.

Boiler breakdown

A cold house at Christmas is no fun at all. If you're worrying that your boiler might not see out 2013, it would be wise to get it checked over sooner rather than later.

You could also check your home insurance policy to see if it's covered under home emergency cover. If it isn't, you might want to add it, although be aware that it might not cover newer boilers. Or you might think about taking out a boiler care policy. Be aware that these can be riddled with exclusions. Always shop around and read the small print carefully.

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10 simple ways to keep your house warm this winter
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Avoid these nightmares before Christmas
Of course you should make sure the doors and windows are shut properly, but you should also check each one for draughts too. A good old fashioned draught-excluder will stop the wind whipping under the doors, and draught-proofing strips around doors and windows should see off the worst of the chills.
It's not the kind of DIY job that anyone loves, but a quarter of the heat in your home is lost through the roof, so it makes a big difference. Once you've insulated the loft, the roof space will be colder, so make sure you have insulated any water pipes and tanks, and draught-proofed the loft hatch.
If you have thicker curtains, ideally with a thermal lining, you're likely to lose 25% less heat through the window. It's also worth considering curtains over external doors, to prevent heat from escaping. However, make sure you draw them back during the day to make use of any glimmers of sunshine we get.
If you don't have a working chimney but you do have an open fire, then you'll be losing heat through the chimney. If you place a chimney balloon in the chimney and inflate it, it will trap the warm air in.
If you stick the sofa in front of the radiator you'll waste a fortune keeping the back of the sofa warm.
Many people will remember elderly relatives applying tinfoil in a hap-hazard manner years ago, but it doesn't have to be noticeable, and will reflect half the heat back into the room.
Bare, varnished floorboards have been popular for a while, but unless they are carefully filled and draught-proofed, you can lose 10% of your heat through the floor. If filling the floorboards is impractical, a carpet may be a simple solution.
There's no point in heating any rooms you don't use, so turn off radiators in unused rooms, and heat the rooms you tend to occupy instead. Once the spare room gets chilly, you'll need to keep the door closed, and use a draught-excluder to stop the chill spreading.
If your kitchen is the heart of the home you don't need the house so warm during dinner time, because you can use the warmth of the oven to keep you all toasty. Get some baked potatoes in the oven, some soup on the hob, and no-one will notice the rest of the house has grown a little cooler.
It may seem a bit Victorian, but having a woodburner in the fireplace allows you to burn a cheap fuel, and enjoy the heat without the smoke. Burning wood costs less than gas and two thirds less than electricity, so you can stay toasty for less.

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