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For many, a new year brings with it an extra amount of disposable income as salaries are increased, bonuses are paid and for some, new employment opportunities are reached. These benefits can be a blessing for already stretched household incomes, but it’s important to not extend debt even further with tempting propositions of new finance arrangements.

Now that February is upon us and households are settling into their financial rhythm for the new year, WesBank has some valuable debt avoidance advice to consumers who may not have a complete understanding of the burdens of debt. With an increased cash injection every month, a new set of wheels may become a tantalising prospect. However, a more expensive car also means higher monthly instalments, increased insurance costs and sometimes added fuel expenses which you as the buyer are liable for. New car finance is a long-term commitment with budget-affecting financial obligations.

“It is imperative that consumers are honest with themselves and their financial circumstances. Yes, a new and increased salary is a pleasant luxury but remember that additional debt can mean the inability to enjoy this new benefit. WesBank encourages consumers to seek help when necessary, such as financial guidance on how best to utilise the increase for beneficial returns instead”, says WesBank’s Head of Marketing and Communication, Lebogang Gaoaketse.

It’s not just car purchases that can harm the health of your budget if not properly managed, as lifestyle measures also have an impact. Clothing, furniture and other store accounts can put serious pressure on cash-strapped households, meaning that consumers should consider settling existing debt instead of entering into new financial commitments. This way, it’s possible to reap the benefits of a healthy credit score which will pay off in the future when a shiny new vehicle is a more affordable and realistic possibility.

Many consumers do not understand what over-indebtedness technically means when finding themselves in such circumstances. Borrowing more money as a means to cover a current shortfall is almost always a sure-fire path to over-indebtedness. Maintaining a healthy budget and living within your means is something that consumers need to practice throughout the year, and February is an ideal time to get started.