As the number of people becoming homeless in the UK increases steadily, families are being reminded of the importance of setting aside some money as a precaution for unexpected events.

Shelter’s Chief Executive Campbell Robb said, “We know from the people we see every day that just one single thing, like a bout of illness, rent increase or drop in income, is all that’s needed to push someone into spiral of debt and arrears that can lead to the loss of their home.”

Homeless Link, a charity that represents and supports organisations working with homeless people in the UK, recognises that homelessness can affect anyone and has identified “getting into debt, specifically mortgage or rent arrears” as one of the key triggers. Coastal Credit Union offers financial support, advice and a practical saving scheme for its members to use in order to avoid these circumstances from happening. It also provides access to low interest loans to people who have been saving regularly and may be looking to pay off an anticipated bill like car insurance or a home repair.

By saving with Coastal Credit Union and seeking guidance on budgeting, unforeseeable events such as redundancy or a loss of housing benefit in the coming year can be more easily coped with. If such events never happen then some of the surplus money set aside in a Coastal Credit Union Savings Account could even be put towards an indulgent treat – namely the Marks & Spencer’s Food on the Move range, which contributes 5% of its sales to Shelter.

As charities such as Shelter and Homeless Link suffer under the government’s cuts to housing benefit and funding at the same time that people are becoming more reliant on these services due to rises in unemployment, it’s more important than ever before for families, couples and individuals to act now and start saving. Coastal Credit Union operates across the BH postcode (from Fordingbridge and Ringwood through to Poole and the Purbecks) and has local branches in Bournemouth, Wimborne, Kinson, Swanage, Poole and Christchurch. The main branch in Bournemouth can be contacted on 01202 566878 and more information and a comprehensive list of contact numbers is available at www.coastalcreditunion.co.uk.

Is it too early to plan for next year’s festive season? Your thoughts are filled solely with mince pies, mulled wine and making the Christmas tree look perfect, right? But what about the ever-expanding Christmas lists of the children, the invites from mates for a quick cheeky beverage and the lure of the supermarket aisles encouraging a Christmas with all the trimmings?

If you’re worrying about your bank balance falling faster than the snowflakes outside at this time of year, take a word of advice from Coastal Credit Union by slowing down spending, setting aside some pennies and saving yourself some stress. There are loads of ways to make small changes to your spending habits in time for Christmas as well as for the New Year. Here are some favourites that will help make the difference that Nicola Merrifield suggests-

  • Rule number one is less panicking and more researching. There are loads of pre-Christmas discounts both on the high street and online, so comparing prices means you’ll get the best deals for gifts and food. This goes for socialising as well. By working out how much money you’re going to spend out and about with different friends you can make sure you only commit to the dates that won’t involve a huge three course Christmas meal at ten times the price or a taxi ride home solo from the town where you’ll be left to pay the whole fare.
  • Have you ever thought about getting creative and making your own presents? We’re not just talking along the lines of a classic granny knitted cardigan – think sock monkeys for the kids, handmade jewellery using a local haberdashery, homemade crackers with cookies you made earlier inside and personalised magnets for your mates. Ditto for cards – all you need is a stencil and some felt tips and you’re away.
  • Secret Santa is a genius idea for minimising Christmas spending amongst friends. Even if you don’t stick to the rules of keeping your Santa a secret, make sure you stick to the rules of a spending limit! Half the fun is the challenge of finding the perfectly matched and priced gift!
  • Try selling some of your old clothes, jewellery, unused toys etc by posting them on places such as gumtree and ebay in the lead up to Christmas and you’ll be amazed at how that Christmas party dress you wore once last year will be snapped up by someone else looking for a bargain. Don’t be tempted to buy something for yourself in exchange for your profit though!
  • With all the money you’ve saved you’ll need somewhere to store it before the Christmas sales take a hold of you and it gets frittered away, so why not put some pennies into a Coastal Credit Union Savings Account? Coastal Credit Union is a not-for-profit organisation which means your money will never be used to make money for anyone else. By joining as a member now and setting aside some cash at regular intervals, just think of the treats you could have in store for next Christmas! Maybe a trip to the panto with the kids, a day out at a theme park with friends or a night out on the town could be on the cards. All by saving just £5 a week!

It’s so easy to save yourself some stress this year and the next by just changing habits and popping into your nearest Coastal Credit Union, where volunteers are on hand to help. You can find them in Boscombe, open Monday to Friday 10am to 2pm and on Saturday from 10am to 12.30pm, Kinson open Monday, Wednesday and Friday 12pm to 2pm and the “Inspiring Change” shop in Cunningham Crescent, West Howe open on Monday and Tuesday mornings. Christmas really can come early when you get those savings started! Call 01202 566878 for further details.

Fraud is a criminal offence and any suspicious activity will be reported.