More than one in five of those surveyed said that they had been saving a little all year to cover the cost of Christmas, while 18 per cent hadn’t started saving yet, but said they intended to start soon.
Only 6 per cent of respondents intended to use a credit card on Christmas purchases this year.
Karen O’Leary, director of public awareness and financial education at the NCA, said it was encouraging that very few people intended to rely on credit to cover the cost of Christmas.
‘‘However, even with the best of intentions, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and end up overdoing it," she said. ‘‘The best way to avoid this is to set out a budget before starting to shop.
This is especially important if you are managing on less money than before."
The NCA has just published a Christmas budget planner on its personal finance website, www.itsyourmoney.ie.
It is designed to help consumers draw up a realistic budget as they start to plan their Christmas spending, and sets out the main costs associated with Christmas, such as gifts, food, drink and decorations.
Property prices fall again
The average asking price for residential property nationwide is now €280,000, down from €323,000 a year ago.
According to the latest property barometer from property website MyHome.ie, property prices fell by 3.9 per cent in the third quarter of 2010.
This brings the fall for the year to date to 11 per cent, meaning that the market has fallen by 32.4 per cent since late 2006.
Prices in Dublin have fallen by 39 per cent since their peak. The average asking price for a house in Dublin now stands at €325,000, down from €386,000 12 months ago.
The survey showed that prices for new homes fell by 1.9 per cent, less than half the fall recorded by second-hand homes, which fell by 4.3 per cent. The average price of a new home is now €255,000, compared with €283,000 for a second-hand house.
Angela Keegan, managing director of MyHome.ie, said the survey showed prices were continuing to decline, albeit at a lower rate compared with the same period last year.
‘‘We know there are buyers out there, a lot of them with mortgage approval, but until consumer sentiment improves they will continue to stay on the sidelines," Keegan said. ‘‘For now, all eyes will be on the budget."
Caution urged on house buying
First-time buyers who are holding off on buying and waiting for property prices to drop further could face difficulties in terms of interest rates, according to brokers’ group PIBA.
‘‘The issue for those wishing to get onto the property ladder is that, while property prices may not have bottomed out yet, by the time they do, which cannot be far off, longer term fixed rates such as the current 4.39 per cent may no longer exist," said Rachel Doyle, director of mortgage services at PIBA.
‘‘Therefore, there is a risk that, by waiting for a further drop in property prices, you could lose more than the value of the drop in the higher interest rate you are likely to have to pay," she said.
Doyle said those wishing to get onto the property ladder should examine their financial situation very carefully, and plan prudently for at least a five-year perspective.
‘‘It is generally not advisable to fix for a term shorter than five years, unless you are planning on moving or redeeming the mortgage sooner," she said.
She said it was unfortunate that many young people were unable to get onto the property ladder, even though they may have good repayment prospects.
‘‘Most lenders have tightened their criteria and are now requiring higher deposits up front - typically between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of the property price - and a strong savings history.
‘‘In that sense, it looks like the next few years could be very difficult for first-time buyers," she said.