To help consumers, the Credit Information Ombudsman has introduced the "Back to Basics" project.

Ombudsman spokesperson Caroline Buthelezi said going back to basics was not just budgeting to survive the current financial turmoil, but emphasising the importance of laying a solid foundation for the future.

"Checking and knowing what goes on with your credit profile is part of the building blocks for the foundation," Buthelezi said.

She said consumers should check their credit profiles at least once a year.

Consumers are entitled to one free credit report a year according to the National Credit Act. If more than one is needed, a maximum of R20 may be charged.

"As much as we encourage saving first and then buying on cash, we need to keep a healthy credit record for those situations where we absolutely have to use credit facilities." Consumers who are battling to get out of debt can also make use of debt counsellors to assist them.

The National Credit Regulator and the Banking Association of South Africa are training counsellors to deal with debt cases, which became available on June 1, last year.