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Life and Religion

Avoid overspending this holiday season
'Tis the season for spending but experts say there's no reason to go in debt
 
Published Thursday, December 6, 2012 8:40 am
by Michaela L. Duckett

‘Tis the season for spending.

Whether it is purchasing gifts, holiday decorations, groceries or spending money to travel, the holiday season can be expensive. Post-Black Friday, many American families find themselves going into the red by racking up debt this time of year.

“Debt at the holidays is often just accepted, just as many people accept overindulging on food or drink as part of the celebrations,” said Andrew Housser, co-founder and co-CEO of Freedom Debt Relief, a national consumer debt settlement provider. “But these actions have real repercussions. It is possible to avoid credit card debt and holiday overindulgence by planning ahead – and using a few tricks to eke out extra holiday buying power.”

Housser suggests using cash instead of credit but said that if you do use a credit card, just use one and choose wisely. Select the card with the lowest annual interest rate, and only charge what you can afford to pay off when the bill comes.

“Putting purchases on a single card helps you keep track of spending,” Housser explained. “Be sure to check your current credit limits before you begin using credit cards, too. Many card issuers have lowered credit limits in the past year.”

Hunter Widener, chief banking officer for Carolina Premier Bank, said the key to avoiding overspending or going into debt this holiday season is not waiting until the last minute to do your shopping. He said that by planning ahead for expenses, setting a budget and staying organized consumers can avoid making costly mistakes.

“What happens to people is they get caught up,” he said. “They don’t plan ahead, and now they need gifts for people and have to go out and find whatever they can and end up overspending.”

According to Widener, it’s not too early to start planning for next year. He suggests setting money aside in a separate account and saving all year long to cover holiday expenses. Many banks offer special holiday accounts or Christmas funds to help consumers save.

“It’s kind of an old-fashioned way to do it,” said Widener. “But that way you don’t go into credit card debt because you have already saved and allocated some money. You don’t have to start out with a lot of money. You can just add a little each month or we can set it up to be drafted from your account.”

He also suggests being creative in your gift giving.

“A lot of people appreciate things that are a little more customized or handmade, if you have the ability to do that,” he said. “That way you don’t have to go out and purchase something every time, and that’s a good way to save money.”

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