How to get through the holidays without piling on

Jeff Schwartz of Consolidated Credit helps consumers with a Holiday Survival Guide

Toronto (December 5, 2008)… With only a few weeks left in the holiday season, it’s not too late to put the brakes on over-spending and avoid debilitating stressful credit card debt says Jeff Schwartz, Executive Director of Consolidated Credit Counselling Services of Canada Inc.

The Toronto-based non-profit credit counselling agency has seen a 50 percent increase in clients in the past year, and Schwartz says the lure of retail deals in stores can result in devastating consequences for people already overloaded with credit card debt.

“Consumers must remember that they may end up in really bad shape if they overindulge on holiday deals,” said Schwartz. “If you go out and charge $1,000 this holiday season and are paying the minimum amount due with an 18% interest rate, it will take over 19 years to pay the credit card debt and you would have repaid the creditor almost triple – $2,900. “If that doesn’t dissuade people from overspending – I don’t know what will. Consumers who start their holiday shopping without a strategy will likely end up adding to their debt load,”

Here are Consolidated Credit’s holiday shopping tips to avoid debt:

  1. Pay with cash. Spend the money you already have. Use debit cards, cash or write cheques.
  2. Make a budget, not a per person budget, but an overall budget for all of your holiday spending. If it’s more than you have available, look for areas to trim expenses.
  3. Keep track of how much you have spent: on gifts, dining and entertainment. Remember to include travel expenses, holiday clothes, cards, postage, wrapping paper and decorations.
  4. Know what you want to buy, and stick to a plan when you shop.
  5. Think before using your credit card. If you decide to use credit, borrow only what you can repay within 60 to 90 days.
  6. Comparison-shop, particularly for large ticket items. It’s good to take advantage of great opportunities, but always ask yourself, “Would I buy this if it wasn’t on sale?”

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