CCCS recommends holiday spending plan

CCCS recommends holiday spending plan According to the National Foundation for Consumer Credit (NFCC) Americans spent an average of $1,686 on holiday-related expenses last year � a whopping $708 more than planned. This type of overspending can land people in financial hot water.

But Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) reports that the holidays do not have to deplete your family's finances. The secret to surviving the season with an intact checkbook is developing a holiday spending plan and then stay the course.

The results of the study by the NFCC bear out that recommendation. Of those who admitted overspending, the most common reasons cited for that behavior were:

* Got carried away (53 percent)

* Last minute purchases (39 percent)

* Gifts more expensive than expected (39 percent)

* Poor planning (33 percent)

These reasons illustrate that overspending is avoidable through the creation and implementation of a workable holiday spending plan. And, according to CCCS, the best time to begin developing your holiday strategy is now.

"Starting early gives you sufficient time to budget and shop wisely," explains Amber Lounsbery, education coordinator, CCCS. "Then when the holiday crunch hits, you don't feel the pressure that can lead to overspending."

To help consumers prepare, CCCS offers the following tips:

* Get a plan. Develop a workable holiday budget. To do so, first outline all holiday-related expenses, including such easily forgettable items as holiday clothing, travel, and entertainment costs. If the total is more than you have available to spend, look for areas to trim expenses.

* Evaluate your gift list. Make a list of the people for whom you want to buy presents. Limit your buying to close friends and family; give everyone else a card with a personal note. Then, determine how much you want to spend on each person. Remember, the key to successful gift giving is picking out an item that will mean something to the recipient, not spending a lot of money. Some of the best gifts cost very little.

* Stash cash. Start setting a sum of aside each week from now until the holidays. That way, you'll have money on hand when you need it and reduce the temptation to charge purchases.

* Shop as you can. Make it a priority to begin shopping early. Leisurely shopping allows you to compare prices, pick out special gifts, and resist the overspending that usually accompanies a last-minute rush. In addition, buying gifts over time enables you to avoid paying for your purchases all at once.

* Have a credit plan. Consider making purchases at stores offering a layaway option. Decide which purchases you will buy on credit. Plan to use the credit card with the lowest interest rates and to repay the debt by 90 days after the holidays.

By following these tips, consumers should be able to enjoy the holidays without financial stress. For help developing a budget, money management or to receive debt or credit counseling assistance, contact Consumer Credit Counseling Service.

CCCS is a nonprofit, United Way Agency that provides free confidential counseling, guidance, debt management and educational programs to financially troubled consumers. CCCS is member of the National Foundation for Consumer Credit (NFCC). To schedule a free phone council or in-person appointment with a CCCS counselor, please contact Consumer Credit Counseling Service in Sioux Falls at 330-2700 or to reach an office in one of our seven other communities call 1-888-258-2227 (CCCS).

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