CCCS tips to avoid holiday overspending

CCCS tips to avoid holiday overspending "Before your holiday spending spirals out of control, take a reality check," is the advice from certified consumer credit counselors at Lutheran Social Services.

"Holiday shoppers can inadvertently overspend without a thought of the costs or consequences when they don't have a holiday spending plan," said Lorri Halverson, director of Consumer Credit Counseling service of Lutheran Social Services. She offers these tips:

1. Develop a holiday spending plan. While gifts are the first thing that come to mind when you think of the holidays, don't forget meals out, gift-wrapping, greeting cards, postage, and travel expenses. Before you go shopping, decide what you need to buy for the holidays and how much you can afford to spend.

This is your holiday spending plan; stick to it. Call CCCS at 330-2700 or 888-258-2227 for a free copy of Holiday Expense Guide. This tool will assist you in developing your plan.

2. Make a gift list. Armed with your spending plan, decide to whom you will give gifts this year and how much you're going to spend on those gifts. Don't forget to include those

"gifts from the heart," such as personal gift certificates for your time or talents. In general, limit gift buying to close friends and family and send everyone else a greeting card with a personal note.

Keep the list with you so you can take advantage of bargains. Also, keep accurate records of what you spend on each person.

3. Pay as you go. By the time you add in interest to those gifts you charge, instead of spending $500 on gifts, you will have spent $600. The best way to avoid huge interest payments and post holiday bills is to pay for items as you buy them. If you are short of money, take your lunch to work, rent videos instead of going to the movies, and avoid fee-charging ATMs. If you need time to save up for a major purchase, ask about a no-interest layaway program.

4. Create a credit card ledger. Write your credit card purchases down in a notebook so you know how much you are spending and to prevent being surprised at the end of the month.

If you can balance a checkbook, you can keep a credit card ledger. This little tool will help you stay with your spending plan. In the long run, you really do want to know the amount you will be paying back over the next few months.

5. Use credit cards responsibly. When using a credit card to make a purchase, be sure to pay off the bill in the interest free period. You may be able to buy yourself an extra few weeks by purchasing at the beginning of the billing cycle. Always use the card with the lowest interest rate just in case you have to carry a balance and charge to one card, only. By spreading out the charges on more than one card, you may fool yourself that you haven't spent much for a little while, but it will catch up with you in January.

6. Stop when you're done. When you've completed your holiday shopping, stay home and out of the stores or off the Internet. Buying something you don't need is not a bargain, and when it comes to spending, less is more money in your pocket for necessities like an increase in heating costs, or new tires for the car.

7. Get budgeting help if necessary. If you need help with money management, you're not alone. For money management help, call CCCS at 1-888-258-2227 or 605-330-2700 to schedule a confidential assessment.

A certified credit counselor will assess your financial situation and make recommendations.

Follow these money management tips and you won't be one of the shoppers who spend more than they anticipate.

About Consumer Credit

Counseling Service

CCCS is a nonprofit, community-based program of Lutheran Social Services and a Member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). For information about CCCS services or to schedule an appointment, call 605-330-2700 or toll-free, 888-258-2227 or visit www.lsssd.org. You can also e-mail a certified credit counselor at cccs@lsssd.org.

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