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Release: Tips to Keep
Holiday Debt Under Control
Contact: Patrick Harris
Director of Media Relations
Ohio Credit Union League
Tips to Keep Holiday Debt Under Control
Columbus, Ohio (November 30, 2011)
Ohio Credit Union League (OCUL), Credit Union National
Association, and Consumer Federation of America suggest the
following tips to avoid getting deep into debt during the
“Though unintended, it is common to let wise spending habits
lapse during the holiday season,” said Paul Mercer, OCUL
President. “However, there are ways to spread cheer without
busting your monthly budget.”
Make Budget, and a List:
Decide how much you can afford to spend and stay within that
budget. Staying within budget will be much easier if you make a
price list of all gifts and other holiday items you plan to
purchase. It's easy to overlook extra expenses for holiday
foods, party clothes, holiday décor, and postage. Even if it’s a
more general rather than detailed list, it will still help you
avoid overspending and impulse buys.
You can easily save more than 10 percent on most items,
sometimes considerably more, by comparing prices at different
stores. The easiest way to do this is using the Internet and
comparing offers online. But when shopping online, shop wisely.
Be sure you are purchasing from a secure site and review
e-mailed statements as you receive them for accuracy.
Off Debts Quickly:
You’re less likely to overdo it if you pay in cash. If you must
make holiday purchases using credit, use a lower-interest card
(you’ll often find lower rates on cards from a credit union) and
pay off this debt as soon as possible early next year. Don’t
borrow more than you can repay within several months. Remember
that credit card debt is relatively expensive. If you only make
the required minimum monthly payment, you may never pay off the
Plan for Next Year by Opening a Christmas Club Account:
While these accounts do not pay much if any interest, they
provide a practical way to save small amounts over time. Ask
your credit union or bank to automatically transfer funds from
your checking to your Christmas Club account every month. The
discipline of saving reinforces your good budget intentions.
what’s in your supply drawer:
You may have more wrapping paper, ribbons, unused cards, and
gift boxes stored away from last season than you realize. Use up
those holiday supplies first to trim down the amount you’ll have
to buy this season.
Shop after Christmas for Next Year’s Presents. You
can find some great sales bargains right after the
holidays. Then tuck those gifts away until next season.
how layaway programs work.
An old holiday standby—store layaway programs—have re-emerged
this holiday season, allowing consumers to put items on hold at
the store and pay for them over time. Before deciding to use
layaway, know the payment schedule and read the fine print. Be
realistic about how these payments will fit into your spending
plan and what you can really afford. Understand the layaway
policy, including time between payments and schedule of
payments, service fees, late and cancellation fee policies,
refund and exchange policies.
Smart About Gift Cards:
Rules that took effect last year significantly restricted gift
card expiration dates and fees. But those who give or receive a
gift card should still read the fine print. If you get a gift
card, use it sooner rather than later to avoid forgetting about
unused balances on the card, or forgetting about the card
Attention to the Return Policy.
Some stores have tighter policies. Pay attention to the return
policy when you make a purchase; keep receipts and note time
limits, restocking fees, and other factors that may affect your
Find Low- or No-Cost Ways to Celebrate. Adding
a few changes can ease the strain on your spending budget. For
example, draw names to limit the number of people for whom you
purchase gifts; give homemade items; make your own gift wrap; or
organize a potluck rather than trying to make, and pay for, the
entire holiday meal.
The Ohio Credit Union League, with offices in Columbus, is a
state trade association representing 382 credit unions. Credit
unions are not-for-profit financial institutions owned and
democratically-controlled by their members. Ohio credit unions
provide savings, loans, and other consumer financial services to
their 2.68 million members. To learn more, visit