Credit Card Hangover

December 28, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Valley credit counselors are gearing up for a big month as holiday spending starts to catch up with consumers.First, it was the early morning Black Friday deals the day after Thanksgiving. Now, stores are offering even more discounts trying to beef up post holiday sales. But if you are trying to get out of debt, beware: "It's a really tough time of the year right now with so many bargains after the holidays and seeing things 60 to 70 percent off but avoiding those impulse purchases are important to getting out of debt," said Martha Lucey with ByDesign Financial Solutions of Fresno.

Lucey said the number of clients seeking their services is up and it's only expected to rise as people start to feel that holiday hangover, when the credit card bills arrive. Some shoppers we talked with say they've already made efforts to cut back on spending because of the tough economy. "That was the one thing I did differently this year. I didn't use any of my credit cards," said Crystal Laird of Madera.

Joanne Glantz of Madera said she and her family are also trying to spend less. "We're staying home and enjoying what we have," said Glantz.

Lucey said those are both good ideas if you truly want to find financial freedom in 2009, a year that will begin amid a lot of uncertainty. Lucey said now is the time to take a good look at your monthly spending and if possible do a little trimming. To do this, stop using those credit cards and just spend cash for one month. "Write it down, see where your cash is going and I think people would be surprised when they look at how much money they're spending on things that might be considered discretionary," said Lucey.

Lucey said now is also a good time to try and build up an emergency fund. Many experts recommend saving enough to live on for three to six months, but Lucey said if that's not possible, you should at least have two to three weeks.

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