Don't Let Black Friday Lead to the January Blues
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) Some Americans are planning to be too generous during this holiday shopping season, ignoring the reality of the huge credit card statements they will face in the new year.
While some avid shoppers are already counting down the days until the Black Friday bonanza, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling recommends that consumers avoid the ramifications of overspending.
One top priority is to avoid incurring new debt on top of your current debt. If you are still paying off purchases from 2012, your debt is being carried over from month to month. Cardholders have lost the benefit of a grace period, which is the time during which a person can pay the monthly credit card bill before interest begins to accrue. When debt is revolved, new purchases begin to incur interest immediately.
This means that you are paying interest on the interest already accrued. When a debt is not paid in full by the due date, interest is added to the balance. This amount adds up over time, creating an impediment to becoming debt free.
"Now is the time for financial awareness, not after the damage is done," said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC. "Consumers need to ask themselves if taking on unmanageable debt this holiday season is worth putting their financial well-being at risk."
Watch the late and over-limit fees, because they can cause balances to grow to an unmanageable level. Issuers may charge a late fee of $25 with the first late payment and with 45 days notice increase the annual percentage rate (APR) to a higher interest rate on new purchases. However, consumers who make late payments more than once in a six-month period may be assessed a higher late fee with the penalty APR also applied to existing balances.
Consumers can utilize the NFCC's free online financial self-assessment tool at www.MyHolidayCheckUp.org to receive a quick snapshot of their current financial picture to make wise spending decisions before they embark on a shopping spree.
Nearly half of Americans (43.2%) don't plan on changing their spending habits this year, but almost one in seven are more likely to sign up for store credit cards to get discounts during the holidays, according to a recent survey conducted by Hearst-owned account management service Manilla.com.
The survey also found significant differences in holiday spending plans in various areas of the country, as well as between men and women.
"Given the current economic situation, we felt it was important to look at consumer spending and credit card habits for the holidays, particularly at how behavior differs this time of year and how this year's behavior will compare to last year's," said Jim Schinella, CEO of Manilla. "We found that expectations for holiday spending differed across regions, with some areas planning significantly less spending than last year while others plan to spend about the same, pointing to the fact that not everyone is impacted equally by current financial realities."