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Managing credit card debt during the holiday season

At this time of the year, it's all but impossible to open the newspaper, turn on the television or use your smartphone without being bombarded with advertising for holiday-related sales.

While it can be easy to tune out most of these ads, it goes without saying that some will undoubtedly manage to pique your interest and maybe even cause you to use your credit card to make a spur of the moment purchase.

In general, an impulse purchase -- or two -- likely won't cause any major money issues. However, if consumers get caught up in a holiday spending frenzy -- caving to their every spending desire and blindly putting everything on their credit card -- it can rapidly result in serious financial problems further down the road.

The good news is that there are a few basic steps that consumers can take to manage their spending habits and help ensure that they emerge from the holiday shopping season unscathed.  

  • Plan ahead: Experts recommend that consumers create a comprehensive shopping list outlining everyone they plan to buy some something for over the holidays and the amount of money they envision spending for each person. If the total amount to be charged seems somewhat high, they advise sitting down to make the necessary adjustments.  
  • Get busy shopping: Once the list is in place, experts recommend consumers start shopping sooner than later in order to capitalize on sales and avoid the inevitable product markups later in the season.
  • Carefully examine purchasing options: While the idea of opening a store credit card to get a 10-20 percent discount may seem like a viable option, experts urge consumers to understand that not only do these store credit cards typically have higher interest rates, but that failure to make timely payments will result in the forfeiture of these initial discounts.
  • Plan to pay down holiday debt: Perhaps most importantly, experts advise consumers to stay within their budget, as it will mean they can pay off their credit card debt quickly. This, in turn, will help them maximize benefits (points, cash back, etc.) and avoid starting 2016 in the red.

If credit card debt has become insurmountable, it's important to understand that you are not without options. For example, an experienced legal professional can help you explore your debt relief options, including the fresh start offered by personal bankruptcy. 

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