Don’t Let The Holidays Detour You From Your Financial Goals

    November 24, 2003

Do you dread going to your mailbox and finding yet another credit card bill? Do you find yourself worrying about how you’ll pay your bills from one month to the next ?

Guess what ? You’re not alone. Almost half the households in America report having difficulty paying their minimum monthly payments on credit card bills and other debts.

We have become a nation hooked on credit. Recent government statistics on American debt show that:

~ Over 40% of US families spend more than they earn.

~ The typical U.S. household has an average credit-card balance of $8,940.

~ Credit card debt is up 36% from just 5 years ago.

~ 92% of U.S. family disposable income is spent on paying debts, up from 65% in 1975.

How did we get ourselves in such a mess ? According to Dayana Yochim, a journalist and teacher for The Motley Fool, “It’s not just that we’re borrowing more money and paying it back more slowly; it’s that we’re spending money we used to consider off-limits.”

Yochim points to the popularity of home equity loans and lines of credit as just one example. “Home equity loans are more popular than ever as people borrow against their home to feed their spending binge.”

According to a BusinessWeek report, total household debt topped 100% of disposable annual income last year for the first time ever.

“The problem with credit for many people is that it’s just too easy to get into a rut with bad spending habits,” says Rich Vorland of Consumer Credit Counseling. “Credit gives everyone the instant gratification of getting something they want right now. We don’t have to save up for it. We don’t have think of how we’ll pay for it until the bill arrives.”

And therein lies the problem for many holiday shoppers. Too often we pull out the plastic without thinking of how we’ll actually pay for the things we buy. How many of us are still paying off credit card debt from last year’s holidays? Adding additional debt will only keep you buried in debt for many more years.

For example, let’s say you have a credit card debt of $2500 with an APR of 18%. If you only pay the minimum amount due it will take you 20 YEARS to pay off your balance, assuming of course you don’t make any other credit purchases. On top of that you will have paid your credit card company a whopping $3,365.51 in interest!

If you’ve been working to eliminate or pay down credit card debt, don’t let the holidays detour you from that goal. Use only cash to pay for the presents you plan to buy. If you must use a credit card, set a goal to pay off that debt within one to two months. Otherwise you’ll be right back where you started from or even worse – further and further in debt.

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