Consumers haunted by the ghost of Christmas Past

Family Credit Counseling Service announces new survey

CHICAGO—If you are concerned about spending too much this holiday season, you are not alone. According to Family Credit Counseling Service’s (FCCS) annual Financial Stress Survey of more than 1,500 consumers with credit card debt, four in 10 individuals have regrets about spending too much on gifts.

While most people associate holiday spending with gifts, that is just the beginning. “In addition to gifts, we spend money on wrapping, food, decorations and charitable contributions. It’s amazing how quickly all of this can add up,” said Michael McAuliffe, president of Family Credit Counseling Service.

To avoid regret when your January credit card statement arrives, start planning now. The experts at FCCS provide the following tips for reasonable holiday spending:

1. Don’t get caught up in the emotions of the season. Once you’ve determined your budget, stick to it. One thoughtful gift purchased on a budget can be better than numerous impulse buys.

2. If you use credit, choose wisely. Department stores usually charge a higher interest rate when using their credit cards than a major credit card such as Visa or MasterCard would charge. Better yet, use your debit card instead. Just be sure there is enough money in your account to cover your purchases to avoid overdraft charges.

3. Avoid the temptation of payday lenders. Many may charge more than 1000 percent interest!

4. Keep your receipts. Many stores offer price adjustments within 14 days of purchase. If you see the item on sale for a lower price within the specified period, be sure to ask for a refund of the difference.

5. Start a new trend. Exchange gifts with friends and family after Christmas. This will allow you to buy gifts during after-Christmas sales. Say goodbye to regrets after seeing that must-have gift for half off!

6. Buy next year’s decorations this year. You will have one less thing to purchase next year, and can save 50-75 percent off the retail prices when shopping after Christmas.

7. Shop online. Where else can you save on both money and time? Many retailers offer free shipping, and a simple search on a search engine such as Google will often provide coupon codes for additional savings.

Remember, you can avoid the Ghost of Christmas Past by confronting the Ghost of Christmas Present.

Family Credit Counseling Service (FCCS) is a non-profit agency providing an alternative for those seeking financial assistance. FCCS is one of the largest consumer credit counseling agencies and has been assisting consumers throughout the country for more than 10 years. FCCS’ mission is to reduce the stress in consumers’ lives through education, budget counseling and debt management. For more information or to obtain a copy of the 2005 Annual Financial Stress Survey, call 1-800-994-3328, ext. 108 or visit or

From the Nov. 30-Dec. 6, 2005, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!