Why should you worry about next
Christmas in January? Because, if you are like a majority of Americans, you're
getting a ghastly reminder of last year's festivities right about now.
The Ghost of Christmas Past appears in your mailbox
around mid-January, wrapped in credit card bills, chained to an empty safe representing
your depleted bank account. He can make the first few months of the year dreary
with money concerns and busted budgets.
If this is happening
to you -- fear not. Unlike Scrooge, you are not alone in this haunting. While
folks often make a point of saving up a down payment for a car or for their kids'
education, few plan ahead for their annual holiday spending. But it takes an expensive
bite out of consumers' wallets.
The average American spent $835
on Christmas this year, according to the annual holiday spending survey by Myvesta.org,
a nonprofit consumer education organization. That's up from $722 in the 2002 Christmas
Since most people don't plan on the expense of their
giving, those holiday costs were racked up on credit cards. Now many Americans
are receiving those holiday bills.
To make matters worse, the
Ghost of Christmas Past demands finance charges to keep him alive and kicking
well into the new year. One in five Americans will live with this ghoulish reminder
of impulse purchases, last-minute mall runs and overindulged online buying all
the way to Independence Day. At least Scrooge's nightmare only lasted one night.
of letting the Ghost of Christmas Past make your new year miserable, make friends
with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. This helpful ghost is all about planning
ahead -- saving up for those holiday expenses, making lists and checking them
twice, and paying cash to play all those reindeer games.
January heralds the arrival of holiday bills, it's also a traditional time for
a fresh start. This year can be the year you plan on enjoying the holidays like
a kid again -- without money worries.
How to reduce your
Here are a few tips to reduce holiday debt as soon as possible:
- Commit to managing your money every week, not just once
in a while.
- Cut back on day-to-day spending.
a lower-interest credit card. (Bankrate's credit
card search engine is a great place to start.)
ways to bring in extra income, whether it's a part-time job or a garage sale to
get rid of items that are other ugly reminders of Christmases Past.
using your credit cards until they are paid off, and then charge only what you
can pay off the next month.
How to avoid future
Licking that old, gray Ghost of Christmas Past is only
half the battle. The other half is planning ahead with the Ghost of Christmas
Yet to Come:
- Commit yourself to finding ways to
accumulate and save money.
- Start a Christmas
savings account now, and contribute to it regularly for the next holiday season.
your shopping ahead of time. Think like Santa: Make your list, check it twice
and stick to it. This will save you money and time -- both of which are valuable
commodities during the holidays.
The Ghost of
Christmas Past and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come are counterbalances to each
other. With the bills of last Christmas, the credit card interest accrues, giving
you and other Americans an increasing cash crunch with each passing month. Saving
for future holidays puts that interest money in your account and provides you
with a wee bit more for your gift shopping. The choice is yours whether to keep
giving to the Ghost of Christmas Past ... or receive a little gift next fall from
the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
Admittedly, things could
be tight this year when you are saving for next year's Christmas while still paying
for this year's Christmas. If you need to scale back this year's holiday spending
to meet both of these goals, you won't have to be a Scrooge -- just creative.
remember that you'll be enjoying a debt-free Christmas the next holiday season
and beyond. That is the best Christmas present you can give yourself and your