July 26, 2014

Survey finds 30% of consumers don’t have plan to pay off holiday bills

Hoping to win the lottery is not a good plan for paying off debts.

Hoping to win the lottery is not a good plan for paying off debts.

Bills are starting to arrive in Nebraskans’ mailboxes from holiday shopping sprees and a survey finds almost 30% of consumers said they have no firm plan to pay off their new debt.

Emily Caropreso, spokeswoman for the Credit Union League, says it’s important to make a budget and stick to it, while saving for unexpected expenses.

“We really advocate for folks to spend responsibly and have a plan in place so that they’re not spending more than what they’ve earned or saved throughout the year,” she says.

Debts can mount quickly with monthly interest fees, so Caropreso says it makes sense to wipe out the balance as quickly as possible.

“Pay it off all at once, if they’re able to, so when they get their credit card bill, just write a check back and pay it off in full so it helps save them in the long run on the monthly interest fees,” Caropreso says.

If that’s not an option, at least make the payments in installments. Creating a payment plan will save hundreds, possibly thousands, in interest charges compared to only paying the minimum.

The survey found 6% of consumers questioned say they’ll use their tax refund checks to pay off their holiday bills.

“Although you’re not able to count on your tax refund every year, if you think you have one coming your way, this might be a good way to pay off your holiday debt all in one chunk,” Caropreso says. “That way you can have that paid off and start saving up for your fun for the next holiday season.”

Another option is the holiday savings account. You can set up a payroll deduction of $25 a month in January and by November 1st, you’ll have $250 saved.

Caropreso also suggests shopping for a new credit card with lower interest rates. She says local credit unions typically offer no-frills credit cards at substantially lower rates.