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Holiday Season Debt


The holiday season is the happiest time of year for many people as they spend time with friends and family and exchange gifts.  Contrast that with one of the most stressful times of year, six weeks later, when the credit card bills from those gift purchases arrive in the mail.  The American Research Group says the average family will spend about $800 on Christmas shopping this year, but some families will spend more, to the point theyll be paying for this holiday season far beyond the next.  Horizons credit counselor Scott Shook keeps a reminder of buyers remorse right on his desk.  Its a large fish aquarium full of cut-up credit cards from the people hes helped.  Shook says we buy with our hearts and this is an emotional time of year when it comes to spending. Its usually someone that might use a multiple number of credit cards and dont really keep track of what theyre spending and they just kind of go overboard .. and thousands of dollars is not uncommon. 


Its one of the reasons many churches in the corridor are now offering the class Financial Peace University.  Its a never use plastic plan presented by nationally known money manager Dave Ramsey.  First Lutheran Church Pastor Craig Brown says he hasnt had a credit card in the six years since taking the class.  He says hes never missed it and never missed the debt.  Brown says more than 400 people have graduated from the Financial Peace classes at his church and its a simple concept, if you dont have the money, dont buy the gift.  Set a budget .. say Im going to spend $400 or $500 on Christmas gifts in total this year.  Then you plan ahead the best you can and you take out cash .. and you use cash and that way when the cash is gone the spending is done.  What people tend to do  


Sarah Differding of Cedar Rapids will be the first to tell you she used to be " A terrible spender."  Sarah says she was one of those impulse holiday shoppers who could never keep a dollar in her hand for long.  Differding says she and her husband completely changed their lives when they went through the nine weeks of Financial Peace.  Now they search for deals, pay in cash and start planning for Black Friday in January.  " Fifty bucks a month goes in every month and that's $600 dollars by Christmas .. that's a huge amount to be able to spend on someone for Christmas .. think if you did 100 a month .. that's 12-hundred to spend on Christmas without going into debt. "  


Differding says for many shoppers it's all about keeping up with the Joneses during the holiday season and she says the truth be known, often times the Joneses are deeply in debt too.  Financial counselors say, with a smile on their face, that if we check the calendar we'll notice that Christmas comes on the same day every single year, so we certainly could plan and budget if we wanted to.

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