Shopping malls are likely to see a surge of customers this weekend, all trying to check people off their gift lists before Christmas Eve. But credit experts warn that in the rush to finish buying presents, many consumers lose sight of their budgets and pull out the plastic and start swiping.
The National Retail Federation says that consumers will spend an average of $750 each this holiday season, for a total of $586 billion. Much of that is likely to be put of credit cards, and if they aren’t paid off when the bill is due in January those purchases can end up costing more than shoppers bargained for.
Last-minute shoppers often pay more than they had planned. They have already missed most of the best retail sales and the shipping window for online bargains has closed as well.
Tips to avoid credit card debt
Howard Dvorkin of ConsolidatedCredit.org, a credit counseling organization that helps people cope with credit card debt, cautions consumers who are already in debt not to take on more during the holidays.
“Consumers may end up paying for gifts six months or more after the holidays are over,” he says. He offers these tips to people scrambling to get their shopping done this weekend:
- Don’t head out without a plan. Decide what you’ll buy for each person on your list and go to the store that offers the best deal on that item.
- Have a friend who likes to shop go with you to keep you motivated and on task.
- If you run out of time, give an E-card with an online gift certificate so the recipient can pick out exactly what they want.
- Magazine subscriptions can be a good option for those who hate going to the mall. Get the latest copy of the magazine from the newsstand and wrap it up with a note saying you’ve bought them a subscription.
But even with all those tips in your head, that plastic in your hand can do some damage. Those who do end up charging too much on their credit cards during last-minute holiday shopping may want to look into applying for a credit card that offers a zero-interest balance transfer in the new year.