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Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Holidays are Less Than Four Months Away - Start Planning Now
CCCS of Greater Dallas helps consumers prepare for a successful holiday season

Media contact:
Michelle Jones/Chase York
HCK2 Partners
PR Support for CCCS Dallas

Dallas - August 26, 2010 -As of today, Christmas is less than four months away. As our economy continues to slowly recover, consumers' holiday budgets will be limited this year. Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Dallas (CCCS of Greater Dallas) encourages saving and planning now to avoid a season filled with stress and worry.

"With budgets remaining tight, consumers will have to pay critical attention to how they spend this holiday season," said Todd Mark, vice president of education for CCCS of Greater Dallas. "Most retailers will likely offer promotions and extended layaway programs to encourage spending and mitigate the effects of the recession, but a plan of action will still be necessary to avoid a New Year full of debt."

CCCS of Greater Dallas offers consumers the following tips to smartly plan their holiday budget.

1. Remember: time is on your side. With the holidays almost four months away, smart consumers can start planning and saving now to make this holiday season a great one - even if there is less money in the bank. Putting any money aside now can help alleviate debt in the New Year and beyond.

2. Don't rely on holiday bonuses. While you may have become accustomed to receiving a holiday bonus at the end of every year, many companies will likely reduce these bonuses to small amounts or give out gift cards instead due to the recession. Don't incorporate the dollar amount you're used to getting. Instead spend what you can currently afford, and put any bonus money into savings once it is received.

3. Develop a plan of action. Figure out how much money you can realistically save in four months. Then, make a list of everyone you have to shop for - and place a dollar amount next to each name. In addition to gifts, include all other expenses in your holiday spending plan, such as charitable donations, food for dinners and parties, holiday travel, shipping, wrapping, cards and home decorations. Knowing these costs several months in advance will allow you to save appropriately.

4. Get a seasonal job. If necessary, consider getting a seasonal job to cover holiday spending. Most retailers hire extra help around the holidays, and right now is the ideal time to inquire about those positions. Competition will be tougher than previous years, but starting out early will help. Think strategically of where you may work - often the employee discount may be more valuable than the cash earned for one or two shifts a week. For example, if you know you're purchasing a flat screen television for the family this year, consider getting a job at an electronic store.

5. Consider layaway. Many retailers have returned to offering in-store and online layaway plans. Lawaway allows you to purchase an item without paying the entire cost at once. You are able to set-up a payment plan and take the item home once it is paid in full. If the transaction is not completed, the item is returned to stock and your money is returned. There are sometimes fees associated with the seller's storage of the item or cancelation, so be sure to read the fine print and account for all costs involved. Stores, such as Toys "R" Us, Sears, Best Buy, Kmart, TJ Maxx and Burlington Coat Factory offer layaway options, however availability can vary by store location.

6. Use credit cards and methods of payment strategically. Plan to use one credit card for holiday shopping, specifically one with the lowest interest rate. Know your holiday spending budget and don't charge more than you can safely pay off in three months. Ideally, use your credit as you would cash - what you can pay off on time and in full. Cash is usually the best means of shopping for the impulsive and those without discipline - because you know how much you're spending. Credit cards are best used for gifts being shipped, services to be delivered later, or anything bought online, as you have charge-back rights.

CCCS of Greater Dallas can help plan your budget for the holidays and the entire year. For more information on budget or credit counseling, or one of our free classes or webinars, contact CCCS of Greater Dallas at 800-249-2227 or visit www.cccs.net.

About CCCS of Greater Dallas
Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Dallas, Inc. is a nonprofit, community based credit counseling and debt management service. Established in 1974, CCCS of Greater Dallas and its affiliate offices provide financial education and counseling to consumers in-person, by phone, or Internet at more than 20 locations in four states. CCCS of Greater Dallas is a HUD-approved housing counseling multi-state organization and serves as one of eight counseling agencies supporting the 888-995-HOPE Hotline. The agency is also a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), the nation's largest and longest serving national non-profit credit counseling network. To learn more about CCCS of Greater Dallas' free seminars or the agency's services www.cccs.net.


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