There are just three weeks left until Christmas; plenty of time to pick up gifts for all those on your list, plenty of time to fall into holiday debt, if you're not responsible.
"Nobody plans for Christmas, it comes every year, but nobody plans for it." said Consumer Credit Counselor, Ernesto Aguilar.
Aguilar says shoppers really need to start saving for the shopping season at the start of the year, but many don't, forcing shoppers to rely on their credit cards.
So if you don't have the cash and ‘charging it” is your only option, there are a few tips to help you avoid long term debt.
"Buy only that in which you are able to pay off within six or nine months at the most." said Aguilar.
On top of that, Aguilar says stick with a budget, make your list, check it twice, and then don't stray from the dollar amount you've decided on.
Even if you see a really good deal on something that you didn't budget for, avoid it.
"Even if it's on sale, and it's a great buy, if you have to charge it, it isn't a good buy for you." said Aguilar.
The credit counselor says even if you're saving big bucks initially, because it's on sale, you'll likely end up spending more, simply because you're charging it and that interest accrues rather quickly.
A quick break down of the numbers, let’s take a $50 gift…the average credit card holds a 20% interest rate. If it takes you nearly a year to pay off that amount, you’ll end up paying over $20 in interest. Your $50 gift actually cost closer to 70-bucks when put on a credit card.
Aguilar says credit cards are not the enemy, and it’s not necessarily bad to have one or two, but the cardholder must be responsible in how they use it. He suggests wisely and sparingly.