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The Twelve Months of Christmas

Merry Christmas! Happy Chanukah! Happy Quanzaa! If I have neglected to name your specific holiday... Happy Holidays to you! May you all celebrate the holiday season surrounded with all of those you love and connect with someone you haven't spoken to in some time!

December is a wonderful time of the year, filed with holiday mirth... and obligations... and stress... and debt. It's a time to go shopping, spend like you won the lottery on gifts you wouldn't ordinarily give or consider spending money on. The joy of giving turns into the nightmare of paying... usually just long enough after the party to forget why you were so indulgent. Yes, ultimately the bills will arrive and the stress sets in. If you are in the minority, you pay off your balance monthly, saving having to pay the credit card company what should be an unlawful interest rate, and realize much of your payment goes to interest, barely touching the principal. If you're in the majority though, the above nightmare begins- welcome to Groundhog Day or Ground Hog month- the bill keeps coming, you pay, the balance doesn't seem to go down, next month repeat and get stressed all over again. If you find yourself in this vicious cycle, there is a way out...

Americans have a love affair with plastic. Bout the recyclable kind... the addictive kind. Living on credit has become a way of life for many, to some a drug of choice. Something happens at the time of purchase that blocks out the obligation of paying the debt when seeing something you want. Want vs. need are two very different thing: want is usually an impulsive emotion: need is, well, you need it. You need food, housing, clothing, a roof over your head. You want a bigger TV, a newer car, that fancy Saturday night outfit. Just looking at the difference between want and need may save you from falling into the black hole of debt. Just ask yourself if this purchase is a want or a need... and be honest with yourself. Think about what it will feel like when the twinkling lights are gone, and you're left holding the bill. Think about it before you whip out the card- we all know what it feels like to feel helpless when our budget is too tight to pay a bill. Its not a particular warm and fuzzy...

If you do find yourself in the black hole of debt, there is a way out- if you are serious enough and have the fortitude to do the work. It takes a plan, not unlike any other task. Just discriminately throwing minimum payments at the companies won't make them go away- you have to have a plan. The US Government reported that in the first quarter of 2018, consumer debt was at an all-time high of $13.2 trillion (yes, with a "T"!). It appears that the past has not been a lesson for many of the future: living on plastic is here to stay, unless you choose to send it away. A Federal Reserve survey reported last year that 35% of adults admitted they could not pay all of their bills if faced with an emergency. Likewise, over extension of debt cuts into the ability to save. Most charges went to restaurant bill (18%, grocery expenses (10%), followed by entertainment (7%). The rest was spread out amongst 10 other expenses, with the remaining 27% going to miscellaneous-meaning... who knows?

Do yourself a favor: before you whip out the card, ask yourself 2 questions: the first... is this a need or a want? The second... can I pay this balance off in full at the end of the month? You have the power to keep yourself out of the great hole of debt- don't stress for the next year on things you bought in December- you'll have a much happier holiday season.

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