Preparing for the Holidays

Tip #1: Open a Christmas Club Account 

Force yourself to save by regularly setting aside small amounts of money.  Starting now, if you saved $10/week until mid-November, you'd have over $150 for Christmas shopping!  Here's how one of our staff members started using a Christmas Club account:

"I've never been ready for Christmas before.  Every year in November I start panicking, looking for a second job, wondering how I'm going to be able to afford all that the holidays entails.  After struggling through Christmas once again, I swore I'd do things differently this next year.  So in January I went to my bank and opened a free Christmas Club account.

"Every time a paycheck gets deposited, $20 is automatically transferred from my checking account to my Christmas account.  For me, $20 is a lot of money!  But because it's done as soon as my paycheck is deposited, I really don't notice that I'm having to get by without that amount.

"I am a spender, not a saver.  So it's really a challenge for me to put money aside for later.  But because it's done automatically and in small amounts, it's been easier for me to prepare little by little over a longer period of time.  In fact, by the end of October, I'm going to have $440 in my Christmas account!

"Ordinarily, I'd be tempted to withdraw some money early because I might see something I 'need.'  But if I try to take money out before November, my bank will charge me $30 just for making an early withdrawal.  That penalty fee is like a little slap on the hand to keep me in line.  I'm not going to be willing to give up $30 like that, so I'm not going to be making any early withdrawals unless it's a true emergency!

"This year, as Christmas approaches, I haven't felt any of the fear or dread that I'm used to!  I don't have to worry about how I'm going to afford presents, parties, traveling, or any other holiday costs.  And once the new year arrives, I won't have to deal with holiday debt on my credit card.  Christmas 2013 is going to be incredible!"

For more information on participating in a Christmas Club, click here.


Most Consumers Will Cut Back or Spend Zero on Holiday Purchases

For the fourth year in a row, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling's (NFCC) November poll revealed that the overwhelming majority of consumers intend to either spend less than the previous year or nothing at all on holiday purchases.

The poll began querying consumers on holiday spending habits in 2010, one year after the recession officially ended.  Taken in totality, the four-year set of data reveals only a modest gain in consumer optimism toward spending from year one to date.  Combined with the fact that the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index decreased sharply in October, it appears that consumers are still not inclined to begin spending, even for holiday purchases.

Taking a closer look at the four years of polling data reveals the following:

  • Data from years 2010 and 2011 reflect the most extreme periods of hardship, with identical results of 91 percent of respondents indicating they would spend less or zero on holiday purchases.
  • The most significant jump came between 2011 and 2012, with a four percent year-over-year drop to 87 percent of consumers falling into the less or none at all spending categories, suggesting a modestly increased optimism toward spending.   
  • There was no statistical difference between 2012 and 2013 data, with the most recent year revealing that 86 percent of more than 1,400 respondents selecting these categories as most representative of their holiday spending plans.

"The statistics speak loudly, and underscore that consumers are not willing to repeat the mistakes of Christmases past by spending irresponsibly this year," said LaTricia Schobert, Director of Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS). "The persistently high rate of unemployment coupled with the long duration of unemployment are still very real challenges many people are facing."

Looking at the other poll answer options, 11 percent intend to spend as they did last year, stating that their financial situation is stable, while 3 percent will spend more, feeling as though they are in a better financial position this year.  These numbers are identical to 2012 results.

Holiday spending can financially make or break retailers. The same is true for consumers. To be better prepared for holiday shopping, the NFCC encourages people to take a snapshot of their current financial situation now by utilizing the free, online financial self-assessment tool, MyHolidayCheckUp available at  By taking advantage of this resource, consumers can know where they stand today and better plan their holiday spending. 

For answers and solutions to your financial concerns, check out CCCS' new three-step financial program Sharpen Your Financial Focus.  To learn more, call (423) 490-5620 or email

The actual November poll question and responses are as follows:

This holiday season I will…

A. Spend as I did last year because my financial life is stable = 11%  
B. Cut back on spending, since I am worse off financially this year = 53%
C. Spend more than last year because I am in a better financial position = 3%
D. Not spend at all, because I anticipate further financial distress = 33%

Note: The NFCC's November Financial Literacy Opinion Index was conducted via the homepage of the NFCC Web site ( from November 1 - 30, 2013 and was answered by 1,408 individuals.

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), founded in 1951, is the nation's largest and longest serving national nonprofit credit counseling organization. The NFCC's mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services. NFCC Members annually help millions of consumers through more than 600 community-based offices nationwide.

4 Tips to Survive Black Friday

September 10th, 2018

Black Friday is almost a week away and many shoppers are gearing up for big savings!  But nowadays, Black Friday isn't always the best day to get deals - we've also got Gray Thursday (Thanksgiving Day), Cyber Monday, and the weekend in between!  No matter which days you're shopping on, use these tips to save the most money.

1. Determine a Spending Plan

Figure out the total amount you can afford to spend over the holidays.  Don't just take into account Christmas presents - also consider how much you'll spend on food, decorations, parties, holiday events, etc.  Be realistic and set reasonable expectations with your family.  You don't want to find yourself in the midst of Christmas 2014 still paying for the things you bought this season!  Once you've determined how much you'll spend on gifts, you can divide that amount by the number of people you're buying for.  Now you know how much you can afford to spend on each person.

2. Determine a Shopping Plan

Now that you know how much you can spend, you can start figuring out what you want to buy.  Use deal websites like and to find the best deals.  If you don't know have specific items in mind, some sites many sites will allow you to sort by price.  The weekend of Black Friday you'll be sure to find lots of steals in the $10 or less category! 

3.  Don't shop for yourself!

The National Retail Federal recently determined that the average consumer spends 18% of their holiday budget on themselves.  It can be difficult to curb spending impulses as you shop for everyone else, but if you can prevent yourself from buying for yourself, you'll likely save quite a bit of money!

4. Use gift cards

Do you have any gift cards lying around that you've never used?  Perhaps they're for stores you seldom frequent?  Use them to buy presents for others!  That store you never shop at could be a favorite of a certain friend or family member.  If you don't have any extra gift cards and you plan to buy particular items from particular stores, you may want to buy a discounted gift card!  Lots of websites re-sell gift cards - that $20 gift card your Aunt Theresa gave you to the Hallmark store may not be your cup of tea.  But you can sell it on a website like and get $20 cash for it!  When you're the one buying a discounted gift card, it's almost like using a $5 off coupon in the store. 

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