Monday, November 30, 2009

Black Friday: The day debt takes over

"Black Friday" is over, but that's only the beginning of the holiday shopping season. And that means it's only the beginning of a lot of trouble with debt for some consumers.

Black Friday is a great name for the start of holiday shopping not because it's the day that most retailers turn a profit for the year (which is actually no longer true), but because ominously, so many people doing their holiday shopping start plunging into credit card debt when the doorbuster sale ads start appearing.

Consider: The National Retail Federation said that holiday shoppers spent a total of $41.2 billion last weekend, with the average per-person being $343.31. That's less than the $372.57 per person consumers spent last Black Friday weekend but still, more people plan to use their credit cards for holiday shopping --28.3 percent -- than cash --about 25 percent.

Last year the numbers were worse, with more than 30 percent using credit cards for their holiday shopping. But think about it: even in this economy, even with credit card issuers jacking up rates sky high, nearly a third of consumers are buying holiday gifts on credit.

Since most people don't carry around as much cash as is available on their credit cards (and many don't even have that much in the bank). That makes it easy to overspend especially when every store you walk past has a sale going on.

So if you're shopping this year, try to live by two simple rules: 1) Make and stick to a budget and 2) spend it all in cash. If you can't pay for it up front, you don't need it, no matter how cheap it is.

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