Consumer Watch: Paying Off Your Holiday Debt Without Getting Scammed

Wednesday, January 5th 2011, 10:46 pm
By: News 9

Amanda Taylor, News 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The hustle and bustle of the holidays is over. But the cost of Christmas can linger on if you racked up a bunch of debt to pay for your gifts. Many Oklahomans turn to debt consolidation services for help.

"You're not going to have to go looking for companies offering debt consolidation services," said Bob Manista, President of the Better Business Bureau of Central Oklahoma. "They're going to be popping out of the woodwork."

Manista said beware of companies that may put you in deeper debt.

"You don't want to be paying huge upfront fees to someone claiming to be a broker that's going to put you in touch with the answer to your prayers," said Manista. "If you're really in over your head and you can't see the bottom and you can't figure out a way out, you probably want to talk to an agency like Consumer Credit Counseling Service."

Consumer Credit Counseling Service is a local non-profit company that helps thousands of people get their finances on track, including Oklahomans who overspent during the holidays.

"You don't want to still be paying for it a year, two years, three years from now," said Jennifer Wallis with Consumer Credit Counseling Service.

And it starts with a plan.

"We suggest people try to pay back that amount of debt within three months if possible," Wallis said.

Another suggestion; find a way to make extra money like have a garage sale or get a part-time job. Use that money solely to pay off debt.

But most importantly, don't be afraid to ask for help.

"Lots of people are in that same situation, so it's nothing to be ashamed of," Wallis said.

"Ideally when you come out the other side of it, you're not going to make the same mistakes you did the first time around," Manista said.

You can do that by preparing for next Christmas now. Add up how much you spent this season. Make sure to not only include gifts, but wrapping paper, decorations, cards, postage and grocery and entertainment expenses. Then divide that total by 12 and save that much each month. You can do that by putting the money into a special savings account. Also, shop sales throughout the year to spread out the cost.