By Dave Jordan, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Many people will spend the New Year paying off old debt, as Americans owe billions of dollars to credit card companies.
Anyone with a credit card and a huge spending limit will say it doesn't take long to rack up debt, which is around 24,000 people receive help from financial services.
"It really seems this year, people are more concerned about their finances than in years past," said Jennifer Wallis of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service. "A lot of times around the holidays, they just tend to not think about their finances, but I think this time, they weren't able to ignore it."
The country's economy was front page news most of this years as banks and investment corporations collapsed.
"We cannot close our eyes to the fact that there are financial problems out there and Oklahomans are struggling," Wallis said.
Jennifer Wallis planned to help financially-strapped debt-laden consumers. She said the first step is to develop a plan to pay off Christmas credit card debt immediately.
"Try to pay it back within a 90-day period so that you're not still paying for it next year at Christmas," Wallis said.
She then recommends having a specific spending plan in place for monthly expenses like mortgage or rent, utilities and car payments, and to stick to it.
"The days of just kind of floating through without having a really solid map of where to go are over," Wallis said.
Wallis also said that it is vital to save however much you can afford.
"I don't care if it's $5 a paycheck," Wallis said. "If you can start saving that and putting that away in a savings account and letting it sit there. The joy of seeing how your money is growing is going to inspire you to save even more.
Wallis has another tip for holiday shoppers. She advises figuring out how much money is spent this year, divide that by 12 and set that amount aside for next year holiday season.
Jennifer Wallis also cautions against paying money for credit counseling. She said legitimate credit counselors charge nothing for counseling, although there is a small fee once to take part in a debt-reduction program.