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Holiday season brings rise in consumer debt

Americans now hold a total of nearly $800 billion in credit card debt, making it one of the largest sources of debt for families. Around the holidays many find that debt can start to balloon, as hosting parties, travel expenses, and gifts begin to add up. This spending typically doesn’t come to light until January when our credit card statements arrive, but when they do it can be a shocking moment.

The important thing to remember when an outstanding credit card bill arrives is that letting it go for too long can only make the problem worse. When debts begin to collect significant interest and accrue late fees, a few hundred dollars can turn into a few thousand quicker than most people realize.

A survey from a non-profit credit counseling organization found that the amount of holiday debt people were willing to take on varied, although in a different way that one might expect. For example, families making $75,000 or more said that they felt $300 in holiday shopping debt was acceptable, while those making $35,000 responded that $700 in consumer debt would be an acceptable amount to take on.

There are various options for resolving outstanding debts, whether it is from credit cards, medical debt, a car loan, or a mortgage. Before making any big decisions, it is best to participate in credit counseling and find out all of the options for your particular situation. Credit counseling is a necessary prerequisite for those who think they may need to declare bankruptcy.

Source: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, "Debt hangover follows holiday fun," Tom Tobin, Dec. 24, 2013

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