Overwhelming holiday bills? BBB offers advice

John North, Dayton Better Business Bureau president. CONTRIBUTED
John North, Dayton Better Business Bureau president. CONTRIBUTED

Bills are rolling in for holiday spending for many in the Miami Valley. According to an Experian Holiday Shopping Survey, over 60 percent of adults admit holiday shopping puts a major strain on finances. Every year consumers spend more than they expect to during the holiday season, burying many in debt.

In 2017 alone, the National Retail Federation (NRF) reported consumers spent an average $967.13 per household on the winter holidays. However, by dedicating yourself to use your credit responsibly and sticking to a budget, you can effectively pay off your debt and start saving.

Better Business Bureau offers some advice to help you get started:

• Review your holiday spending. Create a list of your credit card debt and add it up. Before you can fix the problem, you need to understand how bad it is.

• Design a plan to tackle your debt. Total up regular monthly expenses and develop a plan detailing how much you can pay, insuring income exceeds expenses each month. Look at ways to cut spending to contribute more to debt repayment. Always pay more than the minimum payment on credit cards.

• Stop using credit cards. Put your credit cards away and pay with cash or a debit card to avoid going further in debt.

• Make extra payments whenever possible. Use extra cash, such as a gift, raise or tax refund to make extra payments.

• Ask creditors to reduce interest rates or provide a new payment schedule. Discuss the challenges you are facing and assure them you’ll remain a loyal customer. With a good credit score, you can also lower your interest rate by transferring balances to a low-rate card.

• Avoid quick fixes. Many are scam artists who will take advantage of you.

• Consult a professional. A credit counseling agency can teach you how to manage your money and assist you in negotiating payments with creditors.

• Start saving for next year. Put away a little extra cash for next year’s holiday season. Consider opening a holiday account with your financial institution.

Struggling with holiday debt is stressful, and it can take over the New Year if not handled. Start early and tackle credit card debt with a specialized plan. If you are considering professional help, visit www.bbb.org or call (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301 for a list of BBB Accredited Businesses and Business Profiles on ones you're considering.

John North is president of the Dayton Better Business Bureau.