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Will The Economy Be A Holiday “Scrooge?”

December 4, 2008

St. Paul, MN – Word that the nation is officially in a recession adds to concerns that this may be a difficult holiday season for consumers and retailers. While there's not much an individual can do about the overall economy, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota financial counselor Darryl Dahlheimer says there are ways to get a handle on personal finances.

"What you can control is your income and your spending. Keep your job and look for part-time jobs to supplement your income. Downsize Christmas gifts. Eat out less. Look at ways to save energy and drive less."

Dahlheimer says consumer pressures include tight credit, higher costs for essentials such as health care and housing, and a loss of assets in the financial markets. Too many people, he notes, have too much tied up in consumer debt. Unpaid debt leads to higher interest rates, late fees and more borrowing to pay debt. The cycle can be broken, however, he says.

"If you cut up your credit cards and make monthly payments to your creditors, not only does your credit improve because you're paying on time, but all the late fees stop and the interest rates go down. It's a great way to not have new debt."

The most important recommendation, he says, is to avoid getting into debt in the first place: Don't borrow, and spend only what you can afford.

One tool to help shoppers stay within their limits is the online "Scrooge-O-Meter," which calculates how long it will take consumers to pay off their holiday debts. It can be accessed by clicking "financial counseling," then "Scrooge-O-Meter," at www.LSSMN.org.

Jim Wishner, Public News Service - MN