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Tempering the Holiday Spirit to Fit the Holiday Budget

November 28, 2011

RALEIGH, N.C. - The cost of holiday gifts can linger much longer than the joy of giving. North Carolina has the second-highest amount of credit card debt in the country, according to credit-tracker Transunion, and with unemployment on the rise, even more people may decide to borrow money to buy presents.

Payday loans are among the temptations. While they are illegal in the Tar Heel State, border states still offer them, and even some large banks have them as loan options.

Chris Kukla, senior counsel for government affairs with the Center for Responsible Lending in Raleigh, cautions that these are rarely a good deal for borrowers.

"The average customer takes out multiple loans; they don't just take out one. And so, once you start to take out multiple loans, that's when the fees start to outpace whatever you might have borrowed."

If a payday loan isn't repaid on time, the interest rate can climb to several hundred percent.

North Carolina also has the 13th-highest amount of credit card delinquency in the country.

For people using their credit cards to make purchases, Josh Frank, senior researcher at the Center for Responsible Lending, advises taking extra precautions this year to avoid overspending.

"The best way to spend on the holidays is not to borrow. You can use your credit card, but only spend what you know you can pay off."

Experts also advise shopping with a list of specific items rather than browsing.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC