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Holiday Shopping Puts Some North Carolinians in the Red

PHOTO: With 15 days left until Christmas, holiday shopping is in full swing. But many people are spending money they don't have.
PHOTO: With 15 days left until Christmas, holiday shopping is in full swing. But many people are spending money they don't have.
December 10, 2012

RALEIGH, N.C. - With 15 days left until Christmas, holiday shopping is in full swing, but many people are spending money they don't have, consumer advocates say. The average person will spend a little more than $700 on the holidays this year, between gifts and decorations, according to the National Retail Federation.

With 52 percent of North Carolinians living paycheck to paycheck, often that's money they don't really have, warns Ellen Harnick, senior policy counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending.

"Anyone who you love enough to be out there shopping for a gift for, does not want you to take on a debt obligation that's going to put you in financial peril for the rest of the year."

Harnick says it's important to set a reasonable budget and stick to it, rather than run up your credit cards to buy gifts. She says one in eight Americans has more than $10,000 in credit card debt, and they soon realize that it's a hard cycle to get out of.

Harnick warns against opting for payday loans, which are against the law in North Carolina, but readily available online or from neighboring states.

"Getting the loan, even at a rate charged by a finance company, can set you on a cycle where it's very, very hard to dig out."

The rates charged by payday lending companies can be as high as 400 percent. Harnick recommends spending within your budget this year and, starting in January, putting away money each month to fund your 2013 holiday spending.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC