During this Holiday Season avoid a meeting with "The Ghost of Christmas Past"! That "ghost" is the remaining debt you still owe from past Christmas's! Here are some tips that will help you avoid this ghost!

SAN DIEGO, CA - This timely reminder about planning ahead for Holiday spending comes from Jim Garnett, a/k/a Ask MrG, who is a member of the ICFE Board of Advisors and the Education Coordinator for Consumer Credit of America a/k/a Consumer Credit of Des Moines.

To have a question answered by Jim, contact him at: AskMrG@yahoo.com

1. Plan Your Christmas. Think about Christmas before it is upon you by setting aside money year round through a "Christmas Club", a special savings account, or by saving change in a bottle. Also shop for bargains in January for next Christmas.

2. Proportion Your Christmas. Your gifts should be proportioned by what you can afford, not by what you have access to buy. Most of us have access to more credit than we ever need. Determine what you can afford by how much actual money you can spend toward Christmas. And be sure you are the person who determines affordability; the salesperson will not be there to help you pay the bill as it comes due.

3. Pay For Your Christmas. Christmases charged on credit cards can easily come back to "haunt" us. Consider that the average amount charged on credit cards for Christmas is around $1000 per family. If minimum payments are made toward that debt at 12% interest, it will take over 8 years to repay it with an additional $545 interest charge. That means your kindergartner's Christmas won't be paid off until he graduates from 8th grade! And that is only one Christmas. Often our Christmas debt is "layered" year after year! It is much better to simply pay for your Christmas each year within the boundaries of what you can actually afford.

4. Personalize Your Christmas. Why not put some real thought into this Christmas and make something instead of buy something. Gifts like baked goods, handmade ornaments, or even pictures of the kids give your Christmas the personal touch. You will substitute labor and creativity for cost, and your gifts will be just as, if not more so, appreciated.