As consumers head off to the malls the day after Thanksgiving, kicking off the biggest shopping season of the year, Genus Credit Management today launches its automated Holiday Hotline. The interactive, strictly confidential Holiday Hotline 888-GENUS 12, is a valuable tool for shoppers looking to devise affordable budgets for holiday purchases.
Without a smart budget or a workshop of Santa’s elves to make gift giving affordable, holiday spending can often times lead many Americans into debt. To help consumers spend wisely during this season of giving, the 24-hour hotline will help consumers develop an effective spending plan based on their financial income, current debt, estimated number of presents to buy, price range of these gifts, among other considerations. The hotline also offers tips on good money skills to adopt when holiday shopping and entertaining to prevent credit or debt problems. Internet users can also access the holiday budget worksheet and other useful holiday tips by visiting the Genus website at http://www.Genus.org.
“Keeping holiday spending under control does not mean that you have to become a Scrooge when it comes to buying gifts for loved ones. Instead, you must simply learn how to use credit responsibly,” says Bernie Dancel, founder and CEO of Genus Credit Management, a non-profit organization that provides free debt management and education to over 40,000 consumers nationwide each month.
During last year’s holiday shopping season, 50 percent of Americans spent nearly $300 more than their intended average gift budget of $715. Swept up by the season of giving, shoppers spent 42 percent more than they anticipated. This is the type of overspending that leaves many consumers facing credit trouble into the New Year. While it may take only moments of generosity to accumulate debt, paying it off may take years. For example, it takes 23 years to pay off a $1,900 balance by making only the minimum monthly payment, according to Bankcard Holders of America.
“We encourage consumers to be conscientious about their spending limits before they shop so that they don’t find themselves overwhelmed by debt in the new year,” says Mr. Dancel. “We hope our holiday promotion attracts more consumers to seek our help in gaining better control of their financial situations before they are in serious trouble. Our new hotline is accessible to anyone, anytime of the day or night.”
Here’s a few tips from Genus Credit Management to avoid overspending during the Holidays:
— Devise a holiday spending plan. Make sure the plan includes items such as holiday dinners, entertainment and travel expenses and decorations.
— Consider where you are in your credit card’s billing cycle and make purchases in the beginning of the cycle, when you have the longest period of time before your payment is due.
— Make a gift-giving list for loved ones with the amount to be spent on each gift… and stick to it! Keep track of what you’ve spent, so if you do overspend on one gift, adjustments can be made to your list.
— Identify which of your credit cards carries the lowest interest and consider it for making holiday purchases. Calculate the card’s interest rate into the cost of the purchase to determine the affordability.
— Consider using a Smart Card or Debit Card for purchases to prevent the accumulation of debt.
— Start saving in advance to increase your cash allowance for holiday spending. For example, if you buy lunch everyday at work, brown-bag it for the next few weeks. This savings will provide the resources to buy gifts without interest and help pay off your expenses after the holidays.
Consumer debt has soared 39 percent in the last five years and now exceeds $1 trillion, according to the Consumer Credit Delinquency Bulletin. For every dollar of income earned over the past five years, consumers spend $1.10. Last year, more than 1 million consumers filed for personal bankruptcies, discharging $30 billion in consumer debt.
Based in Columbia, Md., Genus Credit Management provides confidential counseling and education about debt management to thousands of consumers each week. Through its services, Genus Credit Management aims to help consumers recognize poor credit behaviors as a preemptive way to head-off serious debt problems. Its credit counselors can provide immediate relief to individuals with debt problems, offering affordable repayment schedules for managing outstanding debt.
Genus Credit Management also offers a free Debt Management Program to help consumers manage credit wisely, overcome financial hardships and avoid bankruptcy. Through its Debt Management Program, Genus Credit Management negotiates with creditors to reduce interest and monthly payments and eliminate fees. The organization assists consumers by customizing an affordable, consistent payment process without creating additional loans.
Since 1992, the organization has grown by 300 percent annually. Currently, Genus Credit Management’s workforce totals more than 450 members. By the end of 1997, Genus Credit Management expects to employ more than 600 staff members. For more information, please contact Genus Credit Management at 800-955-0412.
Consumers can access the holiday budget worksheets and other valuable information by visiting the Genus website, at http://www.Genus.org.