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No More Shock

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Its the most wonderful time of the year, and Citibank would like to help you keep it that way. The National Retail Federation recently conducted a survey that indicates that the average consumer expects to spend in excess of $800 this holiday season, bringing overall holiday spending close to $174 billion nationwide.
Consumers are warned to avoid overconfidence in a strong economy, and to budget wisely for holiday-related gifts, travel, entertaining and other expenses. With so many channels through which purchases of goods and services can now be made (stores, catalogues, the Internet and home shopping networks), it is easy to see how many may lose track of their spending. Credit card spending can seem painless at the point of purchase, but statement shock sets in when the January bills begin to arrive.

To help consumers keep tabs on holiday spending, Citibank is once again offering its Credit Minder, a free money management tool, in a checkbook-register format, to allow a cardholder to record all purchases or advances, payments, returns and interest charges as they occur. The register has a pocket for only one credit card, encouraging the consumer to limit spending to only one card at a time. The Credit Minder is available free to anyone by calling 800-669-2635.

Citibank also offers the following Five Tips to Avoid Holiday Overspending:

1. Take your credit pulse. Before beginning holiday spending, determine how much credit you can comfortably manage, set a limit, and stick to it. As a general rule of thumb, your total installment debt shouldnt exceed 20 percent of your annual take-home pay.

2. Beware of credit card spending limits. You are the best judge of what you can afford, and should avoid spending to the limits issued by the credit card companies.

3. Lighten your wallet. Take only one or two credit cards along as you shop, making it easier to keep track of your spending.

4. Take advantage of holiday bargains that are traditionally offered between Thanksgiving and the New Year, but always ask yourself, Would I buy this if it werent on sale?

5. Think about what youre charging. Sometimes it might be wiser to pay cash for those small purchases. They can add up, seriously affecting your January statement.

Of course, its important to manage credit wisely throughout the year, but holidays provide extra temptation. Avoid statement shock in January by spending carefully now.

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