SOURCE: Take Charge America

November 28, 2008 08:00 ET

Don't Let Black Friday Put You in the Red

Take Charge America Encourages Consumers to Keep Finances in Check

PHOENIX, AZ--(Marketwire - November 28, 2008) - Helping people recover from over-spending during the holiday season is why debt management company Take Charge America (TCA) is busiest in January and February. During these months, the organization receives thousands of calls from panicked consumers looking for ways to get out of debt and restore their credit. TCA encourages people to make preparations before the holiday season, so they do not go overboard and spend beyond their means.

"The holidays put additional stress on often already limited finances, so when the bills start rolling in during January and February, people come to the realization that they are in real trouble," said John Fisher, chief executive officer for TCA. "We encourage consumers to call TCA sooner rather than later, so we can help put them on the right financial path, allowing them to enjoy the new year with much less stress and anxiety."

Consumer education is a top priority for TCA, and as one of the nation's largest financial education and debt management institutions, it places a great deal of emphasis on teaching individuals how to achieve financial independence through simple, easy-to-follow tips and techniques. Mike Sullivan, director of education for TCA, notes that people do not have to max out credit cards and go deep into debt to enjoy the holidays and offers the following tips on how to stay on track financially during this season:

Stick to your shopping list -- and your budget: Prior to braving the crowds at the malls, develop a budget and use it to create a shopping list. Having a clear list helps people stick to their original gift ideas and curbs the urge to spontaneously purchase something that might be more expensive. Also, leave the credit cards at home to ensure that you are spending only what is in your bank account.

Prioritize gift-giving: It is important to identify those for whom you want to spend more, and then cut back in other areas. Maybe gifts are not purchased for co-workers and neighbors this year, but homemade treats are baked and delivered instead. Sacrifices are sometimes needed but people should never feel obligated to over spend.

Discuss a holiday spending strategy: Gather the family together prior to the holiday season and discuss a gift-giving strategy that will allow everyone to work within their budgets. Suggest exchanging names so people need to buy for only one family member or make plans to have a big holiday meal, helping to place less emphasis on presents and more on spending time together as a family.

Give the gift of time: There is a big misconception that the best gifts are the most expensive. In this day and age, busy schedules often get in the way of spending quality time with loved ones. Parents can give the gift of a special one-on-one day with a child, an individual can host a dinner party for friends or a spouse can plan a unique date night with their significant other. Thoughtfulness goes a long way.

"The holidays are intended to be a time for celebration, so don't let financial worries overshadow the spirit of the season," said Fisher. "If your finances are in trouble, call TCA now so we can help you avoid the holiday spending hangover."

For more information on Take Charge America's services or to contact a certified credit counselor, please call 1-888-822-9193 or visit www.takechargeamerica.com.

ABOUT TAKE CHARGE AMERICA

Founded in 1987, Take Charge America is currently celebrating more than 20 years of service as one of the country's largest non-profit financial education and consumer debt service organizations. Through education, customized credit counseling and debt management, Take Charge America helps consumers achieve self-reliance, financial stability and financial freedom. Take Charge America is a member of the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies, a national membership organization established to promote quality and consistent delivery of credit counseling services. To learn more about the organization or its programs, please call 1-888-822-9193 or visit www.takechargeamerica.org.