HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - It's the most wonderful time of the year...for creditors. During the holiday season, people can spend a lot more money on their credit cards.
But not all expenditures are created equal. Financial experts want to help make sure your charges stay on the nice list.
While the man in the red suit has elves to make his gifts, we mere mortals hit the stores to put presents under the tree.
"A lot of holiday debt goes on credit cards," said Brianna Cousins.
Cousins is a financial education coordinator for Redstone Federal Credit Union. She wants people to take a moment of reflection before charging Christmas on a credit card.
"My number one thing would be, use it wisely or don't use it," she stated.
So what's considered a wise charge?
"If you can make purchases on it you can earn rewards, earn cashback. The main thing though is you have the resources and the will power to pay it off," Cousins said.
And unwise charges?
"I don't want to keep any debt, I don't want any compounding interest payments on that," she said.
Keeping these tips in mind might be more important for Alabamians. According to a recent study from Creditcard.com, the average Alabama household carries about $8,000 of credit card debt.
"Alabama's credit card debt is actually right in the middle of the pack it's 30th out of the 50 states and DC. so really not bad at all," said Creditcard.com industry analyst, Ted Rossman.
But it's harder for Alabamians to pay for their credit card charges.
"Unfortunately, Alabama has the 6th lowest median household income in the country according to the census so that's where it's just that much harder to get out of debt," Rossman said.
Meaning it takes a larger percentage of your paycheck to pay off the same amount of debt.
While we're not trying to be a grinch. Financial experts say it's better to be a Scrooge than a Santa this holiday season if you can't afford to spend the money.
Credit card charges can also greatly increase the cost of gifts. If Alabamians use 15% of their income to pay off $8,000 in credit card debt, it would take 15 months and cost more than $1,100 in interest.