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Credit card bills are on the way

Jan. 28, 1997

Photo illustration by Jennifer Paschal/The Baylor LariatThe power and prestige of credit cards get some college students in a financial bind, especially after holiday shopping. Trimming daily expenses, carefully planning finances and sticking to a budget can help regain financial control.

By Alison Kuehn

Lariat Reporter

Credit card debt from holiday overspending can catch up with students as they settle into the new semester.

The new year promises mailboxes full of credit card statements, high charge card balances and overwhelming interest rates with no financial relief in sight.

'Many people exceed their holiday budget due to impulse shopping or unplanned expenses,' said Marianne Gray, president of Consumer Credit Counseling Service.

'Then they find themselves in financial difficulties when their credit card bills come due in January and February.'

Some students carry a variety of credit cards.

'I have about 30 credit cards, and I spent more than usual this Christmas, buying expensive gifts for my family,' Minerva Perez, a Greenville senior, said.

Many students spend more at Christmas than at any other time of the year.

'Knowing how much I spent on my credit card at Christmas makes me not want to buy anything at all,' said Pam Chester, an Allendale, N.J., senior.

Ryan Perry, an Austin junior, said that he dreads the holiday season because of the debt that tags along.

'I spend my summers working to get out of that debt,' Perry said.

Many students question how they can get a handle on post-holiday debt in the midst of academic turmoil, while juggling living expenses, tuition bills and entertainment costs.

'I think credit cards are evil,' Chester said. 'I purposely leave my charge cards at home so I won't use them.'

While hiding or cutting up charge cards may work for some students, CCCS suggests trimming your current expenses wherever possible.

Little reductions in daily spending quickly adds up to big savings.

'Paying more than the minimum amount due on credit card accounts helps to liquidate debt,' Dotty Bagwell, a CCCS consultant said. 'Also, you should use cash as often as possible.'

Bagwell said students who are knee-deep in debt should prepare for next Christmas. Suggestions to avoid debt next Christmas include: removing people from holiday gift lists who are not close friends or family, making an early list and shopping throughout the year and taking advantage of 'after Christmas sales' to save on gift wrap, cards or small gifts.

'If you carefully plan your finances and stick to your budget, debt can be managed and consumers can regain control of their finances,' Gray said.

'I have seen the light,' said Robin Worley, an Arlington, Va., sophomore. 'Debt seems so overwhelming, and interest rates are astronomical, so I budget my expenses on my computer. This way, I'm able to stay ahead in my payments.'

CCCS suggests that students make a real effort to handle personal finances seriously by prioritizing goals to pay off the balances.

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