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The holiday shopping season is in full swing, and many Kansas shoppers are feeling generous. The economy seems to be doing better, the job market is improving – many shoppers may feel like it’s safe to spend a little more on gifts this year with a credit card and pay off the balance in 2014.

For many individuals and families, this isn’t such a bad bet. For others, it could lead to a serious problem with credit card debt. If they should lose their job or face other unexpected financial challenges in the months ahead and begin missing payments, their balances can balloon rapidly. Delinquent payments add up, gather interest and soon grow into a debt that seems insurmountable.

Debt advisors often advise people during the holiday season to avoid this debt trap by keeping their credit card balances low. It’s best to not accumulate more debt on a card than a person could pay off in one month.

It’s also worth remembering that too much credit card debt can hurt a person’s credit score. For those who need to rely on credit cards for gift-buying, some advisors recommend spreading the balance over two or three cards, so that each card has a relatively low balance. Advisors also discourage shoppers from opening new card accounts, as this can hurt the consumer’s credit rating, which will in turn hurt the consumer’s ability to purchase big-ticket items such as a car or a house.

For those already stuck in a credit trap, there are other strategies that can help. For some people, personal bankruptcy may be a good option. A qualified Kansas attorney with experience in debt relief and bankruptcy law can help those struggling with debt to understand their options and come up with a path toward financial health.

Source: KCTV 5, “Credit card spending at holidays can hurt your financial future,” DeAnn Smith and Erika Tallan, Nov. 29, 2013