SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - 'Tis the season for holiday shopping, but all that spending can leave some people in the red.
The National Retail Federation says the average American household plans to spend about $750 this year on holiday shopping. But what happens is that consumers who wait until the last minute sometimes forget about how much they can really afford, and when the bills come due in January, they can suddenly find themselves drowning in debt.
San Diego-based consumer rights attorney Josh Swigart, whose Mission Valley office specialized in getting people out of financial trouble, offers some tips to avoid overspending this holiday season.
"If you're going to pay for your gifts with cash or on a credit card, have some type of budget. So if you make last-minute purchases with a credit card, you at least know there's a maximum you can spend, and when it comes due in January or February, you can pay that off," Swigart said.
When holiday shopping debt spirals out of control, it won't be Santa Claus who will be coming to collect early next year.
"If the accounts get defaulted, and a lot of times the credit card companies are going to collect amongst themselves with continuous calls to home phones, work, cell phones. And if you can't make the payments, they're going to sell it to somebody else, and the calls are going to get worse," Swigart said.
If you don't want the Grinch to steal your Christmas, here's Swigart's best advice to keep your belt tight.
"It's important to maybe take a step back, recognize what the holiday season is about and spend time with friends and family instead of trying to overspend," he said.