Longer Christmas Shopping Season Keeps Atlanta Consumers Spending

Christmas might come just once a year - but lately it's been overstaying its welcome.

It used to be that stores waited at least until Halloween was over to stock the shelves for the holiday shopping season. But this year, the red and green decorations started taking over by mid-October. Starbucks hasn't even broken out the holiday cups yet, for crying out loud, and my local Target has three aisles dedicated to tree ornaments.

Even worse, stores are pushing us to buy during a period when rough economic times have most folks struggling more than ever to manage debt and pay the bills.

But don't think there's not a method to retailers' madness. Let's look at an example: Say you go fishing by yourself with just one line. You might have to wait all day to bag a fish for dinner. But now let's say you get all your friends to line up on the riverbank with 20 different fishing poles. Your chances of catching more fish in less time just went up drastically.

That's basically what retailers are doing - going fishing for your hard-earned paycheck money. By piling more products on more shelves for a longer period of time, they're increasing the chances that you'll buy something - even if you have reason to be spending cautiously.

You can fall for it - succumb to the blaring Christmas music, surrounding holiday displays and limited time only sales and blindly start charging new and shiny things on your credit card - or you can beat retailers at their own game.

All you have to do is plan ahead. You know, make a list and check it twice. Figure out how much you can afford to spend this season, give yourself a limit and stick to it. Of course, I realize maintaining a budget is easier said than done. But when you find yourself falling off the wagon, just think about what would make for the happiest holiday. Would it be a big haul of material stuff and higher credit card bills next year? Or fewer material things but a lot less stress - and a fresh start for the New Year?

If you prefer the latter, how about giving yourself and your family the Christmas gift that keeps on giving this year - a debt-free future? If you're drowning in debt, find out if bankruptcy can help you take back control of your finances when you try a free one-on-one debt analysis with an Atlanta bankruptcy attorney. Here's to lowering stress - and your debt burden - this holiday.

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