Shop smart this holiday season

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

 Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday will bombard Illinois consumers with incentives and the temptation to spend beyond their budgets to find the perfect gifts for family and friends. This year, with many families facing reduced family incomes, the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) reminds Illinois families that there are ways to make sure every family has a happy holiday season without the post-season debt hangover.

“The joy of the holiday season doesn’t have to leave families deep in debt come next January,” said Brent E. Adams, Secretary of Financial and Professional Regulation. “As consumer protection advocates, IDFPR reminds Illinois residents that there are ways to provide one or two perfect gifts without finding it impossible to pay for those gifts.”  

Stores across the state are renewing their offers of lay-away plans, letting parents reserve the hottest toys or clothing items for their children and pay off the bill a little at a time. By the time the holidays are here, the presents are paid for and ready to take home. This serves dual purposes – it eliminates January bills and it prevents snooping children from finding the presents before the holiday.

Another good option for families this year is to join a credit union, or open a checking or savings account at an Illinois bank or thrift. Some credit unions, including CreditUnion1, offer low interest short-term loans at this time of year to help members purchase gifts for their families. Even better, once this year’s holiday season is over, the bank or credit union will make it easy for families to save a little bit of money from every paycheck in a Christmas club account for next year.

“We understand that our members work hard and want to provide a happy holiday for their children, so we provide them options to borrow at reasonable rates or save in advance of the season,” said Paul Simons, CEO of CreditUnion1, a state-wide credit union. “Finding the right credit union can make a world of difference in meeting financial obligations and having a safe place to borrow if that’s the only option.”

Finally, while a new law has made using a consumer installment or payday loan less expensive than it used to be, the interest rates are still considerably higher than a consumer credit card, a credit union, a bank or thrift short-term personal loan or a lay-away plan at a local store. Thinking twice about borrowing at high interest rates this holiday season will make saving for next year that much easier.