Debt management a factor among consumers this holiday season

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This year Americans are strategic about planning their holiday spending and taking real steps to prevent long-term debt. Surprisingly, more than half of consumers are using cash, and/or debit cards for this seasons' shopping and an overwhelming 78 percent are prepared to pay off their holiday debt within three months, according to a survey commissioned by The Financial Services Roundtable.

Consumers are also taking personal responsibility for their finances. Survey findings show that more than half followed a budget in 2007 and over one-third included holiday gift-giving and travel in their yearly budget.

"I am thrilled that the majority of Americans are thinking ahead about promptly paying off their holiday spending," said Steve Bartlett, President and CEO of The Financial Services Roundtable. "For many Americans the holidays can be a stressful time financially. It is good to see that consumers are really planning when making their yearly budgets and factoring in holiday spending and travel. This approach is essential for financial fitness."

Still shopping and optimistic about the future

While consumers are being careful with their spending, they are still hitting the stores. Data from the National Retail Federation shows that more than 147 million shoppers came out during this year's Black Friday weekend. This number is up a solid 4.8 percent from last year.

Despite the onslaught of bad press surrounding the state of the U.S. economy, consumers have a positive attitude about their personal financial situation. A Roundtable poll on consumer financial fitness taken in September shows that 84 percent of consumers ranked themselves as being in "excellent" or "ok" financial shape. Close to three quarters of Americans remain optimistic about their personal financial futures.

Last year, the Roundtable launched My Money Management, an all encompassing consumer portal that offers advice on creating budgets, balancing bank accounts, applying for home loans, protecting against natural disasters, and preparing for the future. With 12,000 unique visitors a month, the budget worksheet is overwhelmingly the most used product offered on the site.

"Our industry is committed to offering valuable tools to support consumers successfully manage their finances and meet their personal monetary goals," Bartlett commented. "There has been an excellent response so far and we are pleased to see consumers relying on us to assist them in their financial success."

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