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Are you in the habit of whipping out your plastic for every purchase?
Now days, most people have the same problem.
With gasoline and other everyday spending on a steady rise in cost, most Americans turn to credit cards to pay for their everyday expenses.
But with this influx of credit card use comes an influx of bills that become harder and harder to pay each month.
Sources of cash for many Americans are withering away, says Dick Reed, of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service in Atlanta. Reed has noticed a rise in business as more and more clients are mounting up credit card debt. He goes on to say that customers simply do not have a place to go and get cash. They are digging further into debt in order to pay for, not only standard everyday spending, but in order to make the minimum payment on existing debt.
National statistics exemplify this growing trend as the Federal Reserve reports that the average amount of credit card debt in America jumped 6.7 percent in quarter one this year and totaled around 957 billion dollars. Perhaps most troubling is that this increase developed in spite of the fact that most financial institutions are tightening the reins on lending.
In Atlanta, Georgia debtors reported, on average, 29,300 dollars worth of unsecured debt. The most of which was wrapped up in credit cards. This number is up over 4,000 dollars since the 2007 report. Debtors spend an average of 335 dollars on groceries and 242 dollars on gas, whereas one year earlier, those expenses averaged only 291 dollars and 181 dollars.
Many people admit that they'd rather not rack up credit card debt, but other options, like refinancing for lesser interest rates, are no longer readily available due to collapsing housing markets. This leaves many consumers with little option.
When faced with the rising prices of gas and food, many people find that they have no choice but to "charge it" in order to make ends meet.
People are unable to upgrade their income, yet expenses are increasing exponentially. Credit cards become the best way to compensate, says Sara Gilbert of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service in Ft. Collins, Colorado.
Lois Eldridge, a retiree in Arizona, has looked on in horror as her credit card bill doubled to 2,000 dollars in the last several months. High gas and food costs required her to charge these rudiments for the very first time last year.
She has been forced to reduce extra expenditures like entertainment, clothing, and eating out. Although this tactic has helped, she still charges an average of 100 dollars each month.
Lois was also forced to 'come out of retirement', so to speak, when she attempted to secure a job at the college in her area to complement her income from Social Security. Unfortunately, she learned that employers offered too little money, or informed her that she was 'overqualified' for the available position. Her only other option was a minimum wage job with a local retailer.
My earnings have remained the same even though my expenses are way higher than they were last year even taking into account my attempts at cutting back, says Eldridge, now 71, who has a plan to put her tax refund toward her outstanding debt. I am incredibly overwhelmed by the fact that I've had to use my credit cards. I've never needed to before. The last 6 months have been a constant worry.
She is not the only one in worry. Analysts declare that card balances and late payments are increasing dramatically, a sure sign that a large group of Americans cannot afford what they spend each month.
It seems that the most trouble seems to be in areas with a weak housing market where a large number of people are already under pressure with mortgage payments. With unemployment on the rise and employers unable to offer overtime, many people find they just don't make enough to cover their bills.
Many claim they only use their cards for expediency sake and that they do in fact pay their statements on time, but it seems some fractures are appearing in that scenario.
Credit card delinquency rates reached a four-year in February, according to Moody's debt ranking agency.
Once people have gotten behind, it's growing more and more difficult for them to get back on track with their card payments again says William Black of Moody's. We're in a very taxing economic atmosphere. There's a lesser amount of cash to go around.
In the meantime, credit card balances are sneaking up progressively, and have been since the beginning of 2006. They leaped nearly 9 percent during 2007. This is due to a growing number of people who spend more and pay less each month plus other exciting and Attractive offers like Chase credit cards , 0% interest Visa card balance transfer, and more.
Another sad fact is, in spite of the troubles people incur with increasing credit card debt, the number of cards issued is also on the rise. At the close of 2007, there was a whopping 420 million credit cards in the marketplace, that's up 7.6 percent from the year prior.
Growing balances and late payments are bad for the economy, which depends heavily on consumer expenditures, says Bill Hampel, of the Credit Union National Assn.
Many people will stop going to dinner or to the movies as they see their balances rise. This will injure the economy to a great extent.
If you're buried in debt and can't get out and would like to share your story, or if you've actually managed to climb out of the pit and want the opportunity to help others, let us know about situation, we want to help.