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IChicago TribuneI CUNA urges discipline in holding spending
CHICAGO (10/24/11)--As the holiday shopping season swings into full gear, consumers should use discipline when they go to stores to save time and money, urged a Credit Union National Association (CUNA) economist in the Chicago Tribune.

"Even a mental budget is better than nothing," Mike Schenk, CUNA vice president of economics and statistics, told the newspaper Friday. "The main thing is to use some discipline, so you don't go into debt over the holidays. Limit your use of credit cards. If you do use those cards, make a plan to pay off expensive credit card debt as quickly as possible.

Holiday sales will grow 2.8% this year--down from a 5.2% increase last year, according to the National Retail Federation. More than 80% of U.S. credit unions offer interest-bearing holiday savings accounts, a fairly easy way to stockpile cash during the year, Schenk told the Tribune. Credit union savings accounts usually pay more than banks because credit unions are nonprofit groups, he added.

Consumers should make sure to understand how their savings plan works and also should shop around to obtain the best interest rate, Schenk said.

"At one point, I had a holiday account that automatically closed and put the money in my checking account in November," Schenk told the paper. "While they did this for my convenience, I hadn't noticed what happened, and I spent the money on other things."

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