Help for Holiday Debt

December 5, 2012 Updated Dec 5, 2012 at 12:25 AM EDT

By WKBW Internet

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December 5, 2012 Updated Dec 5, 2012 at 12:25 AM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) - The Holiday season can often be a time of overspending and incurring debt. However there are ways to avoid getting in too deep, and there is help available for those struggling to stay afloat.

The average household credit card debt is just over $15,000, and for many families its a mountain they just cannot get out from under.

"You can't sleep. You can't buy food. How you going to buy gas to get to and from work? It gets overwhelming," explained Bob Freitas, who is still working to get out of credit card debt.

Freitas says it was combination of foolish spending and emergency medical bills for a loved one that got him into trouble. It wasn't long before the minimum payments weren't enough to bring down his balance.

"If somebody is just paying minimum payments...it could take them years in order to payoff. Typically it's more than three times the balance of the original purchase," says Scott Laughlin, Director of Debt Services and Education with Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo.

CCCS was able to help Bob by working with his creditors to cut his interest rates, allowing him to start making progress on his debt.

"They made a plan for me. And I had it straightened out in a day. I started paying two days later and when I walked out of there I was happy as can be," says Freitas.

He also says he will be completely free of credit card debt in just two years and plans to own just one card to use in case of emergencies.

He also has advice for families receiving 'pre-approved' credit card offers in the mail.

"Throw them in the garbage. Don't do it. Have one for an emergency. If you don't have the money in your pocket....don't buy it."