Are you financially prepared to shop for the holidays?

WASHINGTON — If the financial downturn dating back to 2007 taught us anything, it’s to get rid of debt – and it looks like consumers may be doing more of that than economists expected.

If you put your financial priorities on paper, you’re likely to say “I’m just trying to stay current with my bills.” That’s what one in three people revealed in a Bankrate Survey.

“And the fact is, a lot of people just don’t have a whole lot of extra money to throw around,” says Bankrate’s Senior Financial Analyst Greg McBride, “so they’re not able to make a whole lot of headway on things like paying down debt and saving – particularly when they’re focused on keeping their head above water and keeping the bills paid.”

But does that mean holiday giving will be skimpier this year?

“This is the one time of year where, to the extent they can, they do kind of let loose,” McBride says.

The survey finds one in three of us are just able to have a little money left at the end of each month. On the plus side, we’re slimming down our credit-card debt. But with the holidays here, consumers are bound to pull out their cards and steer off track, right?

Not so much, according to McBride, who says consumers have become good at planning ahead. “They know the holidays are coming; you know, they kinda scale back in the months leading up to that, so that they can still do the shopping and the spending that they expect to without having to worry about a big hangover of debt once they go into the new year,” he says.

McBride suggests making a budget this season and sticking to it. He expects this shopping season to be just as healthy as previous years.

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