Dec. 10, 2010— -- In tough times, more Americans are making sure that the gifts they put under the Christmas tree this season are paid in full.
Millions of Americans have cut up their credit cards since last year's holiday shopping season, meaning that this year, many are headed to the mall with cash in hand.
According to the credit bureau TransUnion, 8 million Americans have stopped using credit cards since the the third quarter of 2009. 78 million consumers either don't have access to a general purpose credit card or choose not to use one.
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While some of the change in behavior is likely because credit card companies have severely clamped down on the availability of credit, there are also signs that some Americans are changing their ways. According to TransUnion's analysis, consumers on the whole are making "significant efforts" to use credit cards in a financially healthy way.
For Dawn Salters, from Brandon, Miss., that means going cold turkey on credit card use when she tackles her 2010 gift list.
"All of our Christmas gifts last year were put on credit, every single one of them. And I'm still paying for some of them this year," Salters said. But this year, "not one gift has been put on credit anywhere. We have bought and paid for everything."
Salters, a 39-year-old mother, has plenty of gifts to buy. In addition to her three teenage children, her daughter's 14-year-old friend is staying in their home while her mother serves in the military overseas.
Last year, Salters' Christmas bill ran close to $3,000 on gifts, adding on to an already serious debt problem. With her family in over their heads, Salters consolidated her debts into a manageable program. This holiday season, she's cutting back, setting a spending limit for everyone on her list.