8 ways to stay debt-free during the holidays

You've budgeted fanatically, spent judiciously, whittled down debt, and now the holidays are here. If you're holding credit cards with unused credit lines, this can be a dangerous time.

Stores are stocked with enticing items, the kids are clamoring for gifts and even your spouse is hinting at something special. A voice whispers to you, "Loosen up. It's the season for giving. The cards are right there in your wallet. Just use them!"

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Hold up, Santa. Random charging is never a good idea, but in this economy, it's particularly foolish. Here's how you can hold the reins and ring in the New Year on a financially sound note.

The calendar will soon turn to 2010, and December's bills will be in the mail. Project how you'll feel when they arrive: Will you be in a panic because the balances have ballooned, or relieved that you maintained a healthy relationship with your credit cards?

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