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Miami residents struggling to avoid bankruptcy need to be especially careful this holiday season. It’s true that December is a month for gift-giving, tree-trimming and celebrations. But too much holiday fun can lead to big credit card bills come January. And that can lead to future financial problems for area residents, including the biggie: bankruptcy.

The unfortunate truth is that every January, Miami residents are shocked when they open their credit card bills. This is when they discover just how much money they spent during the holiday seasons on food, drinks and gifts.

But consumers can avoid this financial shock by being smarter spenders this holiday season.

First, consumers should take a long look at their financial situation before they start filling their credit cards with Christmas gifts. If you’re struggling to make your mortgage payments each month or if you’ve recently been laid off, there’s no good reason to spend a small fortune on holiday gifts.

Explain to the people on your gift-giving list that you’re simply not in financial shape for excessive holiday shopping. People should understand. After all, the country remains mired in a deep economic slump. Unemployment remains above 9 percent for the nation.

It’s more difficult, of course, to explain this holiday frugality to your children. Perhaps you can work with relatives and family members. Explain to them that your budget is limited this holiday season. Maybe they can help out by buying an extra gift or two for your children.

If this isn’t possible, be creative. You can find toys and electronics at your local Goodwill or thrift store. Many brand-name stores offer toys at discounted prices. You don’t have to overspend to fill the space under your Christmas tree this year.

And if you do celebrate a more frugal holiday, you won’t dread that January credit card bill.

Source: ConnectTristates.com, “Stay out of debt this holiday season,” Chad Douglas, Nov. 24, 2011