It`s the most wonderful time of the year, until it`s all over and some shopper realize they`ve spent more money than they can afford. Experts say consumer debt is on the rise and it didn`t all happen just this Christmas. Between the holiday itself, and the discount sales afterward, Christmas isn`t the season for pinching pennies. "I had to take back some shoes that I got for my Goddaughter, I ended up shopping for more stuff that I didn`t really need, but got anyway," laughs Gabby Twine, while shopping at Target. But instead of reaching for cash, millions of Americans used plastic to finish off their gift lists. "I felt like I wanted to get nicer gifts, so we used credit cards for about half of the purchases we made," explained Noel Parrish. The average family has about $12,000 in credit card debt, up from $9,000 a few years ago. "I`ve heard people who have credit card debt, $20-$30,000. Ours isn`t anywhere near that, thank God," said Parrish. A December poll shows 4 in 10 shoppers used credit cards for the holidays. One in five owe more than $5,000. One-third of those with credit cards have more than three. "More and more people are relying on credit cards," said Linda Tucker, at Family Service Agency, a consumer credit counseling agency. "Today, I`ve heard there were at least 50 phone calls asking for appointments," she said. Tucker says to start getting out of debt, start by knowing your income; compare it with your spending, like fixed expenses on your home or car, and variables where you can cut back, like cable; then consider your debt like credit cards or loans. If it is all more than you can handle, Tucker says you may need to consider calling an agency to get help. The Consumer Credit Counseling Service, at the Family Service Agency can be reached by following this link www.helpingfamilies.org. Also debtconsolidationrx.com and bankrate.com can provide more information as well.