COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Tough times and tough choices for more familes.
One out of four of American households are cutting out trips to the bank and turning to check cashing services and pawn shops instead.
It's a practice that can put you deeper into debt...especially this time of year.
Some call it a vicious cycle, racking up debt during the holidays.
That has become even more apparent with today's numbers released by the FDIC.
19 percent of Georgians, who use banks, also use high interest check-cashing institutions and pawn shops.
The numbers are worse in Alabama at more than 20 percent.
"It is a service that is used, and although it's not illegal, we just don't want to see people get trapped in that."
Trapped is exactly how Leonard Crain, President of the local Better Business Bureau describes it.
He says it is hard enough for low-income families to get ahead during the year.
But the allure during a holiday season to "get cash quickly" draws thousands into that trap.
"I see this item, it's maybe on sale. We just have to have it, or maybe it's a special Christmas item, it's going to be off sale next week, it's the "in the now" "right now", "we've got to have it" and this is the only way we can get it," Crain said.
The danger comes after the holidays.
Many families already live paycheck to paycheck, and with compounding interest, the prospect of paying off that debt is bleak.
"Of course, the interest rates are high. So what we've seen is that it's very difficult to relieve yourself from that cycle once your in it," Crain said.