The Grinch may not have stolen Christmas, but it might feel like he stole your wallet! Research shows that the average American will spend $835.00 on gifts this year, and that does not include the extras like decorations, food, and of course, the blinking sweater. So, if you are starting to panic about January, read on as FirstLantic (with help from NerdWallet) has some great tips for getting back your financial footing after the holidays.
Recognize that you can get back on track if you have a plan and stick to it. The most important thing is to act. Don’t bury your head in the sand and think the money will fall from the sky (although it would be nice if it did)!
Determine a plan of attack
Figure out how to tackle the debt as soon as possible. Make sure to pay the minimum on all your credit cards and more if you can. Determine which cards have the highest interest rate and start there. Consolidate if possible so that you have one payment to worry about rather than five. Here is a good rule from NerdWallet on how to go about it: they recommend the 50/30/20 budget. Earmark 50% of your monthly take-home income to needs, 30% to wants, and 20% to savings and debt repayment. However, you should probably dip into your wants category to pay it down faster if your debts have increased. Budget spreadsheets and templates can point you in the right direction.
Redeem points if possible
If you have a cash-back card, you may be able to use some of the points accumulated from the holiday towards repaying your debt. If not, you can probably use them for essentials. Also, make sure you return anything you don’t need as soon as possible, so you don’t miss the window. It might be nice to have an extra sweater, but if you don’t need it, use the cash or credit to pay off debt.
Lock the credit cards away
After the holidays, don’t carry your cards and stick to only paying cash. Don’t make the mistake of continuing to use credit cards if you are already having trouble paying them off. You will never get out of the downward spiral of debt. If you can’t pay cash, don’t buy it.
Another great tip from NerdWallet is to make a repayment plan into a challenge rather than a chore. For example, start by saving $1.00 in week one, $2.00 in week two, $3.00 in week three, etc. After 52 weeks, you’ll have saved $1,378, and you can use that cash to pay off debt or buy presents for next year without incurring any new debt. It’s almost a fun way to save (almost).
While the holidays can be a fantastic time of year, they can also be overly commercialized. If you haven’t spent all your money yet, why not try giving personalized gifts that you can make on your own? What about a video, a photo collage, or some succulents in a planter from your garden? Sometimes, the best gifts can be the ones from your heart. Your family and friends will appreciate it more because you made it yourself, and you will appreciate that no credit card expenditure was required. That said if you have already bought the gifts, enjoy the giving. Then start fresh in January with a plan to enjoy the rest of the year debt-free!
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