Wracking up holiday debt is easy. We know that. According to a recent survey from savings destination RetailMeNot.ca, the average Canadian spent almost $1000 this past holiday season on food, drink, travel and gifts.
Another survey by PC Financial finds 77 percent agree the holiday season tends to be more expensive than planned. If you went over budget this holiday season and are worried about the dreaded January credit card bills, here’s how to take control.
Have a plan to pay off your debt
It’s time to get real about how much debt you are in. This includes the debt you’re carrying from before the holidays. First, sit down and calculate that big number. Then figure out how much disposable income you have every month to put towards debt.
If you divide your monthly free cash with your total debt you will get how many months (realistically) it will take to pay that debt off.
Start with the most expensive debt
Pay down first the debt charging the highest interest rate. Do this while still making the minimum payments on the rest. If you’re looking for ways to lower your payments overall, try using a lower interest loan to pay down your credit card debt immediately. If you’re overwhelmed with the amount of high-interest debt you have to think of talking to a credit counsellor to consolidate your debt.
Return the things you aren’t using
We get a lot of gifts at Christmas that we have no intention of using. Return what you can for cash, and gift cards. Sell anything else in the online classifieds sites or on a Facebook buy and sell group.
Use any cash you raise to pay your debt. Save gift cards for next Christmas to ease your shopping costs. It sounds ungrateful, but it’s better than letting that present sit idle in your closet for years.
Don’t go shopping until you’ve paid it off
It should be obvious but until your consumer debt is under control you have no right to hit the mall. While you’re paying your holiday debt off, only buy what you need, food, essential clothing, etc. This is not the time to splurge on a new spring wardrobe.
Live like a student for a month
We all remember what it was like to make things happen on a small amount of money when we were students, go back to that thinking. Find free entertainment, stay in and cook, enjoy some quiet time after the hectic holidays. Leave the car at home and bike where you can or take the bus.
Use what you got
Take advantage of all the free stuff in your own home. Cook meals with food that you already have, be creative, lots of sites give you great ideas of what you can make by plugging in the ingredients – no matter how bizarre. Go for a run, walk get active and feel better about your body without spending any money. This is not the time to sign up for a gym membership, no matter how good the deal is.
Learn from your mistakes
Create a visual reminder for next year, by taking a photocopy of your January credit card and packing it on top of your decorations. That means next year when you open up the box of Christmas decorations the first thing you will see is this bill. That will put into perspective how much damage you can do in a short amount of time.
You can pay off your holiday debt quickly by sticking to a strategy and practicing discipline.