The holidays are a time for togetherness, thoughtfulness and appreciation – and per the National Retail Federation (NRF), lots and lots of giving. NRF says holiday spending increased about 4 percent to more than $680 billion in 2017, and since Americans, added an average of more than $1,000 in new credit card debt this holiday season, it’s likely gaining (or regaining) financial freedom is a common New Year’s resolution in 2018.
If you’re suffering from a spending-induced holiday hangover, we’ve got some tips to help you recover, and to set yourself up for short- and long-term financial success this year and beyond.
- Stop the bleeding!
If you accumulated debt – especially significant debt – during the holidays, the most important thing you can do is to stop spending. Now.
Adding to the problem will not only extend the amount of time you’ll need to repay your debt, it’ll also increase the amount you pay toward interest, and reduce the amount applied toward principal each month.
- Inventory and attack your debt.
Evaluate and inventory your debt incurred, and your payment due dates and interest rates. It may also help to review payment terms to ensure you weren’t hornswoggled by a promotional offer with unfavorable, hidden conditions that could surprise you down the road.
Once you’ve identified your holiday debt, create a payoff plan to attack it and be sure to choose a date by which you’d like to eliminate it. Focus on paying off debt(s) with the highest interest rate(s) first. If possible, pay more than the minimum amount due each month – as much as you’re comfortable paying – to slash the amount of interest you’ll pay over time.
- Take control of your overall financial situation
As you focus on paying off holiday debt, be mindful of other financial commitments, like utility and cell phone bills, that are likely to fall off your radar. Make sure you create a budget and payment timeline for all expenses that will allow you to pay your bills when they’re due, and in turn avoid unnecessary late fees and penalties that could affect your ability to keep your holiday debt-repayment plan on track.
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- Be wise with your tax return and/or end-of-year bonus
Sure, using a tax return and/or bonus to buy an item you’ve had your eye on – or to soak in an ocean or pool in an exotic place – may provide some short-term satisfaction. But before you blow cash on luxury expenses, consider the long-term effects of passing on an opportunity to deliver a significant blow to your remaining debt before you leap. Going from soaking in a pool to drowning in debt could prevent you from accomplishing the financial goals you set to ensure short- and long-term success for you and/or your family.
- Consider additional money-making opportunities
If you’re stressed out about the debt you incurred over the holidays, check out opportunities to make some cash on the side. Odds are there are people and employers in your area looking for workers with your skillset, so offer your service to those in need, make some extra cash and pay down your debt until your financial situation is copacetic. A little sweat equity could go a long way in regaining your financial freedom.
- Get help.
Stressful financial situations can leave even the savviest consumers bumfuzzled, so if you need help, contact a certified financial advisor or credit counselor. These professionals can sometimes create more favorable repayment agreements with lenders, so keep your options open and don’t feel ashamed to ask for help from an expert! If you’re behind on paying your energy bill, DTE offers several programs that could help you out; be sure to contact the company at 800.477.4747 before your service is subject to shutoff.