By Jillian Taylor-Mancusi
People spend more money around the holidays than any other time of the year. If you’re like many people, you probably put some (or maybe a lot) of your holiday expenses on credit. The holiday season may be over, but by now those dreaded post-holiday bills are arriving in the mail.
If your holiday credit card bills are more than you expected, don’t worry. These tips will help you get back on track.
Return unused items.
One way you can immediately reduce your debt is to return anything you didn’t end up opening or using. While saving unused gifts or decorations for next year seems like a good idea, it’s likely you’ll forget you even have it and you’ll be paying interest on an item that you’ll never even use. Instead of squirreling gifts away take them back to the store and make a dent in those holiday balances. Be sure to dig out all of your receipts so you get back the full price you paid for the item.
Have a plan.
It’s hard to tackle debt without a plan. Sit down and figure out how much you owe, the interest rates on each of the cards you used and when your payments are due. Then decide how you’re going to pay it off. One way is to pay the smallest balances off first. It can be very motivating to watch your debt go down. You can also focus on paying the highest interest cards off first. Either way, find a plan and stick to it.
Always pay more than the minimum amount.
Minimum payments are designed to keep you in debt as long as possible. For that reason, part of your plan should be paying more than the minimum amount every month. If you don’t have a lot of money left over to focus on debt reduction, don’t worry. Even $5 or $10 extra a month can make a huge difference in paying down your balances.
Stop charging things.
Continuing to put things on credit will only add to your troubles. If you’re in the habit of charging things, this can be a tough habit to break. However, you’ll end up paying more in the long run through higher minimum payments, interest, and fees. Put your credit cards away and focus on paying down your debt instead of adding to it.
Consider combining balances.
If you have multiple credit cards and decent credit, you may want to consider combining the balances onto one card. Many credit cards offer promotions for transferring balances, including no interest for a certain amount of time. This will allow you to make one payment instead of spreading it over several cards. Just be sure to put the other cards away so you don’t end up with more debt than you had in the first place.
The most wonderful time of the year doesn’t have to turn into the most miserable time of the year. If the post-holiday bills (and blues) are setting in, these tips can help you get your holiday debt under control and get you back on track to your pre-holiday happiness.