Help – I spent too much on the holidays and I’m still paying for it months later!

tighten belt on dollar conceptIf the holidays have left your budget overstretched, there are ways to recover (even if 3 months have passed) … you just need to act as quickly as you can.

While it might be tough to admit it (case in point: you’ve ignored the debt you racked up over the last few months), the first step to reducing your post-holiday debt is realizing and prioritizing it.

Beverly Harzog, author of Confessions of a Credit Junkie, says the best way to start a re-payment plan is to go after the debt on the highest interest rate card first and once that is paid off, go after the next one and so on and so on.

If you overspent this holiday season and know you won’t be able to pay off your credit card bills when they arrive next month, you need to adjust your spending habits ASAP.

Consumers should look at their spending categories and aim to shave small amounts off of each area (even if it’s $5 or $10 to start). Making many small cutbacks will be less painful than trying to find an extra $1,000 all at once to help pay off the credit card balance.

If you put a lot of your holiday gift spending on a high-interest rate credit card, Harzog recommends transferring the balance to a credit card with a lower interest rate. Even if you can reduce the interest rate just a little bit, it will help pay it down faster.

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If you are facing significant debt, it might be time to find new ways to generate extra income that is earmarked solely to paying off the debt. If you don’t want to get a traditional part-time job, review your talents and skill set to find alternative ways to make money, whether it’s giving piano lessons, fixing computers, catering, or doing web design.

Ed Gjertsen, Vice President at Mack Investment Securities, recommends the seven-day cash challenge to break an overspending habit. With this challenge, you estimate how much money you spend each week and then take out that amount of cash at the start of the week and see how long it lasts.

“When people do this, by Wednesday or Thursday they are usually out of money,” he says. “They don’t think of all the times they swipe that card. It gives them a reality check of how much they are spending.”

If you need an anonymous, online tool to help you get your debt in check – try Debt in Focus – First Financial’s free and anonymous online debt management tool. In just minutes, you will receive a thorough analysis of your financial situation, including powerful tips by leading financial experts to help you control your debt, build a budget, and start living the life you want to live.

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