How to Pay Off Your Holiday Credit Card Debt in 3 Months or Less

The holidays are a time for joy, family, giving … and racking up debt. More than a quarter of Americans have fallen into debt paying for holiday expenses — and it’s not a small amount of debt either. Overall, the average amount owed among those with holiday debt was more than $1,000. Of course, it’s easy to feel the pressure to spend during the holidays. But you don’t want to let overspending set you back financially in the new year. So if you ended up charging a little too much in 2018, here’s how to quickly pay off your holiday debt and start 2019 off on the right financial foot.

1. Figure Out How Much Debt You Have

To pay off your holiday debt quickly, you need to know what you’re dealing with. That means opening your credit card bills or checking your statements online. Add up all your balances to get a clear picture of how much holiday debt you have.

2. Develop the Right Debt Payoff Mindset

You might feel overwhelmed by how much you owe. But you can find the motivation to pay it off by focusing on the benefits of being debt free. Ask yourself why it is important to you to pay off your debt and what you’ll do with the extra money once your debt is paid. Having a specific goal will give you willpower to pay your debt off and not continue to charge. Maybe your goal is a vacation to Hawaii this summer. Print out a photo of your financial goal and keep it somewhere that you will be forced to look at it daily, and remind yourself that you’ll book the vacation once your holiday credit card debt is paid off and you start to save that money for your trip.

3. Create a Debt Payoff Plan

Another way to avoid feeling overwhelmed by your debt is breaking down the total you owe into manageable amounts. For example, if you have $1,000 of holiday debt and want to pay it off in three months, you’d need to make monthly payments of about $333. If you get paid twice a month, that’s about $166 per paycheck — or $11 a day. You could also make a chart showing how much you need to pay each week or month to eliminate your debt and track your progress.

4. Start as Soon as Possible

You don’t have to wait until you get your credit card bills to start making payments. The more frequently you make payments, the less interest you’ll end up paying and the more quickly you’ll be paid off. If you can, consider making weekly or biweekly payments.

5. Try Paying Off High-Rate Debt First

Focusing on your credit card or loan with the smallest balance first and making only minimum payments on other debt can help you feel a sense of accomplishment and build momentum to pay off bigger debt. However, you could actually pay off what you owe faster by prioritizing your debt with the highest interest rate.

6. Find Expenses You Can Temporarily Eliminate

To pay off your holiday debt quickly, take a look at what you might be able to live without for a few months. You could cancel some subscription services, eliminate lunches out and make coffee at home to free up extra cash for debt repayment.

7. Minimize Costs You Can’t Eliminate

You can’t eliminate all of your monthly expenses, but there are plenty you can reduce. For example, can you call and try to cut your phone or cable bill? Every little bit helps.

8. Make Extra Money for Debt Payments

After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, take time to go through your stuff to find things you no longer need that you can sell for cash. You can sell DVDs, books, clothing, tech items and unwanted gift cards online. You also could pick up a side hustle in your free time to bring in extra money for debt repayment.

9. Make Use of Credit Card Rewards

If you have cash back or rewards credit cards, consider putting them to use to help pay off your holiday debt.

10. Stick to Cash

If you want to pay off holiday debt quickly, you have to avoid racking up more debt. Allot yourself a certain amount of cash each week. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Not only can using cash help reduce your reliance on credit, but also it might help reduce your overall spending.

11. Create an After-Action Plan

After paying off your holiday debt, you need to take steps to avoid racking up debt again next holiday season. Create a savings plan to have enough cash for the holidays in 2019. Just as you created a plan to pay off debt by breaking down what you owed into smaller payments, you can figure out what you need to save based on 2018 holiday spending. Then, divide that amount by the number of months left in the year until the holidays to know how much you need to set aside each month.

Article Source: Cameron Huddleston for Gobankingrates.com

Brace Yourself: Santa Shock is Coming

Let’s talk about Santa Shock, shall we? No, not the “I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus” kind. For this conversation, we will use “Santa Shock” to refer to that icy sense of regret that creeps in when you open those first post-holiday credit card bills. If you’ve ever blown past your self-imposed holiday spending limit, you know exactly what we’re talking about.

The realization that you racked up additional debt can be an isolating frustration—something you’d rather keep to yourself, but it might help to realize that roughly 77% of Americans admitted to crashing through their respective financial barriers just like you. We know, we know. You don’t want to celebrate other people’s bad decisions, but when it comes to financial challenges, misery may not love company, but it kind of likes having it around.

You overspent. Now what?

Let’s face the facts. Once the gifts have been opened, the holidays have passed, and the bills roll in, your budget may be a little tighter than you’d like. When you’re faced with those oversized balances, it can be tempting just to make minimum payments and figure out your finances later. But thanks to those pesky credit card interest rates, that approach not only makes the problem last longer, it also makes it more expensive. This year, why not get creative and recover from Santa Shock as quickly as possible?

3 Practical Tips for Paying Off Holiday Debt

If you want to pay off your holiday debt sooner rather than later, try these simple ideas to free up some funds and get your budget back on track:

Cut cable. Since the average cable bill is roughly $107 per month, this step doesn’t require much of an explanation. Unless you’re in the middle of a long-term contract with early termination charges, canceling your monthly cable subscription can save you more than $1,000 per year—more than enough to pay off all or most of your holiday debt. And with affordable streaming options like Netlflix and Hulu, you can still keep up with many of your favorite shows.

Closet clean out. If you got new clothes this past holiday season, you have to make room in the closet, right? Instead of packing them away, gather up your gently used items and try to sell them online. Apps like ThredUp, Poshmark, OfferUp, and Facebook Marketplace make it incredibly easy to reach thousands of potential buyers without leaving the comfort of your home.

Meal prep for a few months. Everybody has to eat. There’s no way around that. And while dining out is convenient, it can also end up costing you more than you realize. Depending on where you live, a single meal at a restaurant can set you back $10-12. If you go to a restaurant more than once a day, you may be spending far more than you need to. By planning ahead and preparing meals in advance, you can save on dining costs and redirect some of your food budget towards your credit card balance.

We’ve already established the fact that it’s fairly common to go over a holiday budget. However, sometimes we get carried away with the yuletide spending and wind up over our heads financially. If you find yourself deep in debt and unable to find a way out, don’t be afraid to ask for help by stopping into your local branch or making an appointment for an annual financial review. Our team can help you assess your current financial situation and recommend solutions for your specific needs. This may even help you avoid Santa Shock altogether next year!