Managing Debt Ahead of the Holiday Season

Holiday music is starting to play on repeat in stores. Neighbors and friends will soon be lighting up their homes with festive decor. Shoppers are beginning to pick up gifts for everyone on their lists. The holiday season is almost here! And while this is an exciting time of the year, it can certainly be stressful on your wallet – especially if you have some lingering debt to pay off.

According to the National Retail Federation, the average person spent around $1,000 during the 2021 holiday season. And with inflation, it’s expected those prices will only go up. That’s why making sure your debt is under control before you start your shopping – will be key for many individuals. Here are our top recommendations for managing debt ahead of the holiday season.

Make and keep a holiday budget

Before you dive into those Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, it’s best to understand your holiday budget. Not only do you need to consider what you’ll have to buy, but also what you can afford. This is how you can make a holiday budget based on your financial situation:

  • Determine your spending limit: Map out your regular expenses and see what you have left over. The goal is to stay within your means, so that means having a clear picture of your finances.
  • Create a list: Start by categorizing what you need to purchase (this includes gifts and wrapping, decorations, travel, food, etc.), and then build a list of who you need to get gifts for and what the items would be.
  • Research prices: Start looking online for how much these gifts should cost and then see where you can cut back.

Find ways to spend less

It’s easy to talk about finding all the good deals during the holiday season, but when the time comes – you might be tempted to get everything on your list as fast as you can. If you’re on a tight budget though, it will be worth it to put in the time and research. Retail experts say the pandemic has changed the way sales function during the holidays and the best deals won’t come just on Black Friday. Instead, they will happen on an item-by-item basis.

To catch these savings, we recommend downloading price-tracking apps like Honey and ShopSavvy so you don’t miss out. Other ways to save on holiday expenses are to shop at dollar stores for cards, gift wrap, and party supplies. If you plan to get anyone a gift card, you can find discounts on sites like Coingate, Raise,, CardCash, and Gift Card Granny.

Debt repayment strategies

Before you start shopping, let’s make sure you’re addressing any unpaid debt you may have. The goal is to make sure you don’t put yourself further in debt when purchasing gifts for everyone on your list. Plus, you’ll want to have a plan for paying your holiday expenses off – rather than figuring it all out as you go. These strategies can help you pay off your debt faster.

  • Pay more than the minimum: Only paying the minimum on your credit card statement each month will make debt repayment take much longer. Plus, you’ll end up paying more in interest than what you initially borrowed.
  • Consolidate your debt: If you owe money on multiple credit cards, you should consider consolidating your debt into one credit card or loan with a lower interest rate.
  • The avalanche method: If you do have multiple cards with balances, try using the avalanche method – which focuses on paying off the card with the highest balance first.
  • The debt snowball method: This method will have you start by paying off the smallest debt first. Once paid in full, you would take those monthly payments and put them toward the next smallest outstanding debt.

At First Financial, we offer consolidation loans to streamline paying down debt so you can focus on one bill at a time.* Plus, you won’t have to worry about fees and interest rates from multiple credit cards! Apply online or stop by a branch location to learn more about our loan options. You may even want to consider transferring your other higher rate credit card balances, to one of our credit cards. We offer lower interest rates, plus cash back and rewards credit cards too!**

We wish you a fun, safe, and happy holiday season!

Want to see more articles like this? Subscribe to First Financial’s monthly newsletter for financial resources and advice.


*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Actual rate will vary based on creditworthiness and loan term. Subject to credit approval. Personal Loan repayment terms range from 12 to 60 months, and minimum loan amount is $500. A First Financial Federal Credit Union membership is required to obtain a Personal Loan or Line of Credit, and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan.

**APR varies up to 18% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is for purchases and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fees. Other fees that apply: Balance Transfer and Cash Advance Fees of 3% or $10, whichever is greater; Late Payment Fee of $29, $10 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of $29. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a Visa® Credit Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan.