The following post is from Melissa Batai
Holiday overspending happens to the best of us. Maybe we’re swayed by great sale prices, so we buy more than we need. Maybe someone else lavishes us with gifts, so we feel the need to reciprocate. Maybe we feel pressure to give gifts to all the service people in our lives as well as co-workers.
Now that the holidays are over, if you find yourself with some extra holiday debt, don’t despair. Instead, make January the month you proactively clean up the mess and move on with your life. There are some small things you can do now that can have a big impact on your finances.
Move the balance to a 0% APR card. If you have lingering holiday credit card debt that you can’t pay in full this month, move that balance to a 0% APR card. There is no sense paying interest while you’re working hard to pay off the balance. If you’re lucky, you can even find a credit card that will give you a 0% APR for a limited time AND a $0 balance transfer fee. However, even if you have to pay a fee to transfer your balance, the fee will likely be less than the interest you’d pay on a traditional credit card.
Have a no spend challenge. For the month of January, try to have a no spend challenge. Set aside a certain amount of money, say $400, that you will use for gas, groceries, and other necessities. (Of course, the amount you determine will depend on your family size and personal situation.) For this month, don’t eat out, don’t go to the movies or pay for other entertainment, and eat up the surplus food you have in your house. You may be surprised how much money you can save this way. That money can go straight to paying off your holiday debt.
Sell things. Take the time to go through your house and find things that you can sell. Many items are fair game from outgrown clothes to books to CDs to DVDs. Even selling $100 worth of stuff you’re not using can help you pay down the debt. Consider selling on eBay, Craigslist and Facebook local sale/swap groups.
Curb your other expenses. There are other ways you can find extra cash. Maybe you leave your heat on 72 degrees during the cold winter months. For January, why not try to lower the temperature to 68 degrees and wear a sweater and use a blanket. You may be surprised how much money you can save by lowering your heat a few degrees. Try to find other ways you can save on utilities, too, like unplugging non-essential electrical items at night.
Use credit card cashback. Does your credit card offer cashback bonuses? Why not redeem some of them to apply to your debt?
If you’re in credit card debt thanks to the holidays, don’t despair. With some belt tightening and some careful strategizing, you can be out of debt faster than you think.
What other strategies do you recommend to pay down holiday debt quickly?