How to Dig Yourself Out of Holiday Debt
The holidays are finally over, the presents have all been unwrapped, and the ornaments have all been put away for another year. Now that the fantasy of a great Christmas season is in the rear-view mirror, it is time to look ahead -- and deal with the harsh realities to come.
Those harsh realities will soon begin arriving in mailboxes from coast to coast. Those reminders of the excesses of holiday spending and consumer culture will come in the form of credit card bills, and for many, those bills will be just the start of a mountain of post-holiday debt.
If you find yourself on the receiving end of credit card bills that are too high to pay off, it's time to take action, and you need to do it fast. With interest rates upwards of 18 to 20 percent, it will not take long for those small initial balances to spiral upward into an insurmountable mountain of debt. Here are some ways to take charge and pay down that holiday debt fast.
Be Smart About Balance Transfers
The next time one of those zero-percent balance transfer offers hits your mailbox, do not just throw it away. Fill it out and transfer your post-holiday debt to the new zero-interest rate credit card.
You will need to be smart about implementing this strategy, and you will need to know exactly how long the zero-interest offer is in place. If you are planning to use this strategy, you need a dedicated approach and a willingness to put every spare penny toward your post-holiday debt service.
Pick Up a Side Job
Getting a second job to pay off debt has always been a smart strategy but not always an easy thing to do. Many bosses frown on moonlighting, fearing it will reduce worker productivity at their regular jobs. Even when employers were more accommodating, making the schedule work could be a real juggling act.
These days, it's a lot easier to pick up some extra work and the spare cash that goes with it. Whether you drive for Uber while the kids are at band practice or work from home as a freelance writer or virtual assistant, the extra money will come in handy, and you can dedicate those funds to paying down your holiday spending spree.
Ditch Your Costly Bad Habits
Now that the New Year holiday is here, it is time to make some resolutions, and some of those changes can help you pay off your debt and improve your health. Giving up a pack-a-day smoking habit could free up nearly $100 a month, which you can put directly to your post-holiday credit card debt.
Eating healthier in the new year can also save you a lot of money, especially if your plan includes fewer pizza deliveries and costly restaurant meals. Cooking at home just one or two extra days a week could save you hundreds of dollars and make paying off your holiday debt that much easier.
Make Debt Payments to Yourself
The strategies outlined above could help you dig out from under your pile of debt faster than you would have imagined, but your work is not done when the last credit card payment is made. In fact, the process of paying off your holiday debt can be a truly teachable moment, and a chance to start the new year on firmer financial footing.
Once your post-holiday debt becomes a thing of the past, make the most of your financial discipline by continuing to make those debt payments to yourself. Whatever amount you had been paying on your credit card debt should go into a savings account instead. Before you know it, you will have a healthy emergency fund and a great savings account to boot. By the time next Christmas rolls around, you will not have to go into debt to stock the tree with wonderful gifts for your friends and loved ones.