The Holiday Debt Hangover
Don’t Let Your Merriment Ruin Your Finances
December 27, 2013 by Heidi Alger
For many of us, the holiday season means splurging. Unfortunately, surveys indicate that a majority (more than 60%!) of people don’t save a penny for gifts, leaving us either stretching our budgets to the max or adding debt. Before we know it, we have a “Holiday Debt Hangover” that rivals the morning-after headache of New Year’s Day.
Don’t let your finances make you queasy next season. Simply keeping money in mind can maximize your spending power and minimize your stress. Here are a few remedies for today’s headache—and some smart ideas to keep out of harm’s way over the holidays next year.
CREDIT: PAY IT OFF, SNOWBALL STYLE
Leftovers aren’t limited to cookies and candy canes. Leftover credit card debt can really ruin your appetite. Luckily, taking bites out of your balance isn’t as impossible as it sounds. Don’t be intimidated, start by paying off your card with the smallest balance. Put as much toward your monthly bill as possible, while paying the minimum on any other cards you may have leaned on over the holidays. Once that balance is paid in full, use the amount you were applying to that card payment to the next card in line until it is paid and so on. This ‘snowball effect’ will result in a solid amount being applied to your last remaining card monthly until that balance ends in zero, too.
DEAL WITH IT
Right away—Deep discounts that rival—and trump—traditional Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are yours for the taking now! If you have money available to you, take advantage of the opportunity to buy ahead for next year. From consumables [festive plates and napkins, candy canes and gift wrap] to decorations you know you’ll need [twinkle lights, a new tree, stockings to stuff and the like].
All 4 seasons—Don’t limit yourself to post-holiday sales: watch the shelves for big savings all year long! You’re likely to find something to fit every personality on your list from gardeners [watch the spring and summer sales] and outdoor enthusiasts like sporting equipment and camping gear to fashionistas [clothing, shoes and accessories] and kids [toys and games].
PLAN FOR IT
Holiday savings plan—If your bank or credit union offers a holiday savings plan (e.g., a Christmas Club, or something similar) take advantage of it. These plans let you save throughout the year and are often offered free of charge. Several don’t even require a minimum balance requirement, so you can jump in with both feet—and just a few dollars.
Pocket change—Start tossing pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters into a jar and keep it OFF LIMITS until December 1st of next year. Resist the urge to keep a running tab for the first several months, that way you’ll be surprised when you do tally up your cash and it will be encouraging just how quickly it all adds up. Talk about a stress-free stocking-stuffer spending spree!
Make something—Save the edibles for a baking blitz next December, but in the meantime, spend some time scrolling through sites like Pinterest and Etsy looking for handcrafted gift ideas that you can take your time with over the course of the next several months. Challenge yourself by learning a new skill or finding a new hobby that won’t only enrich the life of the friends and family members you create gifts for, but your own life along the way.
So don’t let the afterglow of the holiday dim your financial outlook on the coming season. Take two—or more—of our suggestions on avoiding a holiday debt hangover and next year you’ll be in the clear!