Were you in the giving spirit this past holiday season? It’s hard not to be, especially when you have the magic plastic at your disposal, available to cover the tab.
But when the holiday cheer is long gone, the credit card bills will still be there, lingering over your head and eating away at your wallet.
Your generosity spree was likely for a good cause, but now’s the time to buckle down and lay a hammer to those balances.
Know Where You Stand
Although you may be tempted to turn a blind eye to those credit card balances out of fear or sheer disappointment in how high they actually are, it’s time to face the music. What’s done is done, and there’s nothing you can do to change the past.
All you can do at this point is be mindful of your spending habits and plan for the future so history doesn’t repeat itself.
Besides, what sense does it make to set a goal if you have no idea of what objective you are trying to accomplish? Take a good look at those balances.
Establish a Plan
Now that you have a clear idea of how much debt you racked up over the holiday season, it’s time to come up with a plan to rid yourself of it as quickly as possible. Think of it this way: Temporary pain yields long-term gain.
And no, I’m not talking starvation diets or anything of that magnitude. What I am suggesting is that you make sacrifices so the debt won’t be riding you, and if you made any New Year’s resolutions on money management, now’s the time to move the one on debt management to the top of the priority list.
Once a timeline has been set, you must figure out how to come up with the funds to make it happen, especially considering that your budget is tight and money isn’t falling out of the sky to help you out.
Of course, the first step is to stop using the magic plastic as soon as possible because there is no way to eliminate holiday debt if you continue to spend.
Now that we have those big three points out of the way, let’s focus on eight more-specific ways to accelerate your holiday debt reduction.
1. Kiss the Extras Goodbye
I’m sure you’ve heard it time and time again, but one of the most rapid ways to get out of the hole is by making cuts to variable expenses, or completely eliminating non-necessities. Sorry to break it to you, but if you really want to slash your holiday debt quickly, dining out, snack runs, cable, shopping sprees and anything else that isn’t essential must go.
And if you’re thinking that you’re already living with the bare minimum, try tracking every penny you spend for at least a week. You will almost certainly discover something on the list that can go on the chopping block.
2. Explore Promotional Interest Offers
Do you currently possess a credit card that is still in the introductory interest period? If the balance transfer fee isn’t too high, you may want to consider exercising this option to avoid paying interest each month — the equivalent of flushing money down the toilet.
Also try giving your credit card issuers a ring to see if they’ll cut you some slack on the APR, and emphasize that you are a customer in good standing.
3. Did You Get a Bonus?
Last year may have been a tough one for you, so it’s only right that you treat yourself with the holiday bonus that came your way at work. Well, not so fast. If you’re really serious about eliminating your holiday debt as quickly as possible, you already know where the entire bonus check should go.
4. Tax Refund Coming Your Way?
And the same goes for tax refunds. It’s no fun allocating your overpayment to Uncle Sam toward debt, but making the choice to get rid of the debt as quickly as possible will save you a lot in interest and headaches. Remember that money is already tight, so you definitely don’t want interest growing exponentially while you are struggling to make the minimum payment.
5. Develop Supplementary Income
Unwilling to make any cuts, or perhaps there’s not much wiggle room even after you do so? Pick up a side gig or put your creative talents to use to turn a profit. If neither is an option, you can always clean house and sell some of your belongings that are simply sitting around collecting dust.
6. Avoid the Dreaded Minimum Payment
This may require you to step outside of your comfort zone but will be worthwhile in the end. Minimum payments are simply a mechanism employed by creditors to make repayment comfortable for you while they are raking in the cash on the back end. Insomniac interest is a beast, and you definitely don’t want to get caught in that trap.
Let’s say you accumulated $2,000 on a credit card that carries an APR of 16.9% and you make only the minimum payment. Assuming you make no additional purchases, it will take you 17 years to pay it off.
7. Put Gift Cards to Good Use
Received a gift card that you didn’t want during the holiday season? You can always try selling it to family members or friends at a reduced rate since it won’t do you any good sitting around.
Another option is to sell it online via sites like Plastic Jungle, Gift Card Granny, ABC Gift Cards, Card Pool and Gift Card Rescue to help alleviate some of the debt.
8. Let Direct Deposit Help
As a last resort, you can always redirect a portion of your paycheck to a separate account that you set up just for holiday debt repayment. And remember, something’s better than nothing and a little bit can go a long way.
This post originally appeared on Money Talks News.
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