Over 80% of Americans have debt: mortgages, car loans, credit card loans etc. You likely fall in that number and you likely want to pay off your debt. Whether you’re the type of person who is really good about making sure you pay more than the minimum payment every month or you’re struggling to do better with making the payments, most of us falter around the holidays and rack up more debt. There’s so many extra holiday related expenses, expenses that you wouldn’t otherwise have. During the holidays we prepare to travel by buying train or airplane tickets. Or we spend a lot of extra money on gas to drive to our destinations. The amount of money you spend on food also drastically increases. You end up spending more on food while traveling and cooking large meals with lots of specialty dishes for friends and family. Oh and let’s not forget the gifts. There’s usually gift giving at some point and the larger the family the more you spend. All of this can throw a serious monkey wrench in your well laid plans to pay down debt. Use the following four tips to stay on course paying down debt and avoiding more debt, while still having fun during the holidays.
1) Automate. Create an automatic bill pay to pay your debt bills. This way it’s not as easy to decrease the amount you’re paying on your loans or to only pay the minimum. You may think, well I’ll just pay the minimum for a while and use the “extra” money for what I need, DON’T do it. Get what you can afford on the money that’s left after you have paid your regular amount towards your debt. It’ll be worth it when you’re debt free and have saved hundreds to thousands of dollars by not paying extra interest on your balance.
2) Shop now. The earlier you start the better. You can start picking up items that you need now so that you’re not rushing and paying exorbitant prices as the time draws near to the holiday. This will also help you avoid paying a large lump sum of money for items at one time. For example, to save money on food, purchase items that freeze well now and store them for later. Shop thrift stores and stores like the Dollar Tree for items you can use for decorations, be creative.
3) Freeze your credit cards. It’s tempting and very easy to use credit to purchase gifts and items necessary for travel, but you’ll end up paying much more for those items in the long run. Once you add in the fees due to the high interest rate on your credit card, that table centerpiece or gift for your friend will be much more than you actually wanted to spend. Ok even if you don’t actually freeze the cards, at least leave them at home when you go shopping.
4) Review your debt snapshot. This is a good way to remind yourself why you can’t accumulate more debt while preparing for and during the holidays. This is a psychological trick to boost your resolve and discipline. Keep the amount of current debt you have fresh in your mind while shopping so when you’re tempted to pick up something out of your budget you’ll have an even better reason as to why you should put it back.
Use these tips to avoid accumulating more debt during the holidays and not go through post holiday money blues. You’ll be closer to being debt free and can remove the stress about money during the holidays.