While the holidays are an exciting time, they often come with a hefty price tag. If you’ve overspent on gifts, travel, parties and other things during the holidays, you’re not alone. Consumers expect to spend more than an average of $1,000 during the 2019 holiday season, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation.
If you’re in debt after the holidays, these eight tips can help you pay it off and improve your financial situation for 2020.
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1. Figure out which strategy you want to use
If your goal is to save the most money on interest over time, you should go with the debt avalanche strategy and pay off your high-interest holiday debt first. If you think you’ll have trouble staying motivated, opt for the snowball approach instead.
With the snowball approach, you pay off your smallest debt first, then apply the payments that you were previously using toward it to pay the next smallest debt. Keep doing this until all your holiday debt is gone.
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2. Say no to luxuries temporarily
One of the easiest ways to get out of holiday debt as soon as possible is to say no to luxuries like morning Starbucks runs, manicures and random Amazon purchases. Use the money you save on luxuries to pay off your holiday debt. Remind yourself that this is temporary. Once your holiday debt is paid off, you can enjoy these luxuries once again.
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3. Earn extra cash
Pick up a side gig so you can earn extra cash and pay off holiday debt without making drastic changes to your lifestyle. You can babysit, drive for Uber or Lyft, deliver food for DoorDash or Instacart, or sell unwanted items on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist or LetGo. The options are endless so get creative — here are some tips.
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4. Get a balance transfer card
Find a balance transfer card with a 0% introductory annual percentage rate. This way you can pay down your holiday debt while paying no interest for a set period of time. You’ll find that there are many great offers in January because credit card companies know that a lot of consumers have overspent during the holiday season.
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5. Turn gift cards into cash
You may have received gift cards you don’t have any intention of using. If this is the case, sell them to people you know or strangers in your neighborhood for cash. You can also use an online marketplace like Raise.com or Cardpool.com. While you may get less than their face value, you can put the cash you earn toward your holiday debt.
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6. Stop using your credit card
It’s all too easy to swipe your credit card any time you want to buy something. While you’re trying to get out of holiday debt, get into the habit of using cash. Using paper money might make you more conscious of your spending and help you stick to a budget. Sticking to cash can help you avoid digging yourself further into debt and exacerbating the problem.
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7. Use unexpected money wisely
While it may be tempting to use your January bonus, birthday cash or tax refund on a new mattress, car or something else you’ve been wanting, putting it toward your holiday debt is a smart move. The sooner you get out of holiday debt, the sooner you’ll be able to save up enough money for your splurge.
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8. Plan ahead
Once you pay off your holiday debt, take the money you were using to pay it down and place it in a savings account. You can use the savings account for the next holiday season and avoid getting into debt again. Remember, it’s easier to avoid debt than it is to get out of it.
Stay out of debt all year long with this budgeting spreadsheet.