Holidays can be tough on the budget. Birthdays too. Same for vacations and shopping sprees. Even if you try to temper your spending, tons of unexpected expenses arise. Before you know it, that credit card balance has grown. Things like travel, food, decorations, family gatherings, meals out, charitable giving, and more all add up without you even realizing it.
When the reality of an overgrown account balance sinks in, it is time to cure your debt hangover and make progress toward your larger financial goals.
Making a Plan
Life is always better with a plan. The same holds true with your finances. Of course, you have to act on that plan. Still, the first step is to put a plan together that will help you recover from your debt hangover. Your goal should be to eliminate the massive headache of interest charges that can weigh you down throughout the year ahead.
Some options to consider in your planning include:
- Ask your credit card companies for interest rate relief. This is especially useful if your spending spree is completely out of character and something you never plan to repeat again. However, if you have a history of maintaining high credit card balances, you might be out of luck.
- Commit to paying off your smallest balance first. While conventional wisdom is to pay off debts in order of the highest interest rates first, some people need little victories to celebrate to maintain or create momentum. That means paying off small debts, one at a time and then focusing all your effort on the largest debt, regardless of which debts carry the highest interest rates.
- Talk with your partner about the situation and your plans for righting your financial train and getting everything back on track. Hiding the reality of your money situation does not help. In fact, it can do just the opposite because your partner is operating without understanding the reality of your financial situation and may inadvertently make things worse by spending money you need to manage your debt.
- Consider avenues to earn extra money until your debt diet ends. We live in the day of the gig economy. Whether you turn your car into a money-making machine by delivering food for one of the many delivery services, become a people mover, or go grocery shopping for those who are shut-in, infirmed, or elderly; there are all kinds of things you can do to earn additional income in your “downtime” that will help you get your debt under control.
Ultimately, you have options available as far as making a plan to manage your holiday debt long before the next holiday season comes around. Your next move is to act on your plan.
Sometimes, a balance transfer is, by far, the way to go. New credit cards often come with very low-interest rates and allow you to transfer balances of existing credit cards for low entry fees.
Of course, this is only effective if you have a plan in place to repay the full balance before the introductory period ends. Some offer incredibly low-interest rates, like three percent or less. However, a few will offer zero interest on balance transfers — as long as you repay the full debt within six months.
The key here is to make sure that you can transfer the total debt to your lower-cost credit cards, and that that there are no limits to the amount of debt you can move.
Debt Consolidation and Loans
Another consideration is debt consolidation, either under a single, lower-rate credit card or through loans. Some consider home equity loans to cash out the equity in your home. This offers you the opportunity to pay off the high-interest rate credit cards and other debt at a much lower rate – especially with mortgage interest rates at historic lows.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line when trying to rid yourself of a debt hangover is to always look for ways to pay as little, overall, for your debt as possible. That means paying off your debt quickly, avoiding the minimum payment trap, and negotiating with credit card companies. The key is to seek avenues to repay the debt with as little interest attached to it as possible.