The holidays can be expensive with festive hosting, gift giving and travel – and the temptation to over spend can make sticking to a budget very difficult. According to Statista.com, the average Canadian spent $1,164 on holiday gifts alone. If you’re anxious about your holiday bills and wondering how you’re going to pay them off, these helpful tips can get you back on track for 2017.
Calculate your debt
The first step is to determine the amount that you owe, including credit card debt, lines of credits, personal loans, and add in any consumer debt that you were carrying prior to the holiday season. Once you have a realistic total, you can work towards a goal.
Make a date to be debt free
It’s always advisable to have a goal. Set a date to pay it off by. Perhaps you can deal with the holiday damage within 90 days. Take that amount and divide it by 12 weeks. That will give you the actual amount that you have to pay each week in order to pay it off in three months. If the weekly amount is too hefty, you may need more time, but the point is make a plan to get debt free and choose a reasonable timeline in order to make that happen.
Tackling the debt
Once you’ve come up with a reasonable time frame, start by paying the debt that has the highest interest, first. Continue to make minimum payments on all your other debt, in order to keep your credit score in good standing. Once the highest debt is paid off, move to the next highest, and keep up the payment levels in order to get your debt paid off faster. Remember, the longer you wait, the more interest you will pay.
If you received gifts that you have no intention of using, return them for cash or a gift card rather than hanging on to them. Otherwise you’re letting the value of that gift waste away in the corner of your closet. Take back unwanted items for cash and use it to pay down your debt. If you’re issued a store card, I recommend saving it for the 2017 holidays. For gifts that can’t be returned, exchange them for items that you’ll actually use. For those that can’t be returned or exchanged, try selling them them on a buy-and-sell site.
Prepare for next year
The damage has been done for 2016, but it doesn’t mean that you have to repeat patterns. Plan now for the 2017 holiday season. I recommend taking a photocopy of your current credit card bill(s) and storing them away when you pack up your holiday decorations. This will serve as a visual reminder to stay away from spending too much next Christmas. Add up how much you spent this year and divide that by six months. As soon as your debt is paid off, start putting money away. In six months you should have all the money you’ll need for the coming holiday season. Happy New Year.
As finance editor for HOMES Publishing Group, Rubina Ahmed-Haq shares her expertise in our sister publication Condo Life. In addition, she is a regular contributor on CBC Radio, blogger at RateSupermarket.ca, and has her own website alwayssavemoney.ca.