GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - The holiday rush might be through, but now, credit card bills are due! And if you overspent this past holiday season, you're not alone.
In 2017, Americans took on an average of $1,054 of debt and only half of those surveyed said that they expected to pay off their spending in three months or less. Of the remaining half, 29% said they'll need five months or longer to pay off holiday debt, in most cases accruing additional interest.
An additional 10 percent of people who took on holiday debt said they would only make minimum payments. If that's the case, this shopper could still be making payments on 2017 holiday gifts in 2023.
Financial professional, Tom Jacobs from Jacobs Financial Services shared his holiday hangover kit to help decrease credit card debt.
1. Make a Plan
Cure the financial hangover headache with a planner. It might be hard to see the debt-free light at the end of the tunnel, so start by marking up a planner of when bills are due and goal dates
of when you'd like each bill to be at a certain balance. Get organized by gathering all of your statements, and write down the balance, payment date and interest rate on each credit card.
You can utilize a debt worksheet, which can be found at jaobsfs.com
2. Find Frugal Entertainment
For January and February, try cutting back. Maybe you got some new movies over the holidays: watch them at home instead of going to the theater. Use up your gift cards to cut back on spending, and try cutting back on coffee runs and lunches out. If you're entertaining, consider doing a potluck and playing games. It's a perfect time to open the bottle of wine or champagne you may have
received as a hostess gift from your holiday party.
3. Start a Snowball Effect
Jacobs recommends starting with the card with the lowest balance. Devote as much as you can to that card, while still making minimum payments on all your other debts. Once that one is paid off, start on the second-lowest balance. Just like a snowball rolling down a hill, the key is building momentum each time you pay off a debt.
4. Look for Lower Rates
Credit card companies want their money back, so they're often willing to work with customers to pay down debt. Ask if you can get a lower interest rate. Make sure you know your credit score before you call and keep in mind that you are asking them for a favor. If they aren't willing to do so, shop around for a lower rate and transfer your balance. Do your research before committing. Credit card companies often offer a low introductory rate and raise it after a few months or a year. Also pay attention to balance transfer fees.
5. Plan for Next Year
Make sure the ghost of Christmas past stays in the past. You don't want your hard work paying off your debt to go to waste. Take the total amount you spent on the holidays this year and divide that number by ten. Use the remaining months and weeks of your planner to set holiday saving goals and commit to saving each month.
To get you started, the average shopper was expected to spend about $1,200 during the 2017 holiday season. If you can put away $100 each month, you'll be in good shape once the 2018 holiday season rolls around.
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