Now that the holidays are over and you’re left cleaning up from all the fun and catching up with those who couldn’t visit, you may be wondering how you can decrease the debt you’ve acquired over the holidays. Debt is an age-old problem, but fortunately, there are solutions to help you recover and pay off debt after the holiday.
CALCULATE WHAT YOU OWE
Start by determining how much you owe overall. You can do this by recording the balances and monthly payments of all your credit cards and loans to see how much you need to repay.
If it is easier write it all down or put it in the budgeting app on your cell phone or computer. This will help you to see the bigger picture and will help you devise a plan to pay it all off. Seeing the whole picture makes it easier when the time comes to repay.
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ORGANIZE YOUR DEBT
After coming up with what you owe, organize your credit card debt, on paper or on a spreadsheet, in order of interest amounts and payment due dates. Organize by interest rates because you might want to start paying the higher interest cards off first as they will end up costing you more in the long run. This video does a great job of explaining the process.
You can reduce high-interest credit card debt by transferring your balances to a card that offers no interest for a period or to a lower-interest card. Most financial institutions have special offers for balance transfers. Others might offer no interest for a year with a fee for the transfer (just be aware that if you can’t pay the card off after the promotional year, you may be charged all of the back interest).
Transferring balances to a lower- or no-interest card will enable you to pay on what you owe and not have to worry about excessive interest payments. If you can pay more than the minimum required amount, you will reduce potential interest expenses and pay it off even sooner. The most important step in this process is research. Look around for institutions that will best suit your needs.
Next, look at your loans. It may help to sit with a representative from your financial institution to go over repayment options that will help you reduce your debt and increase your cash flow so that you can stay on top of your expenses.
Here are three options that you might be eligible for:
- Refinancing: Refinancing allows you to lengthen the term of your loan and possibly reduce your interest rate (if your credit score has improved). This option might mean that it will take you longer to pay off the loan, but it does free up your money so you can use it for other things.
- Debt consolidation: Debt consolidation will group your debts into one loan so that you make one payment each month. This can give you some peace of mind knowing that one loan payment is taking care of multiple debts.
- Skip-a-payment: You might be offered the option to skip a payment on your loan. There is usually a fee to use this option. Skipping a payment does not mean that the payment goes away. It will be pushed ahead by a month, extending the term of your loan. This can buy you some time but be aware that interest will continue to accrue. This option will give you a month to catch your breath, meaning, it’s one less bill you will need to worry about for that month. Depending on your financial institution, use of this option may be limited to once a year.
STOP SPENDING UNNECESSARILY
When trying to repay debt, you want to avoid accumulating more. One tactic that can help you avoid more debt is to reduce unnecessary spending. You can make yourself more aware of what you DON’T need to spend money on by listing what you DO need to spend money on. Begin by listing your needs. You can start off with headings for general things like house, food, and transportation. Under each subheading, you can list what you need for each main category. Use this list as your guide for shopping and don’t buy things that aren’t on the list (things you don’t need) This way, you are focused on paying off debt. This could allow you to pay a bit extra on your debt to help get rid of it sooner.
Another way to free up some more cash and not spend unnecessarily is to check on your monthly subscriptions. Do you have any recurring payments for services or items that you rarely ever use or aren’t using at all? Could you take a break from any of these services or items for a while? Something I used to hear a lot growing up is, “sometimes you have to do what you can until you can do what you want to.” Simply meaning that things aren’t always going to go as planned and sometimes we need to make compromises in order to achieve the ultimate goal in the end, which in this case is being debt-free.
CONSIDER A PAYMENT PLAN
Creating a payment plan to pay off debt over time can help reduce the stress of large bills and will also help protect your credit score, which is affected every time you miss a payment. You can often do this with your creditor directly. You can also opt to work with financial counselors who can offer advice and can help you consolidate and pay your debt off responsibly over time.
BUDGET FOR A DEBT-FREE FUTURE
This final option will not only help you chip away at your debt. It will also prevent you from getting into debt. This option is budgeting.
To start, you’ll have to account for your income. Then add your daily, weekly, and monthly expenses together and subtract them from your income. If your expenses exceed your income, you will have a negative total and you need to decide which expenses you can do without. If your income is more than your expenses, then you may have some extra money left over to pay off debt. This article offers some great advice on how to make a budget.
Having everything in one place gives you a better idea of where you are and what you need to change. You can also set your reminders so you never miss payments, avoid additional interest payments, and get on the right track with recovering from the holiday debt.
Coming up with a plan will help you get ahead of your debt and get the momentum you need to stay ahead of it. With proper research and by asking the right questions, you will find what you need. Peace comes with being debt-free, especially after the holidays!
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