So, You Overspent on Christmas - Now What?
If you spent a little too much on “holiday cheer” this past season, know that you’re not alone. Retail spending among U.S. consumers saw a significant increase compared to the last few years. This means that there is no shortage of folks currently staring at their credit card statements and wondering what to do next.
While overspending can always wreak havoc on your finances, holiday spending is an all-too-common occurrence. In fact, 45% of adults admit to feeling pressured to overspend over the Christmas season, according to the 2018 Bankrate Holiday Gifting Survey. Come January, all that many of these budget-breakers are left with is a too-high credit card bill and some crumpled wrapping paper.
Have no fear, though. With the right repayment plan – and some serious buckling down – you can clear out that debt and rebuild your finances in no time. Here are five things you can do to mitigate your holiday overspending, right off the bat.
Make a Repayment Plan
First thing’s first: take some time to figure out just how much you’ve surpassed your budget, and how deep of a hole you’re now in. Then, figure out your plan for digging out.
This will mean analyzing your budget to see where you can find wiggle room. This will give you an idea of how much money you have available each month to go toward the damaged caused by your holiday overspending. Then, decide how quickly you can feasibly repay your new debt, and make a specific plan.
Lock Down Additional Spending
It might seem obvious, but I’ll say it just in case: if you want to fix your recent spending faux pas, it’s important to lock down your spending from here on out. Until you have paid off your credit card bill, rebuild your savings, or otherwise corrected your excessive spending, you shouldn’t be buying anything but necessities.
It can be easy to get into a habit of reckless spending, and breaking that habit come January is difficult. However, all you’ll do is create an even bigger hole to climb out of and take even longer to fix the damage done.
Instead, create a payoff plan, establish a strict budget, and do not waver from either.
Utilize a Balance Transfer Offer
Credit card issuers will often give balance transfer promotions to new cardholders, offering them 0% interest for a period of time. Taking advantage of one of these offers is a great way to pay down your existing debt over time, without incurring finance charges.
There are just a few things to watch out for along the way. First, keep a close eye on the promotion period, and be sure to have the debt cleared before the term expires. Otherwise, you’ll find hefty interest rates waiting for you on whatever balance is remaining.
Second, it can be tempting to spend on your existing, now-cleared card once the balance has been transferred over to a new account. Doing so will only pave the way for more debt to accrue, though, and make it impossible to get ahead. If you need to hide (or destroy) that card until you’ve settled your transferred balance, do so.
Keep Saving As Usual
It can be tempting to halt your normal saving habits while you work to pay down new holiday debt. This might mean taking a break from your usual retirement contributions or building up your emergency fund – but either way, it’s a bad idea.
There will always be extra expenses (self-inflicted or not) that threaten to derail your progress. If you simply abandon your planned saving in an effort to focus on those expenses, though, you might find yourself never able to get back to saving.
If you’ve overspent on the holidays, you should definitely direct every extra penny you can toward combating the debt. However, your emergency fund and planned retirement savings aren’t where you should find the funds.
Start Planning for Next Christmas
Want to avoid this same situation next year? Then now is the time to start planning for the 2019 holiday season.
First, you’ll want to get an idea of how much you can actually afford to spend on the holidays. This might include family meals, flights over Thanksgiving and Christmas, rental cars, hotels, and of course, gifts. If you need to think ahead to DIY and other budget-friendly gifts, this is a great time to start planning (and you’ll save a ton in the process).
You can open a savings account today and contribute monthly throughout the year. That way, your holiday expenses won’t be such a budget-breaker come wintertime. You can also start buying gifts and stashing them all year long, such as when there are big sales or when seasonal items go on clearance.
Millions of Americans overspent over the holidays, so you’re not alone if you fall into that category. With the right planning and a committed attitude, though, you can not only combat the effects of recent weeks, but also plan ahead for next year.