During the holidays we often find ourselves spending more than usual. As a result, you might be searching for ways to tighten your belt, save more, and of course pay off holiday debt. The good news is, paying off holiday debt is an achievable goal if you follow the steps outlined in this article. Below are 5 simple steps you can take right now to reduce holiday debt. Let’s dive right in.
Pay Off High Interest Credit Lines
If you used a department store line of credit, these revolving accounts are often accompanied by high interest rates usually between 14% - 29% APR. High interest rates will increase your overall financial burden and should be paid off as quickly as possible.
To avoid paying erroneous interest rates or fees, simply pay the balance off before the billing cycle closes. If paying the balance off is not feasible try applying for a personal consolidation loan with a lower interest rate. Then use the loan to pay off the credit line and other holiday debt.
Taking this a step further, if you are unable to consolidate debt, start by reducing your balance. You can begin reducing your balance by either making multiple payments during the month or paying more than the minimum balance due.
Host a New Year Yard Sale
The new year is a great time to empty out your closet or storage bins and step into “Marie Kondo” mode. While you do not have to get rid of all your recent purchases or gifts, hosting a yard sale is an excellent opportunity to declutter your space while also making use of items that will likely sit idle and accumulate dust over the next year.
If you’re not much of a “yard sale” person, feel free to use sites or apps like Poshmark. Using Poshmark as an example, many users sell gently used fashion goods. If you have some old baby clothes stored that you don’t plan on using or a closet filled with shoes that you never wear, Poshmark is an excellent place to sell these goods. A great tip for online sales is to focus on niche platforms. For example, if you’re a sneaker buff looking to make a quick buck, check out Stockx.com or Letgo.com for used home goods.
Cash in on Unwanted Gifts or Use Gift Cards Creatively
Despite the lack of political correctness, hoarding items you don’t intend on using takes up unnecessary space, energy, and can probably be of better use to someone else.
Instead of hoarding unwanted gifts return them for cash. In most cases, a gift can be returned if you have a gift receipt. If you do not have a gift receipt be sure to check item tags as some items include a return UPC which allows you to return gifts easily. Keep in mind, return policies will vary. As a result, some companies may opt to provide exchanges, a gift card, or store credit as opposed to cash. If you cannot get a cash refund for the gift selling the item on sites like Ebay or Letgo.
Note, while most stores will not allow you to exchange gift cards for cash you can use those gift cards creatively. For example, if you receive a ‘Big Box Store’ gift card where groceries are available, you can use the card for your monthly grocery expenses in lieu of cash. Then take the cash saved and apply it to your holiday debt.
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Tighten Your Purse Strings (Alternative - Tighten Your Budget)
After a few months of holiday extravagance tightening your budget may actually provide some consumer relief. Step away from the storefronts, fast food joints, and chaos triggers. Instead, think of budget tightening as an opportunity to add some zen back into your financial flow.
Here are a few things you can do to tighten your budget:
- Avoid coffee shop purchases. Instead, take investor Kevin O’Leary’s approach to coffee buying and refuse to spend $2.50 on a cup that costs 18 cents to make. Get caffeinated at home and apply your coffee money to paying off holiday debt.
- Use coupons when shopping. While extreme couponing may not be the answer for everyone saving 5% on your total bill adds up.
- Evaluate large expenses like cable or phone plans. Oftentimes you can easily reduce, eliminate, or bundle these expenses to get a better price.
Every personal budget is different. Even so, there is always an opportunity to save. For example, small changes like buying an unbranded version of your normal shampoo or completing a survey to get a $5 discount may seem inconsequential. However, these small savings add up. More importantly, it builds money-smart habits and pushes you into a savings mindset.
Increase Your Income
Finally, increasing your income is always an option. Although a lot easier said than done, this step is not necessarily geared towards getting another job but instead picking up a few odd jobs or extra shifts as your schedule allows. For example, in the U.S. military commissary baggers often have other full-time jobs and typically take on shifts for extra money (as they are paid tips only). There are many different opportunities to capitalize on what is known as the gig economy. Some of these opportunities include:
- Courier Services
- SAT Tutoring
- Pet Services
There are so many ways to make a little extra money, if you’re in a bind this is definitely a step worth diving into.
Overall, reducing your debt after the holidays is a feasible goal! Start by tackling big opportunities to save and reduce debt as opposed to paying interest. Then get creative by using your existing resources or skills to find, keep, and make more money. Your resourcefulness will aid in reducing debt quicker and perhaps even help you save money for the upcoming holiday season! After all, one of the best cures for debt is preparedness.