When my husband and I were just married (and beyond broke), we only bought very small presents for each other and some presents for my mom that were within our budget. However, when we got home for Christmas, my mom was beaming with pride as she showed us the many presents she had under the tree for us.
Embarrassed by our small number of gifts for her, we went out shopping on Christmas Eve to give her as much as she was going to give us. Our budget was absolutely blown. In an ironic twist the author O’Henry could appreciate, come Christmas morning, we discovered more than half of our presents were cheap $2 tee shirts my mom got on clearance. She’d been beaming because she’d scored such a great deal.
I felt terrible the entire Christmas thinking we had blown our budget when we didn’t have to.
It took us three months to pay off that debt.
If you’re in the same position, now that Christmas is over, it’s time to take stock.
Did you overspend?
If so, take a deep breath and know that you’re not alone. Many people are experiencing a holiday spending hangover about now.
There’s no point in berating yourself. What’s done is done, and now it’s time to find a way out of this situation. Here are some options to get back on your feet faster:
1. Work some extra hours.
Can you work overtime at your job? If so, work as much as you can to pay down the debt as quickly as possible. If you have a side gig, ramp up your workload so you’re bringing in more money and apply that to the debt. If you don’t have a side gig, maybe now is the time to consider getting one. You don’t have to make a permanent commitment; you can find something simple to do like walking dogs, shoveling drive ways, or babysitting.
2. Return unopened and unused items.
Do you have items around your house that you’ve never used and still have the tags on? If so, consider returning them. Likewise, if you got gifts you could do without, consider returning those.
3. Have a pantry challenge.
Almost all of us have some extra food in our freezers and cupboards. Challenge yourself to see how long you can go without grocery shopping. Simply eat up what you have at home. Take the money you would have spent on groceries and apply that to your holiday debt.
4. Have a no spending challenge.
For one month, cut out the extras in your life. No lattes, no movies, no nights out with friends. I know it’s hard, but doing this for only 4 weeks can reduce your amount of holiday debt significantly.
Once you’re out of holiday shopping debt, take some of the money you had been using to pay down the debt to put in a bank account specifically earmarked for next year’s holiday shopping. Then, next new year, you won’t find yourself digging out of debt as you are this year.
Have you had a holiday spending binge before? If so, what strategies did you use to pay down the debt quickly?
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