Americans who took on debt over the 2017 holidays reported an average of $1,054 new debt, according to a MagnifyMoney survey. This represents a 5% increase from the average amount of holiday credit card debt incurred in 2016.
Do you have new or increased credit card bills from your holiday spending? If so, here are some tips for dealing with your holiday credit card debt.
Stop making new charges to your credit cards, at least for a few weeks. It will be easier to pay down your credit card balance if you are not adding to the balance. Use cash or your debit card for all purchases in the weeks following the holidays. You cannot overspend if you limit yourself to spending only your cash on hand.
Cut back on January spending, and maybe February too. Spending less will free up some cash to put toward paying off your holiday credit card debt.
Cut back on non-essentials and luxury expenses. Brown-bag your lunch for a few weeks. Enjoy an evening in instead of a pricey dinner out with friends. Forego a January trip to the hair or nail salon. Skip the trip to Target, or at least make a list of necessities and skip the impulse buy isle and buy only what is on your list.
Use the money you didn’t spend to pay your credit card debt.
Pay down the card with the highest interest rate first. The card with the highest interest rate is costing you the most in interest charges month after month. If you are carrying a balance forward each month, focus on paying down your debts with the highest interest rate to the lowest.
Pay more than your monthly minimum payment, every month. If your balance is high, it will take years to pay off a credit card making only the minimum monthly payment. Over the course of those years, you will continue to accrue interest charges and you will ultimately pay back far, far more than the original amount you charged. This is how credit card companies get rich off of consumers.
If you are consistently only able to make your minimum monthly payment, it is a red flag that you may have a serious debt problem.
When you truly can only make the minimum monthly payment, then it is time to take an honest assessment of your overall financial situation. If you cannot reasonably pay off your credit card debts within 3 years, then it is time to consider filing for bankruptcy.
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