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Here’s How to Beat a Holiday Debt Hangover

If you overindulged during the holidays and busted your budget in the process, don’t despair. This condition can be licked, though maybe not as easily as dispatching the residual effects of over-imbibing while spreading good cheer. Nonetheless, trying to ignore that flurry of January bills won’t make the debt hangover melt away.

For some, getting over a spending binge takes nearly all year: 7% of 2013 holiday shoppers fell into that category, Consumer Reports noted in November. It may not be easy, but it can be done. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Stash plastic: To avoid unnecessary spending, keep your credit and debit cards out of sight and leave them home when you go out. Take your information off of merchant websites and mailing lists to limit temptations.

Assess the debt: Make a list of all your balances, the minimum due on each per month, due dates and interest rates, so you can set priorities and weigh options.

Consider balance transfers: Sometimes consolidating debt using lower-rate accounts can save money as the amount is paid off. An online calculator can help you figure out potential savings, but don’t neglect to include upfront fees. Keep in mind that maximum cost reduction may rely on paying off balances before any introductory discount period ends.

Create a budget: A budget can help keep you on track to eliminate overhanging debt at minimal cost. It should include monthly necessities — such as food, shelter, fuel — as well as income. Allocate amounts for debt payments as well as savings and incidental expenses.

Pay extra: You won’t find your way out of the mess just by paying the minimum due on balances you owe each month, so pay more. That goes double for high-rate accounts, which should be your primary targets as you reduce debt as fast as possible.

Increase income: Adding income will help. If you can’t negotiate a raise or win a bonus, maybe you can do some moonlighting to boost what you bring in. Even selling unwanted items can give you more money to pare down what you owe faster.

Don’t get discouraged — persistence pays off. As your debts disappear, check out a savings account at a financial institution like Lone Star Credit Union. You can use one to prepare for the 2015 holidays and put yourself in good financial shape before the season’s shopping even begins.


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