10 Tips to Tackle Holiday Debt
The holidays are over, and all the gifts have been opened. Some gifts may even have already been set aside and forgotten about. But guess what won’t be so easily forgotten?...HOLIDAY DEBT! That’s right, Santa Claus came to town and left behind a mountain of bills. But don’t fret about these bills derailing you from any New Year Financial Resolutions you may have set. Follow these tips and sleigh away those jingle bills:
- Look over your credit card statements carefully. Be sure you were charged correctly, never double charged, and that there are no fraudulent charges on your account. This is the most common time of the year for these things to occur.
- Make any merchandise returns before it’s too late. Look around for anything that could be returned. Something did not fit, something was not liked, and return it. Time will be running out soon for any holiday gift returns. Most retail stores have between a 30-90 day return policy.
- Pay more than the minimum payment required. Minimum payments required by credit card companies is usually only 1% of the outstanding balance and barely cover interest. If you pay only minimum, you may never get it paid down.
- Set an amount to pay each month. Review your budget and determine a realistic and fixed amount that you feel you can commit to pay each month that exceeds the minimum.
- Do not use card until paid down. Make a declaration to abstain from using your current credit card at all until you have your holiday shopping balance completely repaid.
- Never pay less than the committed fixed amount you set. But if you get in a pickle and have unexpected expenses (i.e., medical, car repair, etc.), do not ignore calls from the credit card company. Talk to them about repayment options. Some are even willing to negotiate a settlement if you can adequately articulate your hardship. This helps you avoid damaging your credit score.
- Pay extra when you can. While you don’t want to pay less than your committed set amount, it is great idea to pay MORE when you are able to. If you come into a little extra cash or an unexpected bonus, pay more toward your that high-interest credit card.
- Consider a Balance Transfer. Keep an eye out for zero balance transfer offers. Within the first few months of the year, typically credit card companies offer zero interest or low interest rates for an introductory period (anywhere from 90 days to 12 months) on balance transfers. Transfer several credit card balances to one card and pay down debt as much as possible during promotional period.
- STAY AWAY from Payday Loan or Cash Advance facilities. Many consumers are led to think that payday loans are a cheap and convenient way to borrow money, but the average annual interest rates of payday loans ranges from 391% - 521%! You are better off paying credit card interest rates (currently averaging about 20%) or applying for a personal loan or Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC).
- Seek professional help to get on track. You don’t have to figure it out alone. Seek the guidance of a certified financial counselor. We offer free financial counselling to anyone here at Land of Lincoln Credit Union. Make an appointment today at llcu.org.