OK my lovelies – the holiday season is officially over. The turkey has been eaten, the presents unwrapped, the decorations are ready to go back in their boxes, and it’s time for the Christmas bills to start arriving. If you have done significant overspending during this holiday, this is the part you have been dreading, isn’t it?
However, all is not lost. The money is definitely spent, at this point, nothing can be done about that. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t make a plan to minimize the impact of it. Your best bet is to make a specific plan to deal with this overspending problem – quickly.
Diagnose The Problem
First step, as always is to measure the extent of the holiday spending problem. I know this is definitely painful, but it’s gotta be done. I know you probably had some existing debt, but if I were you I’d keep it simple and just focus on the extra holiday overspending for the time being.
In my case, it’s fairly simple. I had a completely debt-free Christmas as usual, due to my Christmas Club savings plan (more about that in a minute). But, we decided to start remodeling our kitchen, so I took advantage of the post-holiday sales to buy a new stove today. So, in my case, my number is $1,000 of additional Christmas spending. What is yours?
My plan is to pay it off in five months. I get paid every two weeks, so that’s just $100 a payday from January til May. That’s pretty do-able. There are really only two ways to get extra money – spend less or earn more. In my case, I’m planning to do both.
But let’s say that you’ve wracked up maybe $1,500 in excess holiday spending. How quickly can you get focused and get that paid off? Can you pick up extra hours at work? Cut back on your grocery spending, or pack some lunches? Have a family meeting and make a plan. It’s more fun when you all work together.
The Spend-Less Plan
January is a great time to start a no-spend challenge. You’ve just gotten a bunch of new stuff and everyone is in the mood to cut back. Plus there aren’t a lot of parties and activities going on like there are at other times of the year. I’m not quite disciplined enough to do a no-spend challenge, but I can definitely do a low-spend challenge and I will do that.
What about you? Can you brown-bag it for a month or two? Be more efficient with your grocery spending? Cut back on some extra items for a while? Movies? Eating out? You’d be surprised at how many cost-cutters you can find once you start looking for them.
The More Work Plan
The other side of the coin is more work. That’s usually the preference for a workaholic like me. I bring in a steady income from freelance work on my computer. So, I’m willing to pick up an extra client or two to put that extra money towards my debt. My husband also picks up some side work doing security for a local arena. He gets to watch concerts and sporting events that we wouldn’t spend the money on, so he doesn’t mind.
How bout you? Babysitting for a neighbor? Pet sitting. Starting a blog (ask me about that!). Making items for an Etsy store? Do some side work on Fiverr or Upwork? Drive for Lyft or Uber? These are some of the common ones.
How ’bout some uncommon ones? In my neighborhood there’s a lady who bakes dozens of cookies with her kids and sells them to the neighbors. The kids enjoy it and she sells HUNDREDS of cookies. Have a winter garage sale in your heated garage and serve hot chocolate and cookies. Zero competition because no one else is crazy enough to do that when it’s cold, so you should get lots of buyers.
There are TONS of ways to make extra money. Believe me, I’ve tried most of them and some are better than others. Just an FYI – you may want to steer clear of MLM opportunities – you know, Tupperware, Avon, Pampered Chef, etc. I have some experience with them and they are very often a source of more DEBT rather than more INCOME.
Check out my post on – The Pitfalls of Direct Sales Companies
The Christmas Club Savings Plan for Next Year
Once you get your plan in place to clear away this year’s debt, it’s time to start thinking about next year’s holiday debt. I know it’s depressing to think about, but next Christmas is only about 25 paydays away – bleh. Christmas comes around like clockwork every 12 months, so this year, PLAN AHEAD.
For the last five years, I’ve had my own version of the old-fashioned “Christmas Club” account. It’s just a basic savings account I set up with an automatic direct deposit. Money goes into it every payday. After all this time, I don’t even notice it’s gone. Then around Thanksgiving every year, I pull a special debit card out of a drawer and bingo! I have a guilt-free stash of moolah to spend for the next Christmas. You should try it – it’s a nice feeling to not have post-holiday debt.