When you think about your bank account, does it feel like the Little Drummer Boy escaped his carol only to keep the beat inside your skull? If the answer is a miserable yes, then you may have a holiday hangover.
The holidays are a whirlwind of temptations that are hard to ignore. Rich, butter-filled sweets, endless drink top-ups, and uncontrolled shopping are the top offenders, but only your transgressions at the till are what causes the pounding in your head. Once the hustle and bustle of the season dies down, there’s nothing to distract you from the consequences of your uncontrolled spending. Luckily, there’s a solution. You can detox from your holiday hangover by making your finances a priority in the New Year.
You wouldn’t be the only one feeling a little rough after the holidays. ‘Tis the season to overindulge, and most Americans don’t know where to draw the line. Many of them end up overindulging in every sense of the word. It’s hard not to when you’re supposed to eat, drink, and be merry. Unfortunately, their attempts at making merryusually involves spending far beyond their means at a time when they work less hours around Christmas.
Between the food, drinks, presents, decorations, travel, and all the other details that go into a perfect holiday, the season’s purchases add up. Overall spending during the 2016 holidays hit $1 trillion. And the further the country gets from the recession, the more it’s expected to spend. Economists from Deloitte estimate the country’s holiday spending in 2017 will hit $1.05 trillion — up by 4.5 percent from last year.
What does this mean for the average American? The National Retail Federation’s 2017 holiday spending forecast estimates individual spending to hit $967.13. Nearly a grand on top of regular expenses can be a challenge for even the most financially prepared person. For two-thirds of Americans, it’s impossible because they don’t have enough savings to cover an emergency exceeding $500 — or roughly half of what they’re expected to spend on the holidays!
A lot of people end up paying for things with their credit cards, online loans, and personal lines of credit. According to MagnifyMoney’s poll, the average American added $986 in debt around the holidays. Only 44 percent of those polled were worried by this sum, despite 55 percent of surveyors admitting they will take five months or more to repay this debt. Many of them plan on paying only the minimum payments.
Sometimes, covering the minimum payment is all you can do. It is technically better than nothing, as it saves you from adding late fees to your mountain of debt, but thanks to compounding interest, it’s not much better. Eventually, the interest keeps adding up until it surpasses the original loan, so you end up owing twice as much.
Though it makes for an unpleasant New Year’s experience, there is a solution. The cure to your holiday debt relies on a spending detox, and you can’t do that without first knowing how you’re spending your money. A budget is the only way you can properly track your cash to help you tackle your spending.
If you don’t already have a household budget, it’s time you draft one. Accuracy is important when you’re inputting numbers to your plan, so make sure you take the time to confirm your exact income for each month. Then spend time going through old statements, so you can figure out your average spending for each month.
Once you’ve dissected your finances, you can figure out the spending habits that put you at risk. Start by eliminating unnecessary purchases, and use the money you saved to pay off your debt. What these purchases are is different for everyone. While some people need to cut out their trips to Starbucks or weekly brunch dates, you may be overspending in easily avoidable roaming charges or parking fines.
Finding these mistakes sounds easy on paper, but it’s not always simple when you put it into practice. A single roadblock has the power to leech all your motivation. On a particularly bad day, you’ll want to roll up into a blanket burrito and binge-watch your responsibilities away with another Stranger Things 2 viewing.
There’s no doubt it will be hard to restructure your finances, but you don’t have to turn to the Upside Down to escape it. Before you reach for that blanket, use this handy money saving guide to get you started. It breaks down your task into accomplishable steps, with daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly changes to your habits. It also discusses finding motivation in what seems like an insurmountable task.
It, like so many other financial blogs you can find on the Internet, provides guidance and relief. Not only do you avoid thinking up saving tips on your own, but you can also take solace knowing that these guides are available for so many people just like you, so you know you aren’t alone in your fight against holiday debt.
In short, holiday debt is a reality for the majority of the country. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be a permanent addition to your finances. With the right help and determination, you can make small changes to your habits that help you recover from your overindulgences, so you can start saving in earnest.
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