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From gifts to expensive holiday travel, the money you end up paying out over the holiday season can add up fast. For many of us, this means turning to credit cards or loans to cover any shortfall. When the holiday festivities end, though, those debts will begin to have an impact on your budget.  Here’s how to pay them down in a hurry in 2018:

1. Add it Up

Not knowing just how much you owe doesn’t make paying it down any easier; in fact, if you are not aware of all that you owe, you may not take it seriously enough to commit to paying it all off in 2018. By making a list and adding up all your post-holiday expenses, you can get a true idea of your total debt.   You can also list payment deadlines so you can be aware of when payments are due; this avoids late fees and other extra charges.

List each debt type (e.g. credit cards, medical expenses, personal loan, etc.), including the total amount owed and the minimum payment required. You’ll need this information to figure out what to pay first and when.

2. Set a Budget

If you do not already have a household budget in place, this is an ideal time to make one. Allocating your expenses in a conscience manner allows you to make sure you are making the most of the money that comes in.  You may even be able to identify expenses that can be trimmed; cutting these costs frees up more money to pay down your debt faster.

Here are a few items you may find on your credit card that you can cut in 2018; subscriptions to magazines you no longer read or streaming sites you no longer use, impromptu trips to the convenience store for food or coffee, cigarettes, or lottery cards. If you aren’t using your gym membership, pause that too (or even better – get into the gym and feel better about yourself.  Exercise can improve your mood and make you more focused on your goals.) Call your insurance, cable/internet, and cell phone carrier.  See if you can negotiate better rates.  These are easy ways to find a few extra bucks to pay down your debt.

Making a budget means prioritizing your expenses.  Make saving money and paying off your debt a priority.

3. Start Making Payments

When you know what debts you have, and your plan is set, you have a starting point.  Start making payments.  Do you make the minimum payment or pay more if you can? There are several different schools of thought, but generally speaking you want to pay as much as possible.  Paying just the minimum amount will not help you make a significant impact on your debt because of high interest rates.  You’ll want to pay more whenever you can.  Here are a few ideas for allocating any “extra” funds you might have towards getting your debt down:

  • Pay the smallest debt amount first as quickly as possible; when this one is gone, move to the next
  • Divide any extra funds evenly between all debts
  • Pay the debt with the highest interest rate first.  Or move debt to a lower interest card.

4. Find a Temporary Income Boost

Take responsibility for the money you’ve spent.  To pay it off faster, find extra work where you can.  A few extra dollars a month can make a significant impact.  There are a number of flexible work options including temporary jobs, freelance work, and gigs. Relieving yourself of debt will allow you to begin saving towards retirement or an incentive for your hard work including a vacation, an outfit or something special for you or a loved one.  Freedom to do more of what you love comes from reducing your overall financial burden.  It’s worth hitting your short term goals for a longer term lifestyle gain.

5. Get Help if you Need it

If the thought of eliminating your debt, without the support of an expert, seems daunting, get help.  Ask a family member or friend to sit with you to plan out a strategy that you feel comfortable with.  Sometimes, just having someone to help you focus and achieve your goals is all you need to be successful.  However, if you are totally lost and your credit card debt exceed $10,000, you may qualify for professional debt elimination assistance.  Debt settlement and/or consolidation may be an ideal option.  To find out if you qualify, call the number below.

Here is the number for a reputable debt management company that offers a free consultation.  You must have at least $10,000 in credit card debt to qualify.

Coming to terms with your debt in 2018, is the first step to becoming debt free.  Once you have your spending in line with your income, and your expense priorities set, you will be well on your way to financial freedom and the peace of mind that comes with it.