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Remedies for holiday spending hangovers

Jan. 1, 2008 - 09:18AM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 1, 2008 - 09:18AM  |  

Listen up. Did you wake up in 2008 with a financial hangover from that holiday spending frenzy?

You're not alone.

If you used credit, it's time to deal with the holiday bills that will soon start rolling in.

Do not panic. But don't ignore it -- and don't make it worse by spending more money and getting deeper into debt.

Here are five tips to get you started:

1. Are there things you bought for yourself or your spouse that you don't want? If the clothes haven't been worn or the items have not been used, could you return them for a refund? That might take a little bite out of the bill, or you could use the refund to pay down another credit card.

2. Come up with a structured plan to pay off the debt. Look at your monthly income and expenses. Find ways to squeeze out extra dollars to pay off the debt. Could you clip coupons from the newspaper and download coupons online to save money? Under the "Links" button at http://www.commissaries.com">http://www.commissaries.com, you'll find several sites for coupons.

When shopping with coupons, remember to buy only products that you use, not extras. That's not saving.

Are you buying breakfast and/or lunch each day at work? Buying a specialty coffee each day? Add it up. Pack your lunch; skip sipping the expensive java. If you save $5 a day, that's $25 a week and $100 a month. Put that money toward paying off your holiday bills.

3. Stop using your credit card to rack up more debt. The interest charges will snowball.

Look at the fine print in your credit card agreement. What is the annual percentage rate on the money you owe? If you have several cards with balances, pay off the card with the highest interest rate first. However, some people prefer to pay off the cards with the smallest balance first; it gives them a sense of accomplishment. Either way, each time you pay off a card, pay that amount the following month toward the card with the next-highest interest rate.

Make payments on time. If your credit card company charges you a fee each time you're late, it makes that snowball bigger.

4. If you find you're having trouble paying your rent/mortgage, utility bills and other necessities, contact the financial management program specialist at your nearest military family center. Don't wait too long; they can help you sort out things to get you back on track.

5 Contact Military OneSource. You can call any time of the day or night, toll-free (800) 342-9647. Or go to its Web site, http://www.militaryonesource.com">http://www.militaryonesource.com. You'll have to register for the site.

People there can answer questions or point you to resources in the military and civilian communities for help on a variety of subjects, ranging from money management to finding child care to spouse employment to counseling — any issue related to military life or life in general. It's all paid for by the Defense Department.

Once you've paid off your holiday bills, put that $25 a week or so in the bank to save for emergencies and to get a jump on your next holiday bills!

Got that? You're good to go.

Questions or comments? Contact staff writer kjowers@militarytimes.com?subject=Question from ArmyTimes.com reader">Karen Jowers at sgtshopper@militarytimes.com">sgtshopper@militarytimes.com.

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