Woman using digital tablet in office - How to Sort Your Post Holiday Debt

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by post-holiday debt, you’re not alone. Many people overspend during the holiday season and find themselves struggling to make ends meet in the months that follow. 


Fortunately, there are steps you can take to manage your holiday debt and get back on track financially. From creating a budget to choosing a debt repayment strategy and coming up with a plan to ensure you are better prepared during the next holiday season. In addition, you will also get to learn about the effects of holiday debt and how debt affects your long-term planning.


The Consequences of Carrying Holiday Debt

After all the fun is done and holiday decorations are packed in storage, you are either left with a load of holiday debt or a new year free of any holiday debt. Unfortunately, holiday debt can cause significant effects on your finances, including; 


1. Interest Accrual

One of the immediate consequences of holiday debt is the accrual of interest. Unsettled balances on credit cards, digital loans, or any debt acquired during the holiday accumulate interest over time, exacerbating the financial burden.


2. Credit Score Implications

Prolonged or excessive holiday debt can negatively impact your credit score. A lower credit score may limit future borrowing capabilities and influence interest rates on loans.


3. Stress and Mental Health

The psychological impact of post-holiday debt should not be underestimated. Financial stress resulting from debt obligations can adversely affect mental health, leading to anxiety, depression, and reduced overall well-being.


4. Budgetary Constraints

The presence of holiday debt constrains the ability to allocate funds to essential areas such as savings, investments, and unforeseen expenses. This limitation hampers overall financial flexibility. 


Portrait of a young African woman stressed with her head on her hand


How Did You Get Here?

Stay with me on this one! 


I know the first step to tackling debts and other financial situations is assessing your current state of affairs. Financially, that is. However, before we get there, I recommend starting by answering one question; “how did I get here?” 


Did you not have a sinking fund for holiday expenses? Did you have a budget for gifts, food, entertainment, travel, and all other holiday expenses? And did you stick to this budget? Or were there unexpected holiday expenses? 


Sounds overwhelming? I know. But it doesn’t have to be, really. Even with the total amount, it helps to have a breakdown, either in your notebook or in a spreadsheet. This will come in handy during your future holiday and financial planning. 


Here’s a quick guide on how to go about it; 


1. Create a Breakdown of Common Holiday Expenses

While everyone’s holiday expenses are different, there are usually some common denominators. These are the expenses you want to focus on first. They include: 

  • Gift purchases – the primary contributor to holiday debt is often the expenditure on gifts. The desire to express generosity can lead to overspending, particularly when you’re not adhering to a predefined budget.
  • Travel expenses – holiday seasons often involve travel, contributing significantly to accrued debt. Expenses related to transportation, accommodation, and related incidentals can accumulate swiftly.
  • Entertainment and celebrations – festive gatherings and celebrations may involve hosting parties, attending events, and engaging in social activities. These expenses, if not carefully managed, can lead to financial strain.
  • Decorations and festive items – while decorations contribute to the holiday spirit, their cost can add up. Purchasing ornaments, lights, and other festive items without proper budgeting can contribute to post-holiday financial stress.


Young African Woman Managing Account Finance at Home


2. Create a Breakdown of Extra Holiday Expenses

Next, we have the uncommon or usually unexpected holiday expenses. Sometimes, we rarely pay attention to some of these. Until it’s time to pay back your credit card bill or the digital loan you hurriedly took to cover the expense.  Here’s how to recognize some of these expenses: 

  • Utility bills – with all the cooking and late-night celebrations, it’s not hard to notice a spike in your utility bills. Confirm how much you spent on utilities during the holiday season and compare it with how much you usually spend in a normal month. 
  • Travel expenses – although you might have covered travel expenses, like fuel and flight tickets, there are usually some unexpected expenses. Consider hidden expenses like excess baggage fees. 


Of course, this list is not exhaustive. Ensure that you have your receipts, and bank and credit card statements. These will help you identify what expenses fall under the common expenses and those that are extras. 


3. Identifying Your Impulsive Spending Habits

Now that you have your list, your next step is to identify what habit got you into this position in the first place.

  • Limited planning – insufficient pre-holiday planning often results in impulsive purchases. If you do not have a solid and realistic holiday budget, there’s a likelihood of incurring unplanned and excessive spending. 
  • Credit card and digital loan utilization – the convenience of credit cards and digital loans at the tap of your smartphone during the holiday season can encourage overspending. In addition to the principal amount, you might end up with accumulated interest fees if these debts are not paid promptly, worsening your debt situation.
  • Discount sales temptation – who doesn’t want to shop on discount and save some cash? Yes, holiday sales and discounts can be enticing, prompting you to make purchases you’d otherwise make. But if you succumbed to these temptations, you are left holding a debt expense you had not planned for.
  • Social pressure – societal expectations and pressure to conform to gift-giving norms can lead to overspending. This usually happens when one feels compelled to match perceived standards, irrespective of their financial capacity.


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What Next? 

Whatever the reason, it’s important to retrospect. This is your key to ensuring you are better prepared during the next holiday season. If you’re struggling with post-holiday debt because you had not saved for the expenses? Well, it’s time to create a sinking fund for this year’s expenses. Is your debt situation because you spent more than you had planned? In that case, you will know to have a budget for the next holiday season expenses. I will show you later on in the article how to improve your financial planning to ensure you are better prepared during the next holiday season.  


Are we still together? If you’ve come this far, you are doing great! Now, let’s get to paying off those debts so you can start saving and investing your money! 


Serious African american man sitting in kitchen working looking at paperwork and using laptop


How to Sort Your Post Holiday Debt

Now that you know what led to having debts from the holiday season, it’s time to devise a plan to get them behind you. Here’s how to go about it;


1. Assess Your Current Financial Situation

You need to have a clear understanding of your income, expenses, and debts. You already did the holiday debt calculations in the first step. In this step, take stock of pre-holiday debt you might have, like personal loans, auto loans, and mortgages, among others. Ensure that you list the types of debt, whether credit card or digital loan or money borrowed from loved ones, the amount, interest rate, and due dates.


Next, take stock of your income and other expenses. Look at your monthly income, including earnings from dividends and other passive sources. Then, compare it to your monthly expenses. This will help you determine how much money you have left over to pay off your debt


If your expenses are higher than your income, you may need to make some adjustments to your budget. This could be reducing or cutting off some expenses, like money spent on wants. 


2. Choose a Debt Management Strategy

There are different debt repayment strategies to consider. However, for the purpose of this article, getting out of post-holiday debt, I will focus on two debt repayment strategies only. 


Whatever debt management strategy you choose, keep in mind your pre-holiday debts must also be paid.  As you focus on repaying your post holiday debts, pay the minimum balances for pre-holiday debts. 


Here are the two strategies to consider: 

  • The debt avalanche method – with this strategy, you prioritize debts based on their interest rates. Using your list of holiday debts, you will focus on paying off the holiday debt with the highest interest rate first while making minimum payments on the others. Once you have paid off the debt with the highest interest rate, move on to the one with the next highest interest rate, and so on. The avalanche method helps you save money on interest payments in the long run. By paying off high-interest debts first, you reduce the amount of interest you owe over time.
  • Debt consolidation – this is advisable if you have a significant amount of debt. It involves combining multiple debts into a single, more manageable loan. This consolidation typically comes in the form of a personal loan with a lower and fixed interest rate. Besides the fixed interest rate, debt consolidation simplifies repayments. It leaves you with a single loan instead of multiple debts with different repayment dates. However, be sure to compare the interest rates and fees of different lenders before taking a debt consolidation offer.


3. Create a Budget to Curb Expenses

The goal is to reduce expenses and put that money into repaying your holiday debts. That’s where a budget comes in handy. 


A budget helps you track your expenses and identify areas where you can cut back. Start by listing all your income sources and expenses, including your post-holiday debts. Then, categorize your expenses into essential and non-essential items. Essential items are those you cannot live without, such as rent, food, and utilities. Non-essential items are those you can do without, such as entertainment and dining out.


Once you have categorized your expenses, look for ways to reduce your non-essential spending. This could mean cutting back on eating out, canceling subscriptions, or finding cheaper alternatives. Use the money you save to pay off your debts.


4. Ditch Your Credit Card and Digital Loans

You are working towards clearing your post holiday debt not accumulating more debt. This would be the right time to ditch your credit card or cards if you have more than one. It’s also the time to block Credit cards will just get you deeper into debt.


Before you use your credit card for any purchases, think thrice- is it really necessary? If it is not necessary then it’s probably not a matter of life or death, pass.


How Debt Affects Your Financial Goals and Long-Term Planning


1. Delayed Financial Goals

Holiday debt can impede progress toward achieving financial goals. Funds that could be directed towards savings or investments may instead be diverted to debt repayment, delaying long-term aspirations. 


2. Reduced Investment Opportunities

When you are burdened with holiday debt you may find yourself unable to seize potentially lucrative investment opportunities. The inability to allocate capital to investments diminishes the potential for financial growth.


3. Strained Emergency Preparedness

A solid financial plan includes provisions for unforeseen circumstances. Holiday debt compromises this preparedness, limiting the ability to weather financial emergencies without incurring additional debt.


4. Impact on Financial Reputation

Consistent accumulation of holiday debt may tarnish an individual’s financial reputation. Lenders and financial institutions may view a pattern of debt as indicative of financial mismanagement.


Young African businessman looking at credit card in his hand


Maintaining Financial Stability Beyond the Holidays

Once the holiday season is over, it’s important to maintain financial stability to avoid getting into debt. Here are some tips to help you stay on top of your finances:


1. Monitor Your Credit and Debts Regularly

To maintain your financial stability, it’s important to keep an eye on your credit score and debts regularly. You can check your credit score for free once a year from each of the three major credit bureaus. Knowing your credit score can help you make informed decisions about your finances.


Additionally, you should regularly check your credit card statements to ensure that there are no fraudulent charges or errors. If you notice any suspicious activity, contact your credit card issuer immediately to report it.


2. Planning for Future Holiday Seasons

One way to avoid getting into debt during the holidays is to plan ahead. Start saving early for next year’s holiday season to avoid overspending. You can also create a budget for holiday spending and stick to it.


Consider using a holiday savings account or setting up automatic savings contributions each month to help you save for the holidays. You can also consider starting a side hustle or increasing your income to help you save more money.


It’s also important to be mindful of your subscriptions and recurring expenses throughout the year. Cancel any subscriptions or services that you’re not using or that you can live without to save money.


What Are the Common Sources of Post-Holiday Debt?

Post-holiday debt commonly arises from expenditures related to gift purchases, travel, entertainment, and festive decorations. Recognizing these sources is pivotal in developing a comprehensive strategy for debt resolution.


How Long Will It Take To Pay Off My Post-Holiday Debt?

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on factors like your total debt amount, interest rates, chosen repayment strategy, and monthly payment allocation. Utilizing debt repayment calculators (available online or through financial institutions) can provide a personalized estimate.


How Can I Prioritize My Debts For Repayment?

It’s important to prioritize your debts for repayment based on interest rates and other factors. Generally, it’s best to focus on paying off high-interest debts first, as they will cost you the most in the long run. You may also want to consider consolidating your debts into one loan with a lower interest rate to make repayment more manageable.


How Can I Rebuild My Finances After Resolving Post-Holiday Debt?

Rebuilding finances involves cultivating healthy financial habits, setting realistic budgets, and prioritizing savings. Establishing an emergency fund and seeking professional guidance can contribute to long-term financial well-being.


How Can I Avoid Post-Holiday Debt In The Future?

To avoid future post-holiday debt, plan and budget for expenses, resist impulsive spending and consider setting a spending limit for gifts. Cultivating responsible financial habits ensures a more sustainable approach to holiday expenditures.


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