By: Charlestien Harris
Well, we’ve done it – we spent way too much for the holidays. Now, it’s time to “fix it,” so to speak.
While you may not be able to get back all of what you spent this year, don’t worry – there are some steps you can take to improve your financial health and possibly change some of your habits going into the New Year.
Here are a few simple suggestions that might help you to recover, or at least be able to breathe a sigh of relief when it comes to your financial situation.
- Don’t beat yourself up. In other words, spending time regretting purchases or agonizing over where you could have saved a little more money won’t help you get anywhere. The best step to take now is to acknowledge where you have gotten off track with your spending and begin to develop a plan to get back on track for the coming year. The key here is to focus on moving forward, not punishing yourself for past decisions you can’t change.
- Know where you are. Try taking a look at those post-holiday credit card statements, while also considering your usual monthly bills like rent and utility payments. Knowing how much debt you have accumulated can help you to set goals. Once you’ve stopped adding to your balances, take a step back to look at how much you actually spent. It can also give you a starting point to gain control over setting up a strategy for reducing or eliminating your debt.
- Try a no spend week. Taking a break from spending money can be eye opening. It may sound small, but just seven days without making a purchase can significantly impact your finances. It can also help you better understand and improve on any bad financial habits you may have picked up. Try putting your credit card away for those seven days just to see how you adjust. You might also try writing down what you might have purchased, then add it up. The results just might surprise you; then, you can put that money in a savings account!
- Challenge yourself. If you’re still looking for a way to make saving easier, try setting a challenge to keep yourself motivated. One example that may be of interest to you is to make a weekly deposit for 52 weeks. Each week, save the same amount of money as the number of the week ($1 in week one, $2 in week two and so forth). After 52 weeks, you’ll have saved $1,378. Many banks and credit unions might offer this challenge to their customers and members. Check to see if yours does; it will be worth the sacrifice.
- Begin to look for “extra” money. Tight budgets were very common and universal over the last three years, especially during the pandemic. If you don’t have the excess money to pay off your credit cards, try to free up money to reduce your debt wherever you can. Review your budget to see if you can reduce your expenses and free up money. This may mean you need to take a closer look at your current budget to see if there are additional categories you can make some additional cuts to apply the excess to that credit card debt you have accumulated.
I want to offer a word of caution: this does not mean to raid your emergency fund! That fund was established for an emergency, and we know that emergencies can arise at any time. This type of overspending does not qualify as an emergency.
- Develop a plan. I always say: if you fail to plan, you plan to fail! (My husband says it too!) I know that sounds a bit cliché, but there is something to having a plan rather than just winging it. Once you have a complete picture of your debt situation, make a plan for how you’re going to address it. If you overspent, the best thing to do is pay down debt as quickly as you can. If you don’t have the money you need to eliminate your debt, put together a plan for paying it down over the next few months. This is where the High Interest Rate Method of debt elimination might be useful. I would like to suggest you begin paying down the credit cards with the highest interest rates first.
If you overspent during the holiday season, no need to fret – all is not lost, and no, it is not the end of your financial world. Use this as a learning opportunity. If you don’t have one already, put together a financial plan that outlines your goals and notes what steps you need to take to get there.
As I always say, planning is key and keeping an eye on your larger goals can help guide you through to overcoming your smaller challenges, including overspending during the holidays. You want to get to a point where every financial decision you make is within the scope of your larger goals.
Let’s put 2022 behind us and look forward to a brighter financial future in 2023! Happy New Year!
Until next week – stay financially fit!
Charlestien Harris is a financial contributor to DeSoto County News. She is a financial expert with Southern Bancorp Community Partners whose articles are seen in a number of publications around the region. You’ll be seeing her columns weekly on the DeSoto County News website and our social media channels.