Recovering From a Christmas Debt Hangover

By Deb Poissant

December was full of wonder and awe. We laughed with friends and family at parties, concerts, and plays. We soaked up the sights as we shopped till we dropped. Paying for everything with the credit card was so easy. Actually, too easy! Opening January’s credit card bill sets the room spinning and a wave of nausea engulfs you. Your Diagnosis? A Debt Hangover! Two aspirins are not enough. Join us on an adventure as we take manageable steps to pay off this year’s debt and prevent next years.

Take a moment to reflect while memories are still fresh in your mind. What was your favorite part of the holiday season? Maybe, it was gathering with family and friends or watching your children opening their gifts. Perhaps, you enjoyed the Nutcracker. Make a list of what you enjoyed this year and would like to do next year. What part did you not enjoy? Did exhaustion overtake you because there was way too much to do? Did your children receive too many toys? Did your little one ignore his gifts and play with the boxes instead. Make a list of what you want to let go of.
Take a deep breath and grab a cup of coffee. Add up all your debt and remember to add everything because the truth will set you free. There were presents for family, friends, neighbors, and teachers. Oh, don't forget your pets or secret Santa. Then, there was the bottle of wine you brought to the party for a hostess gift. Be sure to include the wrapping paper for the gifts.

What would the holiday festivities be without food? Include rushing through the drive thru because there was no time to make supper (because we are juggling school plays, concerts, and cookie swaps in addition to our regular life). We return home to festively decorated houses with lights on the outside and trees on the inside. What was your total spent on decorations this year?

Misc. expenses such as traveling, postage, and holiday donations add up quickly. We might be traveling by car or plane to see loved ones. Even traveling by car costs gas. Will you stay with family, a hotel or Airbnb? Maybe you didn't travel but are mailing out packages and cards instead.  Your generous heart isn't contained to family and friends but overflows to charities.

When you add the total keep your chin up. Remember, a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.
Let's uncover some extra money to start a repayment plan and apply that savings to your debt.

Make some phone calls to see if you get lower rates on your regular bills, like credit cards or utilities. Can you save on heating by lowering your thermostat a couple of degrees? Closing curtains when the sun sets is another way to conserve on heating your home. What can you eliminate? Do you have memberships and subscriptions that you do not need or use?  Even small amounts such as $8.99 add up to $107.88 per year. Look over your bank and credit card statements to see what you can eliminate.

Food can be one of the biggest items we spend our money on. Download apps such as Ibotta and Fetch Rewards to get rebates on groceries you are already buying. Sign up for the loyalty programs at your local grocery store. Dive a little deeper and stock up on sale items that your family eats. Some perishables can also be frozen to be used later.

Our little ones keep growing right out of their clothes so try “refashioning" or upcycling clothes so they last a little bit longer. Check Pinterest or YouTube for ideas.  For buying new clothes, try to shop sales at your favorite retailer, however, you can save the environment and your wallet when you shop at your local thrift and resale shop.

Go green and use less fossil fuel. Baby, it is cold outside but warming up the car ahead of time does burn fuel. Make sure your vehicle's tires are properly inflated and slow down to reduce your car's miles per gallon. Save time and money by mapping the most efficient route when combining errands. Try carpooling or catching the bus to work and you might even save on parking fees! Walking will reduce fuel so bundle up those kiddos and take a stroller ride to the store or library! Download the Gas Buddy app to find the best gas prices in your area.
  • Life is not over. Find free or inexpensive things to do:
  • Pack some of the toys your child received in a box to be taken out later when they are bored of their new toys. Rotate the toys to keep them fresh and interesting.
  • Play in the snow! Build a snowman, have a snowball fight.
  • Host a night out with friends. Games, movies, or even a potluck.
  • Whip up some hot chocolate and stir in the leftover candy canes.
  • Have a weekly family reading night. Your local library has movies to borrow for free and passes to local family entertainment venues.
  • Encourage others & post your family fun on Facebook. Share your secrets of saving!

Deb Poissant is an explorer, friend, wife, mother and teacher. She started an adventure of wiping out debt and living within her means while in college. The journey continued when she went down to a one-income family as she took a sabbatical to home-school her son. Now, almost ten years later, another adventure begins!