Consumers spent more in December, according to the media and a variety of retail surveys. Great for the U.S. economy, but probably not so great for Americans’ pocketbooks.
If you were one of those shoppers who readily pulled out plastic to buy, January bills may be painful to pay. In fact, Consumer Reports says more than 13.6 million Americans are still paying off last year’s holiday bills.
It’s easy to end up debt-laden from “saving” money, what with all the coupons, discounts and so-called bargains touted by retailers who wanted you to buy, buy, buy. After Christmas, those “too-good-to-be-true” deals end up costing you 10, 20, or 30 percent more in interest and finance fees on your credit card bills.
If you used credit cards too freely for the holidays, devise a simple plan now to quickly curb the damage:
1) Make a list of your card balances and the due dates for payment.
2) Total how much you spent. (Whew! Were the relatives worth that much?)
3) If you have items to return, do so NOW, and apply those refunds directly to the card used. DO NOT BUY more to add to your debt load on the card.
4) Open all mail and DO NOT IGNORE credit card bills.
5) PAY as much as possible (hopefully the full amount) of each credit card bill.
6) DO NOT MISS a credit card payment.
7) If you used several cards and are having trouble getting in control, get help from a reliable consumer credit counselor.
8) It might be easier if you combine balances to a single credit card. Use a card with a low interest rate.
9) Pay off your credit cards with low balances, to eliminate those bills entirely. Then, tackle the cards with the highest interest rate.
10) Track your debt payoffs. It feels good to make progress!