The holidays are a joyous time yet January credit card bills can make for a stressful start to the new year. If you overspent in December, you are not alone. According to a 2017 consumer shopping holiday report from Nerd Wallet, 24% of shoppers said they overspent in 2016 and even more said they didn’t bother to make a budget.
So what should you do instead of panic when the bill arrives? Below are a few tips to help pay off that debt as well as tools to help you prevent the same situation next year.
- Assess your income and cash availability over the next 3 months to pay off the debt as quickly as possible. If you can’t realistically pay the balance by the end of the month and already have a budget for expenses, add in an extra payment each week to pay down the debt. You will of course avoid any interest or finance charges if you pay off the balance in full and on time each month, but you can still keep the interest charges at bay with a concrete plan.
- Pay attention to the grace period your credit card offers to know when any interest or finance charges will begin to incur. (Remember that a grace period typically only applies to those with a zero balance at the beginning of each month, otherwise interest begins to accrue on date of purchase.)
- Create a calendar of payments or break up the payments throughout the month if that will help you to keep on top of paying it down.
- If you found yourself pulling out more than one card this holiday season, focus on paying down the card with the highest interest rate first to keep those extra charges from growing.
- Earmark your income tax return. If you were planning on using that extra cash to treat yourself or your family this year, consider using at least part of it to pay down the debt.
- Set up a savings plan to avoid this situation in the future. The biggest mistake people make with their credit cards is charging more than they can pay back in a reasonable amount of time. According to the Simple Dollar, the average credit card interest rate is almost 16% which means if everyone carried balances from month-to-month and paid interest, we’d each be paying an average of $855 per year in interest charges.Take that money back for yourself and use it for things that matter to you.
The bottom line is that credit cards are a blessing and a curse if used without a budget. It’s easy to turn a blind eye to swiping your card and interest charges can accrue faster than you realize. Your credit is ultimately impacted, making it harder to make important purchases in the future so monitor your bill monthly and make a plan to stay on top of the debt.
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