Managing your debt from the holidays

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  A woman reviews her checking account and what she spent during the holidays on her laptop at a cafe.

Did you exceed your holiday budget? If you did, you’re not alone: One-third of Americans spent more than they expected to in 2019, according to a survey by The Ascent.

Now that your friends and family have their holiday gifts in hand, it’s time to tackle your holiday debt. Here are three ways to help you manage it effectively.

1. Develop a spending plan

A monthly spending plan helps you understand where to cut expenses so you can put more money toward debt payments. If your finances are combined with another’s, be sure to plan together.

List your regular monthly expenses, including minimum debt payments, and income. Then subtract your expenses from your income to see how much money you have to pay down your debts. If you need more, go back to your expenses list and look for unnecessary costs that you can reduce or eliminate.

This article can help you get started on creating a budget that suits your needs.

2. More efficiently manage your debt

If you have multiple credit cards, consider rolling them into a monthly payment with a lower interest rate, but be aware of the trade-offs. For example, consolidating a credit card (unsecured debt) into a mortgage (secured debt) may lower your rate, but you could lose your home if you can’t make the increased payment.

A balance transfer credit card may reduce your interest rate, but consider transfer fees and make sure you can pay it down before the promotional rate increases. Avoid cards with fees or ones that charge back interest, and pay off your consolidated debts before borrowing additional amounts on other cards.

3. Choose the payment method that works for you

When making more than minimum payments, paying off debts from the highest interest rate to the lowest generally provides the lowest cost to you. However, some find it easier to stick with their plan if they pay off their cards from smallest to largest balance. Whichever method you choose, always make at least the minimum payments.