There’s a joke that the holiday season isn’t over until the credit card bills arrive. For most of us, those bills have come—and we’re experiencing a serious holiday hangover.
So, how much did we spend? According to a CIBC survey from December, Canadians expected to spend an average of $600 over the holiday season, while 51% of respondents expected to go over budget and carry some holiday debt. Although 57% of those surveyed expected to pay off their debt in full, 29%—nearly a third—said they’ll carry their debt forward.
Overspending can affect any of us, so it’s time to tackle that post-holiday credit card debt with these tips.
Figuring out how much you owe on your credit card is easy since you get a monthly statement, but do you know what your total debt is? Besides your credit card debt, you want to add up your student debt, car loans, mortgage, payments, and any other debts you may have. Once you know how much you owe, you can start working towards paying it all down.
There are two main strategies when paying down your debt: the debt avalanche and debt snowball methods. With the debt avalanche method, your highest interest debt is your number one priority. By focusing on your highest interest debt, you end up paying less interest in the end.
The debt snowball method is where you work on your smallest debt first before moving onto larger amounts you owe. Although you’ll end up paying more interest, psychologically you may be more motivated to pay off your debt since you’ll see your debts disappear one by one.
When it comes to reducing debt, using a balance transfer credit card is one of the most overlooked strategies. The best balance transfer credit cards allow you to consolidate your debts onto a single card with a low-interest rate. Certain cards offer a 0% interest rate for six to 12 months before their regular interest rate kicks in. If you use that time to pay down your debts, you can end up saving tons since you won’t be making any interest payments.
In addition to being one of the best cash-back credit cards in Canada, the SimplyCash Credit Card from American Express offers a 0% interest rate on balance transfers for the first six months (a 1% fee is charged on the transaction amount). This means you won’t pay a cent of interest if you pay off your debt within this time frame. During the welcome period, you’ll also earn 5% cash back on eligible gas, grocery store and restaurant purchases (up to $250). After six months, you’ll earn 1.25% cash back on all purchases—with no limit on the amount of cash back you can earn.
The holiday season comes at the same time every year, but many Canadians still seem to forget about to save for it. Now that you’ve learned your lesson the hard way, it’s time to start budgeting for all your expenses—that includes not only presents, but hosting or attending dinners and parties, travelling to visit family, hitting up Boxing Day sales, and any New Year’s festivities. Take a look at how much you spent over the holidays and divide that by 12, that’s the minimum amount of money you need to save every month to prepare for December 2017.
Throughout the year, you could be utilizing your everyday spending (groceries, gas, drugstore, etc.) to help pay for next year’s holiday season with a cash-back credit card that refunds a percentage of every dollar you spend.
The Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card, ranked one of the best cash-back credit cards on the market by RateHub for its flexibility, offers 2% cash back in two chosen spending categories (everything from gas and groceries to home improvement and hotels), and 1% cash back on everything else. One big advantage this card has over others is that cash back rewards are paid monthly, rather than annually. By setting aside your cash back rewards throughout the year in a savings account, you’ll have a tidy sum by December to spend on merrymaking.
If you were guilty about overspending during the holidays, try not to beat yourself up over it. Think of it as a learning experience and start adjusting your saving habits now.