Credits & Deductions, Self-Employed, Tax Basics

Have The Holiday Debt Blues? We Have the Cure

It was not too long ago when we looked forward to heading to our mailboxes. They were filled with Amazon boxes, Holiday cards from relatives, and Boxing Day blowout flyers.

Now, for some of us, the trudge to the mailbox (or the e-mail inbox) is filled with more dread than anticipation. The true cost of holiday spending is delivered in black and white in the form of credit card statements.

Follow these tips to tackle your holiday debt head on, and plan ahead for next year.

1. Compare the Interest Rates

To maximize your debt repayment, concentrate on the highest interest card first. Store-specific cards tend to charge higher interest rates than “regular” cards. Pay these off as soon as you possibly can. Explore options such as balance transfers, which usually have a very low (albeit temporary) rate of interest, to pay of high interest cards.  If at all possible, consolidate all of your debt onto a loan and earn credit rather than destroy it.

2. Negotiate Your Rate

If you’re a customer in good standing, contact your credit card provider and negotiate a lower interest rate. Explain your needs and let the provider know you’re considering a balance transfer or cancellation of their card due to the high rate. Credit card companies would much rather lower your rate by a few points than lose you completely as a customer.

3. Stop Using Credit

If your credit cards were your first choice as payment for holiday expenses, curb that pattern. Make a conscious effort to avoid new charges whenever possible. Not only will this lessen your overall repayment, tracking your debt repayment is much easier if the balance doesn’t fluctuate. These days we have debit cards, such as VISA debit, use what you have in your bank account to purchase items, stay away from credit cards as much as possible.

4. Trim your household budget and apply the savings to your debt

A bit of planning makes this one quite easy. For example, if your grocery budget for the week is $125, check out deals, coupons, BOGO’s, and specials before heading to the store. Online grocery shopping is helpful, as it allows you to see your total as you put items in your cart. If you can manage to save $25 each week with some smart planning, that’s a cool $100/month to apply to your debt.

5. Plan ahead for the holidays

Holidays and birthdays don’t come as a surprise; we know they’re on their way.  Plan throughout the whole year by putting a few extra dollars away from each pay cheque so you don’t have to rely as much on your credit to get through. Also, set some real expectations around needs/wants with the family.  If money is tight, some things might have to wait for the following year.

6. Don’t Forget the CRA

In the process of paying down debt, it’s even more important to make sure that you keep on top of your tax obligations and file on time, pay as much of the debt as you can (if you owe) and take advantage of incredible products like TurboTax to help you reduce your tax arrears or maximize your refund at tax time.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed with your taxes, consider TurboTax Live Assist & Review and get unlimited help and advice as you do your taxes; plus a final review before you file to ensure you maximize your deductions and credits for the best possible return.

Bottom line, it’s all about habits. If you can get yourself into a habit of thinking “saving” rather than “spending”, you will be on the right track for next year.