If the excitement of spending for the holidays burned a hole in your wallet and burned you out, your financial health may be causing you major stress in the new year. Whether you overspent on holiday gifts or drove yourself into debt covering holiday travel expenses, you still have opportunities to exercise some damage control. Now is the perfect time to take a close look at your financial standing and clean up the holiday spending aftermath.
Here are five ways to recover from holiday financial stress:
1. Assess your new debt load
Consumers planned to dish out an average of $1,159 during the 2016 holiday season, according to Discover’s annual holiday shopping survey. Out of those surveyed, 38 percent said they planned to use a credit card for most of their holiday purchases, making it one of the most popular payment methods. If you were one of these shoppers (join the club), it is important to review your newly acquired debt and put together a payoff plan.
Gaining clarity on the state of your finances early in the year can help prevent procrastination (time flies, and you don’t want to be carrying that high balance or feeling holiday financial stress when Labor Day rolls around). Consider this new debt a cost or expense of the holiday season that needs to be paid sooner rather than later. Kick off the new year with a bang—and not post-holiday financial stress.
2. Review possible gift returns
If you’re wondering what grandma was thinking sending an XXL sweater from a department store after you dropped weight this year, or why your neighbors thought a NY Giants banner for your SF Giants household was a good choice, fish out that gift receipt. You may be able to take the items back where they came from for store credit and pick out something you really need. This will help you save money on this year’s planned purchases because you won’t have to shell out your savings or charge to credit (thank you, grandma and neighbors). Exchanging unwanted gifts for something you’ll truly use will also relieve any guilt over ‘returning’ a present. Feeling that holiday financial stress just melt away?
3. Send in all rebates
Many big ticket items, including computers, televisions and music systems, were sold with a rebate offer during the holiday season. Make sure you’ve taken full advantage of these offers so you are getting the cash back you deserve. If you didn’t get around to sending in all of the rebate information in the middle of holiday excitement, now’s the time to help prevent holiday financial stress. Many offers do have expiration dates. On the plus side, retailers are making it easier to send in rebates via smartphone; 72 percent of consumers polled said smartphone technology has improved their ability to claim rebates, according to Blackhawk Engagement. Sending in all rebate materials early means you’ll have extra cash to pay off debt or simply restore your savings account.
4. Take advantage of post-holiday sales
The last thing you want to think about after taking down your seasonal decor is … buying more holiday decorations. But holiday decorations and Christmas trees conveniently go on clearance right after the holidays. Buying them on sale now means you won’t have to pay full price next year, which may also help you reduce future holiday financial stress.
You’ll also find plenty of markdowns on popular items through January and February. Post-holiday season, electronics and gift cards are frequently discounted, according to Kiplinger, along with beauty and perfume gift sets, gourmet food and even winter clothing. Make use of these items over the course of the year, allowing you to save money on new purchases. Find a deal so good you just can’t pass it up? Make the purchase, put the gift away for next holiday season and cross one extra person off of your shopping list.
5. Set three-month budget goals
Starting off the year with short-term goals can make managing your holiday financial stress much easier. Budgeting is all about baby steps. Setting a three-month budget goal can help you stay focused. Start tracking all of your expenses, and create a realistic spending plan for the rest of winter. By cutting back on non-essentials—dining out, entertainment, new clothes—funds can be put toward paying down debt and stepping up your savings.
As the new year unfolds, review your budget on a regular basis and make adjustments for any increases in expenses, new credit card debt or new loans.
If you went beyond your budget this holiday season, use this opportunity to review your finances and make some tweaks to your spending habits. You’ll be on a healthy financial track, and feel good about it, before you know it.
Discover Bank, Member FDIC