You shopped. You celebrated. You decked the halls. It’s now January, and you realize you may have also spent too much during the holidays. Sound familiar? If you are in the red, it’s time to nurse that holiday financial hangover back to health. To help you tackle the barrage of credit card bills and payments coming your way, here are some simple steps to follow to get back on track in the New Year — whether you overspent by $50 or $500.
If you’ve overspent by $500+
It’s time to make some serious financial adjustments to get back on track. Don’t fear: It’s easier than you think. You just need to make a few changes to your habits.
Subscription and membership services are sneaky costs that you may be able to trim out of your spending. Think about canceling subscriptions to box services until you’re financially stable again. Take another look at services like cable and your gym membership to see if you’re really getting the most bang for your buck. Many network-TV shows allow you to watch episodes online for free, saving you some money on your streaming service each month. And, are you really hitting the gym enough to make it worth the high membership cost? Consider online or outdoor workouts with friends, instead.
Another surprising way to make back some of the money you overspent in December is through…your utility bill. It might sound crazy, but turning your home thermostat down a degree or two and putting on an extra layer can help reduce your heating tab, without much effort or sacrifice on your end.
Next Friday night, instead of hitting the town with your friends, suggest a casual cocktail party at home. You provide the hospitality while your friends bring over their favorite appetizer or cocktail. If an event out is a must, see what bars or restaurants offer happy hours and suggest one of those locations. Moderation is your friend.
If you’ve overspent by $250
Consider some cost-cutting measures for a few weeks. One easy way is by maximizing meal planning. Think about making large batches of food in advance. Or, tired of that leftover chicken and rice? Change it up by throwing it into a pan with some vegetables and making fried rice, or wrap it up in a tortilla with avocado and cheese to make tacos.
Instead of buying a brand new winter wardrobe, think of other ways to keep your closet fresh. Host a clothing swap with your friends instead. Ask guests to bring rarely-worn outfits, accessories, and shoes, then mix and match items with your pals. You’ll walk away with a few new pieces — for free — while doing your closet a favor by getting rid of items that you don’t wear anyway.
Ditch your credit cards (yes, you can even freeze them in a block of ice if that helps) and use cash for a while. Cash will limit what you can spend when you’re out of the house and makes tracking spending easy. When you’re out of your financial hole, then think about unthawing your plastic.
If you’ve overspent by $100 or less
It’s time to make a few sacrifices to get back on track. However, if you’re strategic, you’ll be out of the red in a week or two. First and foremost, sacrifice that breakfast stop. Try DIY-ing your own coffee and breakfast at home, for far less than what you’d spend at your neighborhood coffee shop.
With all the holiday parties wrapped up, skip the beauty salon this month and opt for an at-home mani-pedi, instead. Passing on ritual beauty appointments can save you upwards of $50.
Return unwanted and unneeded items. Giving may have gotten you into debt, but receiving may help get you out of it. Consider returning a gift you didn’t want or need to help pay off your debt, or trade in a gift card to get cash fast!
No matter how much debt, here’s how to approach the new year:
Plan smart, early. Start strategizing for next year’s holiday season. Think about putting money away early, even $20-$25 a month, to build up cash reserves and avoid the pain of debt during the holidays. Shopping early and throughout the year is another way to help “break up” holiday spending, so you’re not blowing a chunk of change in one or two months (plus, you can avoid the insanity that is the mall in December!).
Getting your finances on track doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Establishing smart money habits and scaling back on a few of life’s little luxuries can set you up for financial success in 2015.