How Can I Pay My Holiday Credit Card Debt?

Dear Jeff,

I just sat down with all my holiday receipts, and honestly, I am really scared of how high my credit card bills are going to be in January. Do you have any advice on how I can eliminate this debt – quickly?

Laura B.
Brandon, Manitoba

Hey Laura,

It sounds like you have a bad case of the holiday debt hangover! And that is bound to happen when you shop with the idea that you will buy this year’s gifts with next year’s money.

The good news Laura is that you recognize your credit card bills are going to be high in the New Year and that you want to start taking steps today to eliminate your debts. Quickly eliminating your debt is possible, but you need to be prepared for some hard work and sacrifice in the months ahead.

I want you to start by setting some financial goals.

Be SMART about these goals. The need to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. For example, your goal may be to “pay down $5,000 in credit card debt by March 1, 2014″.

Now I don’t want you to just make this goal and forget about it. To be relevant, you need to write your goal down on a piece of paper and post it somewhere you will see it on a daily basis. Use this as a regular reminder of the goal you are working towards.

Next, you will have to start working towards achieving this goal – and the easiest way to do that is to budget. I know “budget” can sound a lot like a bad word, but much like going to the gym or sticking to a diet, budgeting is a lifestyle choice. Budgeting will help you set your financial boundaries and work diligently towards reaching the financial goals you have set for yourself.

Because you want to dig yourself out of debt quickly, you need to be merciless about reaching your financial goal – and that may mean making some aggressive cuts to your household budget. In short, I want you to take a good look at the spending side of your budget. If an expense isn’t necessary, I want you to cut it out completely.

Remember, these sacrifices are only temporary and the expenses you cut can be put back in once you have reached your financial goal. In the meantime, all extra cash flow needs to be directed towards eliminating those sky high credit card bills.

Finally, if your goal is to get out of debt – quickly, then don’t wait until the New Year. Start making cuts to your spending today and dedicate any and all available cash towards reaching your debt elimination goals.

Jeffrey Schwartz
Executive Director

Jeffrey Schwartz is the Executive Director of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada and President of the Credit Association of Greater Toronto (CAGT).

If you have a question about your credit or just about finance in general, Jeff is here to help. Send us an email with your question to [email protected]. You’ll get the expert advice you need and your question may be featured here on our website.