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5 tips from financial experts to get holiday debt paid off fast

·4-min read

Ah, it’s that time of year again—where you look at your credit card balances and mutter an expletive under your breath. Carrying debt can be a major stressor, especially come January when you realize just how much you spent amid the glitz of holiday gifting.

However, there is good news. You have many options when it comes to paying that debt down (or paying it off completely, if you so desire). If seeing that running balance is giving you major anxiety, take a look at what some financial experts advise to get those bills paid off.

Christmas tree inside piggy bank isolated on white background
Getty Images

Choose your payoff strategy

Adam Deady, a certified financial planner with MassMutual, said people have two options when it comes to payment strategy.

“Make the minimum payment on each card and then attack the card with the lowest balance first by paying as much as you can afford,” Deady said. “This method can help you stay motivated as it is easy to feel that progress is being made once a balance is paid off and you have one less bill to pay. Then repeat that step for the next card balance.”

Or, if you want to reduce how much interest you’ll ultimately pay on your debt, make the minimum payment on each card and then attack the card with the highest interest rate, Deady said.

Transfer your balances

Jenna Carson, a financial partner at MoneyLucid.com, advises that people look at balance transfer options — especially those of the 0% APR variety.

“At this time of the year when banks and credit companies are pushing out new products, there are lots of deals and you should be able to balance transfers for a really small fee,” she said. “This is the key to getting started. Once you have your debt in the best possible account and in a single place, you should set up a direct debit for your payday which pays off the highest amount possible without negatively impacting your day-to-day. Following this, be as careful as you can throughout the month and whatever is left over put towards the debt.”

Carson also advised putting your savings on hold for the time being.

“Cancel all savings payments too,” she said. “It's much better to pay off debt than save.”

Negotiate your interest rates

When it comes to paying down debt, every dollar counts. That’s why it’s crucial to consider every way you can save in the process. Bryson Roof, CFP and financial advisor with Fort Pitt Capital Group, told Yahoo Money that one thing a lot of people overlook with loans and credit cards is negotiating interest rates.

“That makes a lot of difference over the long term,” Roof said. “The credit card company would rather have you pay them back than send your account to collections, as it costs the credit card company to send your account to a debt collector.”

Flip your unsecured debt

Financial advisor Jason Kreuger said one way to handle holiday debt is to identify ways to transform unsecured debt.

“First thing is to focus on paying down high-interest credit card debt first,” he said. “Credit card debt is 'unsecured' and often carries a much higher interest rate. 'Secured' debt has collateral, which allows the lender to charge a lower interest rate, knowing they can seize the collateral which has 'secured' the debt. A smart move is to see if one can flip 'unsecured' credit card debt to 'secured' debt by refinancing a vehicle or even a home. People talk all the time about refinancing homes, but often refinancing automobiles is overlooked.”

Cut corners where you can

Author and financial planner Gary Grewal suggested that those looking to pay off holiday debt take a critical look at their budget and find ways to temporarily reduce unnecessary spending.

“Look at areas of your budget you can temporarily redirect,” he told Yahoo Money. “This might mean not going out to eat every weekend or taking day trips to the country until that debt is paid. Make a deal with yourself that once that debt is paid off, you'll get a massage or go to dinner with a friend. Then, start your Christmas gift fund with small automatic deposits so you don't end up in debt next year!”

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