You’re still paying off your 2018 holiday shopping. You’re worried about a possible recession. You feel pressure to buy gifts for family and friends this holiday season even though you can’t afford it. You’re planning on going shopping anyway. Sound familiar?
A recent poll conducted by creditcards.com indicates you’re not alone: 61 percent of those with credit card debt are OK with going further into debt. That amounts to a lot of people, according to CNBC’s Make It, citing that 55 percent of Americans with credit cards are in debt.
This figure should come as no surprise. When it comes to holiday eating, it’s easy to pack on the pounds but a lot harder to take them off. The same goes for credit card debt: it’s easy to accumulate it, but with high-interest rates and low minimum payments, that debt could end up hanging around for a while. Nerdwallet’s 2019 Holiday Shopping Report revealed that 48 million Americans are still paying off last year’s credit card debt, a figure up from the year before.
So what’s the best way to avoid sinking into further debt this holiday season?
Take advantage of credit card points. If you’ve been accumulating points, there’s no time like the present to use them. But before you do, check with your credit card company about the conversion rate. Most often, the exchange is not a 1:1 ratio, with some point purchases offering more bang for the buck than others. Read the fine print before allocating those points and then buy without guilt, or use those points to pay for prior purchases. Ramit Sethi, author of “I Will Teach You to Be Rich,” reminds readers that if used responsibly, credit cards can actually help you build credit. His advice? “Call your credit card company and ask them to send you a full list of their rewards. Then use them!”
Get a side gig. Even if it’s for a few weeks, taking on a side gig at holiday time can ease your financial woes in a few ways. If you decide you must shop, the additional income can keep you from accumulating more debt. However, be sure to pay with cash when utilizing those funds. Depending on where you work, you may also be able to earn a discount on purchases for your holiday list. Even better, curtail shopping altogether and use your earnings to pay down the debt you accumulated the year before.
If you’re lucky, sometimes holiday jobs turn into full-time employment, in which case you can chip away at your debt even faster, hopefully before the next holiday season rolls around.
Sell jewelry you no longer wear. You may have a treasure trove at home, which you can quickly turn into cold hard cash within a matter of days. Whether it’s your diamond engagement ring from your previous marriage or dated jewelry you inherited, you can place it up for auction at Worthy. After Worthy’s knowledgeable gemologists confirm its value, a vetted group of buyers then compete to purchase it, allowing you to receive the highest price the market will bear. Use a portion of your proceeds to buy holiday gifts if you choose and the rest to pay down debt.
Say no. Paying down debt and then staying out of it requires will power. A great place to start, suggests Michelle Singeltary, author of the Color of Money, the personal finance column syndicated by The Washington Post, is to say no altogether to spending at holiday time. “If you have credit card debt,” she writes, “don’t spend anything for Christmas.” While it can be hard to resist tempting sales or feeling as though you have to buy gifts, what she terms “guilt buying,” Singeltary urges her readers to stand firm and not spend. She even suggests passing on entertaining if you can’t afford it. It may sound harsh, but the debt, she insists, isn’t worth it.
Because taking care of yourself is something you should never feel guilty about.
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Stacey Freeman is a writer, lifestyle editor at Worthy.com, and the founder of Write On Track, LLC. Her writing has been published or syndicated in The Washington Post, Forbes, Entrepreneur, MarketWatch, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Woman’s Day, Town & Country, Yahoo!, HuffPost, Popsugar, SheKnows and other well-known platforms worldwide. Stacey is frequently called upon for her expertise and insights and has been quoted in The New York Times, HuffPost, and SheKnows, to name a few. Oh, and she’s a single mom of three amazing kids. For more information about Stacey, visit www.writeontrackllc.com.