Tackle holiday debt now

By Rubina Ahmed-Haq on January 13, 2017 No Comments

The holidays are expensive. We know that. According to a recent survey from savings destination, the average Canadian spent almost $1000 this past holiday season on food, drink, travel and gifts. Another survey by PC Financial finds 77 per cent agree the holiday season tends to be more expensive than planned. If you went over budget this holiday season and are worried about the dreaded January credit card bills, here’s how to take control.

Have a plan to pay off your debt

It’s time to get real about how much debt you are in.  This includes the debt you’re carrying from before the holidays.  First sit down and calculate that big number. Then figure out how much disposable income you have every month to put towards debt. If you divide your monthly free cash with your total debt you will get how many months (realistically) it will take to pay that debt off.

Stat with the most expensive debt

Pay down first the debt charging the highest interest rate. Do this while still making the minimum payments on the rest. If you’re looking for ways to lower your payments overall, try using a lower interest loan to pay down your credit card debt immediately.  If you’re overwhelmed with the amount of high interest debt you have thing of talking to a credit counsellor to consolidate your debt.

 Return the things you aren’t using

We get a lot for gifts at Christmas that we have no intention of using. Return what you can for cash, and gift cards. Sell anything else in the online classifieds sites or on a Facebook buy and sell group. Use any cash you raise to pay your debt. Save gift cards for next Christmas to ease you shopping costs. It sounds ungrateful, but it’s better than letting that present sit idle in your closet for years.

Don’t go shopping until you’ve paid it off

It should be obvious but until you consumer debt is under control you have no right to hit the mall. While you’re paying yoru debt off, only buy what you need, food, essential clothing etc. This is not the time to splurge on a new spring wardrobe.

Live like a student for a month

We all remember what it was like to make things happen on a small amount of money when we were students, go back to that thinking. Find free entertainment, stay in and cook, enjoy some quite time after the hectic holidays. Leave the car at home and bike where you can or take the bus.

Use what you got

Take advantage of all the free stuff in your own home. Cook meals with food that you already have, be creative, lots of sites give you great ideas of what you can make by plugging in the ingredients – no matter how bizarre. Go for a run, walk get active and feel better about your body without spending any money.  This is not the time to sign up for a gym membership, no matter how good the deal is.

Learn from your mistakes

Create a visual reminder for next year, by taking a photocopy of your January credit card and packing it on top of your decorations. That means next year when you open up the box of Christmas decorations the first thing you will see is this bill. That will put into perspective how much damage you can do in a short amount of time. It can help you stay on budget – hopefully – for the holiday season in 2017.

Image Credit: Sean MacEntee

Rubina Ahmed-Haq

Rubina Ahmed-Haq is a Journalist and Personal Finance Expert. She is the go-to money expert in Canada for several media outlets. She regularly appears on CBC Radio, CBC News Network, CTV Your Morning and Global Toronto. She writes for Homes Publishing group,, and has her own website Rubina began her career as a broadcast journalist in 1999. Since then she has covered everything from local news, foreign affairs, politics, sports and of course finance! As a business reporter she has worked for CP24 from the Toronto Stock Exchange and reported for BNN. Her work has also appeared in the Toronto Star and various other magazines. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from York University and is an alumna of the Humber College post graduate journalism program and holds the CSC designation. Her goal is to help Canadians find easy ways to manage their own finances. Follow her on Twitter @alwayssavemoney.

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