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MMI offers advice on how to celebrate the New Year debt-free

Posted on December 29, 2009

Opening gifts is a ton of fun. Opening the resulting bills is not. Yet every holiday season millions of consumers use their credit cards to buy gifts when they don’t have cash.

  • During the next couple of weeks, those bills will start rolling in and a strong case of post-holiday remorse will begin to set in. When faced with the post-holiday blues, debt can seem insurmountable. To help you get a handle on the situation the financial experts at Money Management International (MMI) offers the following advice.
  • There are two achievable ways to get out of debt – cutting expenses or increasing your income. Decide which works for you and truly commit to it.
  • Create a damage sheet. List the names of your creditors, amount owed each and current interest rates, then total it all up. Update that sheet monthly and tape it wherever you will see it regularly.
  • Create a budget and a repayment plan. Track your expenses for one month so that you can be sure every expense is included.
  • Periodic expenses can break a budget so allocate an hour each Sunday to address your finances. Staying on top of your expenses will help you stay in budget.
  • Shelve your credit cards. Take them out of your wallet and leave them at home. In fact, store them with your damage sheet to remind you of your balances. If you have to use credit, don’t charge anything you can’t pay off within 90 days.
  • Pay off the credit cards with the highest interest rates first.
  • Establish a 2010 holiday savings account so that next holiday season, relying on credit won’t be necessary. Factor it in as an expense.
  • Take a good hard look at your spending habits. Credit is not an extension of your income!

If you can’t make a dent in your post-holiday debt, consider credit counseling from a reputable source such as Money Management International.

“Treat this year’s holiday charges as a learning experience and resolve to do better next year; so that in January 2011, you can focus on starting the New Year debt-free,” said Cate Williams, vice president of financial literacy at MMI.

About Money Management International

Money Management International (MMI) is a nonprofit, full-service credit-counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance, financial education, and counseling services; including housing counseling, bankruptcy counseling and education, and debt management assistance. MMI has been helping consumers trim their expenses, develop a spending plan and repay debts since 1958. Counseling is available by appointment in branch offices and 24/7 by telephone and Internet. Services are available in English or Spanish. To learn more, call 800.432.7310 or visit MoneyManagement.org.