Prepare for the Year Ahead with this Post-Christmas Financial Checklist
If you didn’t put money aside for Christmas spending this year, or you overspent your budget, you may be feeling a pinch right now. The holiday season is the time of year when most people spend more than they planned. And not just on their gift list. With so many great deals, many shoppers like to find some great gifts for themselves, too.
But now that the damage is done, how do you keep it from having a long-lasting effect on your finances? After all, maxing out your credit cards isn’t good for your bottom line (or your credit report). Here are some things to consider in order to get your finances back on track as you head into next year:
Review Your Credit Cards
How much did you put on your credit cards? What is your debt ratio? (This is also known as your credit utilization ratio - it's the amount of debt you have compared to the amount of available credit.)
Missing a payment, keeping your balances too high, and maxing out your available credit can hurt your credit score. And fast! Paying down your credit cards quickly and putting your debt ratio back in balance can keep you from having any long-lasting effects to your credit score.
Review Your Savings and Emergency Fund
Did you use money from savings or your emergency fund to pay for gifts? If so, you may find yourself in some financial trouble if you need this money for unexpected, but necessary expenses like car or home repairs. You’ll want to rebuild these funds as quickly as possible to reduce your financial stress.
Review Your Budget
You’ll need to find extra money to pay down your credit cards, and then rebuild your savings. But if your income hasn’t increased, that money has to come from somewhere else.
That means it’s time to get serious about slashing unnecessary items from your budget. Even if it’s only temporarily while you get back on track. Cancel gym memberships, cable services, and slash your entertainment fund to repurpose that money to debt and savings. Start packing your lunches, making coffee at home, and fix budget-friendly dinners until your credit cards are paid off and your savings are replenished.
Read more: Ultimate Guide to Creating a Budget
Yes, it will be hard, but it’s only for a short time and in the end, you’ll be glad you did it.
Review your Income
You can get your finances back on track much faster if you start bringing in extra income and directing that money to paying off debt and building savings. Consider some part-time opportunities that you can do in your free time to earn extra cash. Get a part-time weekend job, drive for Uber or Lyft, start a dog-walking service, offer to rake leaves, shovel snow, or babysit. If you’re crafty, open an Etsy shop.
The opportunities for earning extra income are endless. As an added bonus, you may decide that you like the work and the income that goes with it even after you’ve paid off your debt.
Getting your finances in order as quickly as possible will ensure that there are no long-lasting effects to your overspending. Once you’ve reviewed your finances and made a plan for how to get them back in order, review your holiday spending. It’s time to start planning for next year so that you don’t find yourself in the same place again.