Holiday overindulgence can lead to throbbing heads, expanded waistlines -- and piles of credit card bills. If you overdid the holiday shopping, here are some suggestions for getting back on track.
Stop buying. Post-holiday sales pose a huge temptation, so unsubscribe from any newsletters or deal alerts that will tell you what you're missing. Reassure yourself that there will be other sales and focus on the debt-busting task at hand.
Try a no-spend month. Create meals from what you already have in your pantry. Postpone travel and eating out. Purchase only essentials. By the end of the month, you'll likely have a few hundred extra bucks in your checking account that can be used to pay down debt.
Tap your savings. We tend to be emotionally attached to money in our savings accounts, given how hard it was to accumulate. Cold logic will tell you, though, that it makes little sense to earn 0.25 percent interest on money that could be used to pay down credit card debt accumulating interest at 25 percent -- or even at 2.5 percent. The only exception is if you're facing an imminent layoff or other big financial setback. In that case, cash is king.
Look elsewhere for money. Got gift cards? Turn them into cash using aggregator site Gift Card Granny, advises freelance personal finance writer and frugality expert Donna Freedman. Unwanted gifts? Sell them on eBay or Craigslist. Coin jar? Your bank may convert your change to cash, or you can use a Coinstar machine, which takes a 10.9 percent cut unless you opt for an electronic gift card. As soon as you get the cash, send in a credit card payment lest you be tempted to spend it elsewhere.
Tackle those debts systematically. To save the most, pay off your highest-rate debt first while paying the minimums on your other accounts. If you're worried about losing your motivation, slay a small debt. One study found that people who tackled small balances first were more likely to eliminate all their debt.
Get ready for next year. Once you're debt-free, take the payments you were applying to your cards and redirect them into a holiday savings account.