If you have multiple bills due, look at the big picture. / Jose Luis Pelaez Inc / Getty Images / Blend Images
If hefty holiday credit-card bills are coming due and leaving you with regrets, these tips will help you pay them off without panic.
Consider your cash flow. If you have multiples bills due, look at the whole picture, says Karen Altfest, a certified financial planner and principal adviser of Altfest Personal Wealth Management in New York. Look at what’s due and what the interest rates on each bill are. “Pay off the highest rates first,” she says, “and pay the minimum and any extra each month so you won’t get a late fee.” Also consider upcoming expenses, says debt expert Leslie Tayne. “Will there be birthdays in February? How much money will you have? If you budget $200 a month to pay off your bills, how long will it take?”
Divide your expenses (and conquer). Deciding to never eat out until your bills are paid can be difficult, Tayne says. Instead, cut back where you can. “Make two columns of required and selective expenses,” she says. “Can you put off purchasing something for six months? Maybe go to the movies once a month instead of twice?” It adds up to paying down debt.
What to do next time? Using cash vs. credit makes you less likely to overspend. “If you’re holding five $20 bills and three are gone, you’ll be more conscious about what you have left,” Tayne says. And shop strategically during the year: “Consider making purchases through the year so it’s not all piled up.”