It’s time to follow up on a post from late 2019 about Christmas stress caused by lack of money.
January credit card statements have been rolling in with the bad news on how much Christmas shopping you did. The big problem is how will you find the money to pay the credit cards off?
What do you do now?
You can’t go back and unspend the things you picked up for Christmas. Now’s the time for you to make smarter money decisions for next time, revisit your financial goals, and keep the momentum going for 2020. Click on the banner below for ideas.
You should have a rough idea from all those credit card bills on how much you spent this past Christmas.
If that’s too much money, now’s the time to readjust that amount and get ready for Christmas 2020.
Or if that’s about the right amount of money, divide it by twelve. That’s how much cash you need to put into an envelope every month for the rest of the year so you have cash for shopping next Christmas.
Do you need to break it down further?
Let’s work in round numbers. Say you need $1200 for Christmas 2020 shopping. That means you need to put $100 every month into the Christmas Fund envelope.
Let’s break it down even more to help make it attainable. Every two-week pay period, $50 goes inside the Christmas Fund envelope.
If your goal is to save $600 to spend on Christmas 2020, then you need to put aside $50/month. Breaking it down into manageable chunks, every time you get paid, put $25 inside the Christmas Fund envelope.
Next Christmas will be paid with cash. Not plastic!
You can do it!
The bigger problem
Even though you spent a lot of money on Christmas using your credit card, the real problem is the credit card was not sitting at a zero balance when you started. The Bank of Canada says the average credit card balance for Canadians is $4,240 per person. And they ain’t done yet. It’s going higher!
And most people have more than one credit card. Yikes!
That same article from the Financial Post says the average Canadian has $31,531 in non-mortgage debt. Yikes!
Nerd Wallet says the average American credit card debt is $6,849.
With the exchange rate that’s closer to $10,000 in Canadian dollars. Americans have more credit card debt that Canadians? Double the balance? I doubt it. I think more Canadians are carrying higher balances and struggling with debt than we’ll ever know for sure.
Using a credit card that was already carrying a high balance, many Canadians and Americans pulled out the plastic to buy Christmas stuff.
Well, Christmas is gone but the debt sure isn’t.
I’m going back to my post New Year’s Financial Challenges on Low Income where I laid out a plan for 2020 financial goals. If you haven’t written down a plan and are staring at your credit card statements in panic, wondering where the money to pay them is coming from, you need to do this. Or come up with your own actionable list.
- Pay off debt. Try the snowball method I talk about in this post.
- Emergency savings. Read more in this post.
- Save money to ____. Fill in the blank. Maybe it’s a vacation, renovation, or a car.
- Make more money.
- Learn how to become a DIY investor
- Start a Christmas fund.
Let me add one more to this list. Pay for everything in cash!
How do you do that? You start by going to the bank to cash your paycheck. Or if your employer does a direct deposit, go to the bank and withdraw cash. You know what your fixed monthly expenses are, so leave enough money in the bank account to cover them.
Your biggest expense is shelter and you may already be on a system to pay rent with postdated checks or the funds are automatically withdrawn from your bank account. If so, leave enough money in the account to cover it. I pay rent with cash, so try asking if your landlord will accept cash (and write you a receipt as proof). If your landlord is a big corporation or doesn’t live locally, cash would likely be inconvenient.
Other monthly expenses can be adjusted while you get your finances under control. You can have envelopes labeled “groceries”, “gas”, “clothes”, and anything else that you need money from on a monthly basis. Once your cash is gone, you’re done spending for that month. Leave that credit card alone!
Let me add another item to the list: Don’t take on any new debt!
Who was with me when I wrote about having a mindset shift for 2020?
We’re rethinking things and figuring out how to make our money work better for us. We’re figuring out how we can earn more money to throw at our debt and increase our emergency savings.
This financial stuff is going to take commitment, but in the end it’s going to make our lives better.
No one wants to be drowning in debt. Enough is enough! Let’s make some changes.
I’ve got this!
You’ve got this!
We’ve got this!
It won’t happen overnight – but we can do it!
Let’s come up with a plan to make our lives easier and less stressful.
You’re not alone in this. If you need an accountability buddy, drop me a line and we’ll get it done.