6 Steps for Curing a Holiday Spending Hangover

Admit it: You've been naughty over the holidays. We've got the cure for your holiday hangover here. Get your money back on track in 5 easy steps.

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The holidays are over, a new year is here, but something feels off, doesn’t it?

Maybe you took a peek at your checking account. Perhaps you just opened your latest credit card bill. Your stomach is tied in knots, your mind is racing, and your head is suddenly pounding.

Yep, you’ve come down with a holiday hangover.

Admit it: You’ve been a bit naughty over the holidays. But since you didn’t pay for that new Tonal home gym up front, you’re gonna have to pay up now.

Don’t worry. This isn’t an illness without a fix. We’ve got the Bloody Mary for your holiday hangover right here. Let’s clean this mess up, then set you up for even more success in the year to come.

What do you say? Are you game? Alright, then let’s do this thang!

6 Steps to Curing Your Holiday Hangover

If you spent more on holiday shopping than you intended, you’re not alone. According to the National Retail Federation, the average American planned on spending about $998 this holiday season. And since more than half of Americans have three months’ worth of expenses saved for an emergency, it’s painfully obvious why so many of us struggle with credit card debt.

So, if you’re in a less than stellar situation after the holidays, let’s get this thing under control before it spirals into something worse. Here’s how.

Step #1: Stop spending.

Alright, you’ve been on a spending binge for the last few months. It probably felt great until you got the bill. Now, comes the painful part: You need to stop spending.

Pump the brakes, hit the pause button, and put a halt to spending on things you don’t need. Because your holiday spirit went off the spending rails, you might have to cut back on a few things you enjoy – at least for a while. Rein in the nights out, meals at restaurants, and entertainment budget until you clean up the holiday cheer.

Step #2: Determine the damage.

OK, let’s total up the damage inflicted during the holidays. If you haven’t done so already, track your spending for the last few months.

Don’t just look at the money you spent on gifts, though. Make sure to include your expenses for travel, holiday parties, and nights out with friends.

Most importantly, figure out how much of this you put on credit. This is all stuff you now need to pay back, and you want to do it quickly before that interest starts to pile up! You don’t want $400 in gifts to turn into $500, right?

Check out one of these great money tools to help you get started! (Pssst…most of them are free!)

Step #3: Get on a budget.

In our book, Zero Down Your Debt, we explain how a budget is the most effective tool for unlocking the power of your paycheck. When used properly, it’s like a magic wand that finds money you didn’t even realize you had.

Now that you’ve backed yourself into a bit of a corner, you’re going to need this bad boy more than ever. So, bust out your pencil and paper, start planning your income and expenses for the month, and get back on track. Use this step-by-step guide to budgeting for guidance. Or, check out these easy-to-use budget templates here.

Step #4: Create a plan.

Once you’re on a budget, you’ll know exactly how much money you have coming and going this month. Now, it’s time to deal with that holiday debt.

Create a plan for getting that junk out of your life quickly. Consider using the debt snowball to pay off your debt once and for all. It’s not just a great method for destroying your holiday debt; it’s great for paying it all off!

Order your debts from smallest to largest and hammer away at them until they are gone. This step-by-step guide to the debt snowball can help you get started.

Step #5: Consider a Balance Transfer Card

If it’s going to take you a few months to pay off your credit cards, consider moving those charges to a balance transfer card with 0% interest. Although you can’t typically transfer balances within the same company, these cards generally allow you to move your balance and pay zero interest for 12 to 21 months, depending on the card.

Balance transfer cards can be a good way to help you get back on track. Use the 0% rate to get ahead, don’t pile on any more debt, and you’ll be back to even in no time.

Compare the best balance transfer cards here.

Step #6: Follow through.

A plan is just a plan unless you follow through, right? You’ve got all the tools you need, now you just need to do it.

Think of this as the start of a new you. Once you’ve got it all paid off, don’t stop! Keep truckin’!

Sticking to a budget and solid money management isn’t just for cleaning up messes. It’s there to help you plan your savings and spending year-round. And if you take care of your money throughout the year, you’ll be in better position to avoid a holiday hangover after next December.

To help you get started, grab a free chapter of Zero Down Your Debt by using the form below!

Final Thoughts

Dealing with a holiday hangover hurts. Staring at the bills from all of those holiday splurges is painful. But, making a few bad decisions doesn’t have to ruin your whole year.

Admit it: You've been naughty over the holidays. We've got the cure for your holiday hangover here. Get your money back on track in 5 easy steps.

Get on a budget and learn how to use it so this doesn’t happen again. Heck, make it your New Year’s resolution to make the most of the money you earn. You’ve probably got enough money to spend on the things you really want; a budget helps you use it more wisely so you can save on the things you don’t.

We hope this piece takes the edge off of that holiday hangover you’re experiencing. We know how it feels, and we wish you the best of luck this new year. Stick to that budget so you can make 2022 great!

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  1. Ayuuup. We were guilty of being spendy this holiday season, but we did improve over our expenses from last year. Last year we spent $800 (this was pre-frugal overhaul!) and this year we spent $350. However! We hoarded credit card rewards all year so our budget impact for Christmas ended up at only $50. I was hoping we’d have leftover rewards, so that’ll be our challenge for next year.

    I’m participating in the Frugalwoods’ Uber Frugal Month Challenge for January to pay for my frugal sins of the past. I’m hoping to increase our savings rate to 60% this month, but we’ll see how we do!

    1. Fantastic! It sounds like you did a great job with your spending this holiday. Have fun with the Frugalwoods challenge. We love those guys!

  2. Great point – determining the damage is something people really don\’t want to do! So many people are focused on \”sales\” that they forget your point – \”You don’t want $400 in gifts to turn into $500, right?\” It\’s better to face what you spent and make a plan, but it certainly isn\’t easy! We have never budgeted before but since we are planning on giving up full-time work this summer – we started a really simple \”spending tracker\” yesterday. We\’ll see how it goes!

    1. Awesome! I’m so glad to hear that. Tracking your spending is a great way to stay on top of your money. Good luck and have a great week!

  3. This is a good list of tips, luckily I had cash diet and a budget for Christmas shopping so I haven’t done damages…but maybe my old car will do a lot (a lot of repairs are in the air)…

  4. Though we didn’t really go over budget for Christmas, I still feel the need to reset for the new year. I’m doing a no spend January to get the year started off with a saving mindset!

    1. NICE! I love “no spend” challenges. Let us know how that goes!!! Good luck.

  5. I have recently returned after taking a week-long vacation with my friends. Going to Santorini, sure loosened my pockets a little too much and I was feeling completely broke. Thank you for sharing this piece as I now know how to plan out my finances, to go about the remaining part of the month. It is going to be difficult, but I do not regret because the vacation was worth it all.

    1. If you feel it is worth it, that’s the main thing that matters. Next time, try to save the cash ahead of time. That way, you can keep that relaxed vacation feeling even after it is over 😉

  6. I overspent during the holiday season because of gifts and food. I acknowledged that I didn’t prepare much for this, but I am gonna prepare more to cure this holiday hangover by budgeting and sacrificing some activities such as eating out to pay off debt.

  7. Luckily I’ve never had to deal with this personally (I have a Christmas fund and keep things really simple when it comes to gifts). BUT, I know so many people who could use this. I remember reading somewhere that Christmas shouldn’t hit your budget so hard because you have all year to prepare for it! I really try to keep that in mind year to year.

  8. My go to #1 financial philosophy is stop spending. It took me years to wrap my head around this. Once I started, I was able to make huge strides in my savings and investments. I saved like $500 bucks a month! Yes, focusing on things that you value, it’s cheaper. 😉


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