December (and all the spending that came with it) is over, and the January blues (or bills) have started rolling in. When you open the mailbox each day, you’re reminded of everything you put on credit to pay for Christmas.
And for a lot of people, that’s just normal. It’s another “oops” moment that could have been avoided. So how do you keep yourself from having another January like that next year?
Here are three steps to keep the January you from hating the December you:
1. Save $1,000
If you don’t already have a small emergency fund in place, the new year is a great time to get started on one. Don’t misunderstand: This isn’t a savings account for next Christmas. (We’ll get to that later.)
Related: 4 Quick Ways to Save $1,000
This is a small savings account that will cover all of life’s emergencies—you know, the ones that cause you to break out the credit cards and continue building debt. The first thing I want you to do, before you start Christmas planning, is save $1,000. That’s it.
2. Start the Debt Snowball
Next, I want you to begin the process of getting out of debt. Depending on how much debt you have, this could take several months or several years. But no matter what your total amount is, you can do this. The debt snowball is a proven plan that’s helped millions of people win with money.
How does it work? List all your debt balances, from smallest to largest. Start with that smallest debt, putting every bit of extra money you have toward paying it off, while paying the minimums on all the others. Once you’ve got it out of the way, roll the payment on the first debt into the second one and continue the process until you’re debt-free! Remember, keep pouring every bit of extra income you have toward these debts.
Related: How Do I Start Getting Out of Debt?
3. Plan Ahead for Next Christmas
Now that you’ve got $1,000 saved and started your debt snowball, let’s make a plan for Christmas. The goal here isn’t to stop Christmas until you get out of debt. The goal is to work Christmas into your budget long before December arrives and as you’re paying off your debt snowball.
Set a reasonable amount you want to spend on Christmas this year. Reasonable! Cut out all the extras. Maybe you and your spouse should agree to just buy presents for the kids and not each other. Or, if you’re single, maybe you draw names with your family and only buy one present. You don’t have to overspend.
Once you’ve set your budget, simply divide the total amount of money you want to spend by the months you have until December. So, if you want to spend $500 and you can start saving in June, then you’ll need to save around $83 a month between June and December.
The key is to save that emergency fund and start on the debt snowball as soon as you can. That way, you’ll have plenty of time to plan and save for Christmas!
Make 2017 the year you finally decide to do Christmas different!